US Senate passes $2 trillion COVID-19 aid package

US Senate passes $2 trillion COVID-19 aid package

The Senate has passed a more than $2T emergency relief package that will help the USA economy and financial markets weather the coronavirus crisis.

"In order to protect the safety of Members and staff and prevent further spread of Covid-19 through Members' travel, the Republican Leader and I expect that the House vote on final passage will be done by voice vote", Hoyer wrote in a letter to colleagues.

"The Senate is going to stand together, act together, and pass this historic relief package today", said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Democrats pushed for part-time, self-employed, and "gig economy" workers - who are traditionally excluded from collecting unemployment insurance - to access the expanded benefits, which would include an extra $600 per week for every worker for an additional 13 weeks.

The measure cleared the Senate 96-0 after days of tumultuous, sometimes bitter negotiations and debate, as the USA death toll for the pandemic soared past 1,000, with 68,000 confirmed infections. Democrats had complained that Republicans' original proposal threw too much money at large corporations with too few restrictions, while Republicans accused Democrats of using the emergency legislation to push a liberal wish list unrelated to COVID-19.

The monster package, thrashed out between Republicans, Democrats and the White House, provides direct cash payments to millions of hurting American taxpayers, amounting to $3,400 for an average American family of four. The question is whether any members of the House will force a full vote, which could cause the bill to be delayed for several more days as House members would need to return to Washington.

At a White House press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he anticipates the stimulus package will keep the USA economy afloat for about three months.

'House Democrats will now review the final provisions and legislative text of the agreement to determine a course of action, ' she said in a statement Wednesday morning.

In the last stimulus package under the George W. Bush administration, some small and large businesses committed fraud and also bought back stocks and gave executive bonuses instead of helping their employees. All the Senate can do is to give them the resources to do it. One expert says the cap could pose a problem for some families.

Chuck Schumer, Democrat of NY, said in a press release. "This is not your standard model of providing welfare payments to people".

The legislation would also establish a $500 billion lending fund for industries, cities and states.

The deal allots $150 billion for the health care system and hospitals, which have been sounding the alarm that they will soon exceed capacity and are already running low on critical supplies; $100 billion will go directly to hospitals, and the additional funds will go toward supplies, medical research and workforce increases.

Underscoring the effort's sheer magnitude, the bill finances a response with a price tag that equals half the size of the entire $4 trillion-plus annual federal budget.

The urgently needed bipartisan legislation is the largest economic rescue measure in the country's history. "We need bigger and newer tools to mitigate the damage", Duy said.

The unanimous vote came despite misgivings on both sides about whether it goes too far or not far enough and capped days of hard negotiations as Washington confronted a national challenge unlike it has ever faced.

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.

"Skimming it, I was struck by: 'What does all this s-- have to do with anything?'" an unnamed Obama White House veteran said.



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