Senate Passes $2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package

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The White House and Senate have reached agreement on a $2 trillion stimulus package for the U.S. economy and millions of Americans ravaged by the coronavirus crisis, top lawmakers said early on Wednesday.

Working in tandem after days of feuding, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top Democrat Chuck Schumer pressed for passage of the legislation in the Republican-led Senate by the end of the day.

President Donald Trump has said that he will sign the legislation, which provides $1,200 in direct cash payments for most Americans, expanded unemployment benefits including those to freelancers and independent contractors, a $350 billion fund for government-backed loans for small businesses and $500 billion for distressed industries.

"Our expectation is this bill passes tonight and gets to the House tomorrow, and they pass it", he added.

Republicans won inclusion of an "employee retention" tax credit that's estimated to provide $50 billion to companies that retain employees on payroll and cover 50% of workers' paycheck up to $10,000.

The plan will deliver a massive infusion of financial aid into a struggling economy hard hit by job loss, with provisions to help impacted American workers and families as well as small businesses and major industries including airlines.

The bill also calls for the government sending $1,200 checks to individuals who make less than $75,000 and $2,400 for couples making less than $150,000.

For the first time, these workers will qualify for unemployment insurance. There also is money for hospitals, some of which are on the verge of being overwhelmed.

The Senate's $2 trillion coronavirus economic bailout bill includes help for gig economy workers, like Uber and Lyft drivers, who have seen their livelihoods dissolve during the crises. Congress is already discussing a next round. "Unfortunately, the problem may be larger and faster", said Mr Jason Furman, a member of Barack Obama's economic team during the 2008 recession.

Several Republican senators on Wednesday insisted that the bill be amended to ensure that laid-off workers would not be paid more in unemployment benefits than they earn at their job. House GOP leaders said they also support this strategy.

A voice vote is procedural move that would avoid a recorded roll call vote, which would have forced members now dispersed throughout the country to travel back to Washington to get the stimulus across the finish line. Two House members were diagnosed last week with COVID-19, and others are in quarantine.

Lawmakers agreed to a significant expansion of unemployment benefits that would expand unemployment insurance by 13 weeks and include a four-month enhancement of benefits, on top of what state unemployment programs pay. But stocks receded from the day's highs late in the afternoon as the Republican senators raised their objections and independent Senator Bernie Sanders countered with a threat to hold up the legislation.

Some former Obama administration officials have expressed incredulity about the bill and, in particular, over the non-pandemic related provisions that were included in the "Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act".

Another delay was happening behind the scenes.

An inspector general and a congressional panel would monitor where the money goes and on what terms to prevent unfair practices; the package proposes that every loan document be made public. "Stop negotiating. Enough is enough", a visibly angry Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on the floor, after accusing Democrats of "nickeling and diming at a time people are dying".



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