US Senate passes $2 trillion COVID-19 aid package

Ruben Fields
March 26, 2020

Calling it an "emergency relief", Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said at the Senate floor earlier in the day that the package will "help the people of this country weather this storm". But he told Cooper that if the four Republican senators dropped their complaints, "I am certainly not going to persist in what I want" on the bill.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Wednesday evening ahead of Senate passage that the House will convene at 9 a.m. on Friday to consider the relief package.

The legislation was still being drafted but McConnell said the Senate would vote on it Wednesday. The Senate and House of Representatives still need to pass the legislation before sending it to President Donald Trump for his signature.

"The legislation now before us is historic because it is meant to match a historic crisis", said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

The plan includes about $500 billion that can be used to back loans and assistance to companies, including $50 billion for loans to US airlines, as well as state and local governments.

With infections rising, the injection for hospitals could be the bill's most effective element in fighting the pandemic, as it will help facilities provide protective gear, intensive care beds and ventilators and other medical equipment.

The bill will give $500 billion in direct payments to the American public, bolster unemployment insurance with a surge of $250 billion, provide $500 billion in loans to big businesses, and create a $350 billion loan program for small businesses. He said it would bolster the unemployment insurance system so states can match the missing salary of low-income workers, and give others enough to "be able to put food on the table, maybe make the rent, maybe make the auto payment during this period".

Democrats demanded and won a series of restraints on corporations that would benefit from loans or investments from the Treasury Department, as well as an oversight mechanism for who gets money.

The package provides for about US$500 billion in loans and assistance for big companies, including struggling airlines, as well as states and cities. Companies would also be able to defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax.

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Senate leaders and the Trump administration agreed to a historic bill to alleviate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic by flooding the economy with a 13-digit sum of money.

That became especially important in recent days, after Sen. Economists believe the U.S.is already in a recession.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the $3.8 billion allocated to his state would not cover the tax revenue it stands to lose from reduced economic activity. "Graham and the others, they voted for a trillion dollars in tax breaks for the 1% and large corporations and now they're really anxious that a low-income worker might receive extended unemployment plus $600 a week", Sanders said.

A deal came together after hard-fought negotiations between congressional Republicans, Democrats and the Trump administration.

He also acknowledged it was only one part of the overall response needed. The plan is to pass the bill by voice vote, a move that would allow the House to avoid forcing all members to return to Washington for a recorded roll call vote.

"House Democrats will now review the final provisions and legislative text of the agreement to determine a course of action", she said.

It would be the largest-ever rescue, dwarfing even the bailouts of 2008, when a worldwide financial crisis sent the U.S. economy into a tailspin.

The package is worth around $2 trillion, which would make it more expensive than the 2008 bank bailout and the 2009 stimulus combined.

Lawmakers universally expressed a sense of urgency as the nation's economy deteriorates and the health outlook grows more dire. It also will send tens of billions in fresh aid to states.

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