MILWAUKEE -- Congress delivered a nearly $500 billion infusion of coronavirus spending Thursday, rushing new relief to employers and hospitals buckling under the strain of a pandemic that has claimed almost 50,000 American lives and one in six U.S. jobs.
The measure passed almost unanimously, but the lopsided tally belies a potentially bumpier path ahead as battle lines are being formed for much more ambitious future legislation that may prove far more difficult to maneuver through Congress.
For the first time in 22 years, the music has stopped at McAuliffe's Pub in Racine.
"We are very tight here. They are my employees, but we call ourselves a family. So, for me, it's breaking my heart knowing there are a few of them that are really hurting," said J.J. McAuliffe, owner.
McAuliffe applied for the Paycheck Protection Program -- a U.S. Small Business Administration loan program. The money is forgivable if the company keeps workers on payroll. Congress approved it last month in response to the coronavirus pandemic. But that money ran out.
Roughly 42,000 Wisconsin businesses and nonprofits did receive money -- about $8.3 billion. Some $225,000 of that went to Wauwatosa IT company "Tobin Solutions."
"This definitely makes a big difference in terms of peace of mind, being able to sleep well, and for my team, as well, knowing they don't have to worry about this right now," said Jeremy Cherny, president and CEO of Tobin Solutions Inc.
The new bill to refresh the program also pumps $25 billion into COVID-19 testing -- and $75 billion into hospitals.
"I support the bill before us today, but we all know it's not enough. Much more must be done in the next comprehensive aide," said Congressman Mark Pocan (D).
"In my district and in many other districts, nurses and other health care workers are being laid off and hospitals are losing money because they were expecting a deluge of patients that never came, thankfully," said Congressman Glenn Grothman (R).
The Paycheck Protection Program has its critics. They point out big publicly-traded companies like hotel chains received some of the first batch of money. The Consumer Bankers Association says most of the new money will likely go to people already in line.