U.S. Senate sends House $2 trillion coronavirus bill; vote expected Friday

Senate passes $2.2 trillion emergency relief bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it "a wartime level of investment for our nation".

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called it an "outstanding agreement". Pelosi said she spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about directing as much assistance as possible to local efforts to deal with the outbreak and speeding aid to small businesses by going through banks as well as the Small Business Administration.

Republicans and Democrats were arguing over unemployment insurance provisions, among other parts of the bill. Other provisions in the bill include $45 billion for FEMA's disaster relief fund, a six-month suspension of federal student loans and protections against evictions and foreclosures are also included. There are layers of proposals within each of the umbrellas I just mentioned, like providing direct funding to transit authorities to help them through the slowdown, changing zoning regulations to promote dense development, providing no-interest loans for local governments to build parks, supporting indigenous farming practices and protecting native seeds, and ending fossil fuel subsidies and directing those funds to help workers transition to new jobs. Businesses owned by members of Congress, heads of executive departments and Vice President Mike Pence also would be blocked.

The Senate is expected to vote on March 25 and President Trump will sign the bill shortly after.

Big businesses: The bill has $500 billion for industries hit especially hard by the pandemic.

In a letter to his fellow Democrats, Schumer highlighted a series of transparency measures that would prevent keeping loans secret and create a new inspector general to oversee the program. The legislation represents the largest emergency aid package in United States history and the most significant legislative action taken to address the rapidly intensifying coronavirus crisis, which is overwhelming hospitals and grinding much of the economy to a halt. Republicans were tepid about the package, but Trump endorsed it and it ultimately passed Congress with the support of 90% of lawmakers in both chambers.

Aimed at getting the money to Americans and businesses amid the pandemic, the bill's next stop is the House of Representatives, which is scheduled to vote on it Friday.

"Unless these Republican Senators drop their objections, I am prepared to put a hold on this bill until stronger conditions are imposed on the $500 billion corporate welfare fund", Sanders said in a statement on Wednesday, responding to several GOP lawmakers who said the generous unemployment provisions might incentivize Americans not to work.

The size of the stimulus package is unprecedented, dwarfing the approximately $800 billion Obama stimulus that passed five months after the 2008 financial crash.

Together with Fed intervention, the proposed legislation amounted to a $6 trillion stimulus, according to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, or about 30 per cent of annual GDP. The World Health Organization said the USA has the potential to become the new epicenter of the global pandemic as the number of known infections soars.

An initial $8 billion plan passed by Congress March 5 is funding emergency health care needs stemming from the coronavirus, and a second plan enacted last week will provide many Americans with paid sick leave, food assistance and free coronavirus testing. There's another $25 billion in state infrastructure grants.



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