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House Passes Coronavirus Bill That Provides Free Testing, Sick Leave Benefits

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The House voted overwhelmingly early Saturday morning to pass a bill that provides coronavirus testing at no cost to patients, and extends paid sick leave to workers who come down with the virus or have to go into self-quarantine.

President Trump expressed his support for the bill , the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Friday night as House Democrats negotiated the details of the law with Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin. It passed by a vote of 363-40, with all dissenting votes coming from Republicans.

Trump’s backing is seen as key to getting the Senate to sign on to the aid package.

The bill requires the federal government to cover the cost of diagnostic testing for coronavirus, or COVID-19. That includes testing done by a primary care physician, at an urgent care center, or at a hospital emergency room.

The federal government has been slow to ramp up testing for COVID-19, which began spreading from Wuhan, China late last year. The first infection in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21. As of Saturday, nearly 2,200 Americans have tested positive for the bug. Forty-nine people have died. More than 5,500 have succumbed to the virus across the globe.

The possibility for a rapid increase in cases has prompted concerns of a possible recession. The bill, if approved, will extend unemployment benefits for workers in states that are hardest hit by layoffs.

The bill also provides emergency paid leave benefits for workers who have to take two or more weeks off work either because they become infected with COVID-19, or because they are required to self-quarantine or care for sick family members.

The benefit, which is available for up to three months, will guarantee workers are paid two-thirds of their average monthly earnings, up to $4,000.

The Trump administration is enacting other measures to limit any economic downturn stemming from COVID-19.

The Treasury Department extended the April 15 deadline to file taxes, and Trump on Friday waived interest payments on student loan debt.

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One comment

  1. Hmmm…so if my son in law comes down with H1N1 instead, his diagnostic testing and subsequent medical treatment will be covered by his health insurance after high deductible is met, with additional costs shouldered by him? And after using his allotted sick days, any additional time off for recovery, unpaid is his personal responsibility? But a diagnosis or quarantine of a fellow co-worker due to coronavirus is paid by taxpayers? Why? Symptoms and recovery time is similar.

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