The Senate and the Trump administration agreed early Wednesday on a roughly $2 trillion measure that would send direct payments and jobless benefits to individuals, as well as money to states and businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The legislation, which was still being finalized, was expected to be enacted within days. It would be the largest fiscal stimulus package in modern U.S. history.
The measure includes a massive infusion of aid, including loan programs for hard-hit industries and small businesses, direct payments of up to $3,000 to millions of U.S. families, expanded unemployment aid, and billions for hospitals and health systems.
While the full details have yet to be released, the basic structure appeared similar to the package Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his caucus have been pushing for days.
According to the Washington Post, Republicans did make one concession to Democrats on Tuesday, agreeing to an independent inspector general and oversight board for a $500 billion loan package to businesses and local government. Funding was also increased to hospitals.
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Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said small business assistance has increased to $367 billion and now includes a six-month delay on loan payments. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has said the bill will contain “unemployment insurance on steroids.”
The Senate agrees on a stimulus bill as the coronavirus accelerates
The strain of the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak accelerated across the United States on Wednesday beyond the hot spots of New York, California and Washington state as Louisiana and Iowa were declared federal disaster areas.
Trump issued the disaster declarations late Tuesday night, freeing up federal funds to help combat the potentially lethal disease as it strains state and local resources nationwide.
Louisiana, where large crowds recently celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans and other parishes, has reported a spike in cases with 1,388 total confirmed cases and 46 deaths as of midday Tuesday, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.
“I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of state and local governments,” the state’s governor wrote the White House this week in seeking the declaration.
Iowa, where officials announced the state’s first death from the coronavirus Tuesday night, has reported 124 confirmed cases.
Nationwide, COVID-19 has infected more than 53,000 people and killed at least 720 with World Health Organization officials warning the United States could become the global epicenter of the pandemic, which broke out late last year in Wuhan, China.
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In recent days, the governors of at least 18 states have issued stay-at-home directives affecting about half the nation’s population. The sweeping orders are aimed at slowing the virus’ spread but has upended daily life as schools and businesses shutter indefinitely.
Coronavirus fights for lives and jobs
Trump on Tuesday initially said he wanted to re-open the country by Easter Sunday, but later told reporters he would listen to recommendations from the nation’s top health officials.
The closures have shocked the U.S. economy with global markets rattled by the pandemic. U.S. stock index futures initially rose on Wednesday before falling, with investors weighing forthcoming economic relief from the stimulus package.
(Reuters contributed to this report.)
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