Daines, Tester Say They'll Vote For Latest Coronavirus Relief Package

21 hours ago

Update 10 A.M. 03/26/20: This story has been updated to reflect that Sen. Daines and Sen. Tester voted in favor of the CARES Act.

Both of Montana’s U.S. senators say they plan to vote in favor of the third federal relief package that they say is aimed at supporting rural communities and small businesses hurting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Republican Steve Daines said on a press call Wednesday afternoon the bill doubles what Montana pays for unemployment for up to four months, earmarks funding for hospitals, outlines billions in grants for small businesses that keep payroll going and secures funding for local governments.

"There's also a significant chunk of dollars going to our state, $1.25 billion. Just a general grant to our states. And of that 45 percent must go to local communities," Daines said. 

Daines says the bill also holds funding for personal protective equipment like masks and $8 billion for Native American tribes.

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester joined Senate Democrats earlier this week in voting against a previous version of the bill.

Tester says the latest version isn’t perfect but it increases oversight for taxpayer money loaned out to private companies, a measure Democrats pushed for in last-minute negotiations.

"If the bill comes out the way we pushed for it, this money should be in a loan form that is due to be paid back to the federal government," Tester said. 

Tester says the relief package adds $2 trillion to the federal deficit.

Daines says checks of $12-hundred dollars for every adult making less than $75,000 are expected to be sent within a month, if the bill is signed into law.

The package still needs approval from the U.S. House. Montana’s lone Congressman, Republican Greg Gianforte, says the Senate’s bill is a step in the right direction.