US approves historic $2tn stimulus deal

Henrietta Strickland
March 26, 2020

But it was delayed by criticism from both the right and left on Wednesday, pushing the final vote on passage nearly another full day.

Passage in the Senate had been delayed for hours on Wednesday by objections from four GOP senators over expanded unemployment benefits for low wage workers.

A vote to amend the bill to cap the unemployment benefits failed Wednesday night.

Americans are set to receive a one-time direct payment of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 per married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. Pelosi appeared on Wednesday to be sending a message to progressives in her caucus who are criticizing the bill.

Chuck Schumer, Democrat of NY, said in a press release.

The bill now goes to the Democrat-controlled House, which earlier this week presented a 1,400-page counter-proposal of its own that would boost funding to hospitals, include $60 billion for schools and billions in grants for election security.

House leaders hoped the bill would pass by voice vote on Friday, without representatives having to return to Washington.

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

"Like all compromises, this bill is far from flawless", Schumer wrote in a letter to Democrats on Wednesday.

"What is important is for us to recognize the good that is in the bill, appreciate it for what it does".

Mnuchin, representing the administration, said the president would sign the measure.

The bill is the third legislative package passed by Congress to address the COVID-19 outbreak, following an 8.3-billion-dollar emergency spending bill, mainly for research and medical needs, and a 100-billion-dollar bill to expand paid sick leave and provide free testing.

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The rescue package - which would be the biggest ever passed by Congress - includes a $500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $3,000 apiece to millions of U.S. families. Another $367 billion is earmarked for small businesses. That is why in this package, part of the loans for businesses will be forgiven if they do not do those things and focus on employees. The mammoth package was approved after days of bitter partisan fighting.

"This is a proud moment for the United States Senate and the country and we're going to win this battle", McConnell told reporters afterward.

Senate leaders noted the historic nature of the challenge posed by the coronavirus, which the Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called "a unusual and evil disease".

Faigel said she's been getting calls all week from business owners saying they can't make payroll or pay bills. Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey said businesses of up to 500 employees are eligible for this assistance.

Some Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham of SC, voiced discontent over the expansion of unemployment insurance benefits, arguing that this could discourage people from returning to work.

That deal was nearly upended at the last minute by Republican senators who said the unemployment benefits - an additional $600 per week for up to four months - would let workers stay home during the pandemic and collect $24 an hour for not working.

But that became a major sticking point on Wednesday afternoon, when a group of Republican senators including Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse, and Rick Scott said the extra money could mean people would earn more through unemployment insurance than they would at their regular jobs.

"We're going to take up and pass this package to care for those who are now caring for us and help carry millions of Americans through these dark economic times", Schumer said.

New unemployment claims are expected to shatter records.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the compromise wasn't flawless, but was far better than initial versions of the bill.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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