The White House and Senate Republican leaders came to an agreement with Senate Democrats over a $2 trillion stimulus package to prop up the reeling U.S. economy as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on business activity across the nation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the agreement on the Senate floor shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday.
“At last, we have a deal,” McConnell said. “After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic.”
The agreement is expected to give financial relief to businesses as well as American families and workers who have experienced job loss as commercial activity comes to a stop in the face of stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures put in place to contain the spread of the contagion.
Elements of the bill, the complete text of which has not yet been released, would lay out $250 billion for direct payments to individuals and families, $250 billion for expanded unemployment insurance benefits, $350 billion in small business loans and $500 billion in loans for distressed companies.
This means, if passed, the bill would send $1,200 checks to anyone who files a 2019 tax return, $2,400 checks to couples filing jointly, and $500 per child for those families many Americans, create a $367 billion loan program for small businesses and establish a $500 billion lending fund for industries, cities and states.
It also offers assistance to the airline industry. Under provisions of the bill they would qualify for $25 billion in loans or guarantees, and would also have access to a $25 billion fund that the Treasury secretary would have latitude to extend through mechanisms like taking equity positions in the companies.
State and local emergency aid will also be covered. Provisions include $150 billion for state and local emergency aid and $130 billion for hospitals.
Other provisions of the bill will block President Donald Trump, his family, as well as other top government officials and members of Congress, from getting loans or investments from Treasury programs in the stimulus. It ensures that Trump-owned properties, including hotels that have been impacted by the economic decline, cannot seek taxpayer assistance.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it the “largest rescue package in American history.” The package nearly doubled in size after lawmakers and White House leaders were bombarded by lobbyists affected by the country’s economic drop as numbers of COVID-19 cases grew.
“This is not a moment of celebration — but of necessity, ” Schumer said during Wednesday’s briefing on the Senate floor.
The Senate is expected to vote on the agreement no later than Wednesday night. The House is expected to take it up by Thursday.
If the bill clears Congress, the package would be the most significant legislative action taken yet to address the crisis.
By late Wednesday afternoon, there were more than 62,000 confirmed cases and nearly 870 deaths in the U.S. due to the pandemic.