U.S. Senate, White House agree on $2 trillion coronavirus rescue plan

In this image from video Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer D-N.Y. speaks on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Saturday

The 2 trillion dollar stimulus bill is expected to be voted on in the Senate Wednesday.

Missing from Wednesday's votes was No. 2 Senate Republican John Thune, who said in a statement he did not feel well when he woke up on Wednesday and made a decision to take a charter flight home to South Dakota "out of an abundance of caution".

"This bipartisan legislation takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people", she said. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared somber and exhausted as he announced the vote - and he released senators from Washington until April 20, though he promised to recall them if needed. Our workers are without work.

The package is meant to flood the economy with cash in a bid to stem the impact of an intensifying epidemic that has killed more than 1,000 people in the United States and infected at least 60,000. "Hopefully, we won't need this for three months". The money at stake amounts to almost half of the $4.7 trillion the US government spends annually. The $2.2 trillion estimate is the White House's best guess.

"America is facing a grave health crisis with a serious impact on our economy", Pelosi said.

"The government has temporarily shut down the economy because of this disease, and the government must help those who are hurt by it", said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Unemployment insurance would be extended to four months, the benefits would be bolstered by $600 weekly and eligibility would be expanded to cover more workers.

The motion failed on a 48-48 vote. 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.

The just-agreed coronavirus emergency aid bill is set to become the largest by far in American history.

"I salute the strong leadership of Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats". House members are scattered around the country. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Calif., hopes to have the chamber approve the bill by a fast procedure known as unanimous consent, which would not require most members to go to Washington and be physically present for the vote.

It also has more than $350 billion to aid small businesses.

There will also be $500 billion in loans for industries, states and cities: $425 billion will be controlled by the Federal Reserve, and $75 billion would be allocated for specific industries like airlines and hotels. Hospitals would get significant help as well. But, leaders in both parties and main economists believe that's necessary. But failure was not an option - nor was starting over - which permitted both sides to include their priorities.

The United States now has over 65,000 confirmed cases, the third-highest number globally behind China and Italy.

Schumer said an additional $130 billion will be injected into the American healthcare systems to provide desperately needed medical supplies, like ventilators, respirators, personal protective equipment and beds.

In addition, $500 billion will go into a corporate rescue fund. Democrats secured concessions on all three in the final deal.

Interestingly, the bill has provisions that would block Trump and his family members, as well as other top government officials and members of Congress, from accessing loans or investments from Treasury programmes in the stimulus package.

The governors of at least 18 states, including NY, have issued stay-at-home directives affecting about half the US population. More than 280 New Yorkers have died from the virus, a death toll more than double that of any other state. Republicans in turn fumed that Democrats were playing politics in a time of crisis.

State and local authorities would receive up to $150 billion in grants to fight the virus, care for their residents and provide basic services.

Their amendment would have capped at 100% of a worker's paycheck. Companies would also be able to defer paying the 6.2-percent Social Security payroll tax. The House could take it up as early as Thursday.

Europe is enacting its own economic recovery packages, with huge amounts of credit guarantees, government spending and other support.

In the United States, more than 69,000 people have been sickened and more than 1,000 have died.



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