It took a lot of arguing, negotiation, and two failed votes before the U.S. Senate approved a $2 trillion economic stimulus package to keep the American economy supported while many people are out of work due to COVID-19.
What does the bill do for agriculture? According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the bill will include billions for the agriculture industry and rural America. $14 billion is provided to the Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corporation, and $15.8 billion is provided to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program. Meanwhile, $9.5 billion is provided to the office of the Secretary for livestock and specialty crops, and $8.5 billion is provided for Child Nutrition Programs. Additionally, the funding includes $450 million for commodity assistance, $100 million for broadband grants, and $25 million for distance learning and telemedicine efforts. The agreement opens the door for a potential third round of Market Facilitation Payments through the Commodity Credit Corporation, originally created to help farmers as the Trump administration carries out its trade agenda. Funding an additional round of payments through the program is a request from many groups in agriculture.
Iowa Senior Senator and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley released the following statement.
“Across our nation, Americans are doing their part to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Through no fault of their own, Americans are being ordered to stay home or close their businesses. As a result, this health crisis is quickly becoming an economic crisis. This bipartisan legislation rapidly delivers recovery checks to help individuals and families cover their immediate expenses. It also helps businesses of all sizes keep employees on the payroll throughout the crisis and ensures that those who are furloughed or laid off have access to beefed-up unemployment insurance. The bill also provides a much-needed infusion of cash to our health care professionals who are fighting the pandemic on the front lines.
“For days, I worked with my Democratic colleagues to craft key tax- and health-related provisions as well as the recovery checks and unemployment insurance. It’s a bipartisan product that regrettably was hijacked and delayed because of partisan politics. But the important thing is that it’s finally approved in the Senate. I urge the Speaker of the House to immediately pass this critical relief for the American people, even if it means ending their week-long recess. The needless delays in the Senate have run out the clock. There’s no more time to waste.”
Iowa’s Junior Senator Joni Ernst also released a statement of the passage of the bill.
“As this COVID-19 pandemic has evolved, I’ve continued to listen to Iowans from all sectors of our economy, and there has been one resounding message: we need relief, and we need it now. After heeding these calls, I pushed my colleagues to take swift, bold action to deliver immediate aid to folks in Iowa, and across the country. And thankfully, we’ve done that. From Phase 1, where we bolstered our state and local response efforts; to Phase 2 where we provided paid sick leave and free testing; and now, to Phase 3 where we’ve come to the aid of America’s workforce and those in our health care industry on the front lines of this pandemic.
“Iowans from every corner of our state – moms and dads, nurses and doctors, small business employers and employees, cashiers and clerks, seniors and students, veterans and farmers – will get support from this Phase 3 deal. The Senate has stepped up in this time of crisis and delivered critical additional relief for Iowans and all Americans.
“Now, the House must do their job, pass this bipartisan bill quickly, and get it to President Trump’s desk. We don’t have time for delay; Iowans need this aid right now.”
The House would have to take up the measure as well. The future is anything but certain.