The US Senate and White House have reached agreement on a US$2 trillion stimulus package for the US economy and millions of Americans ravaged by COVID-19 crisis, top lawmakers said early yesterday.
“At last, we have a deal,” US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, hailing the massive “wartime level of investment into our nation” reached after five days of arduous and tense negotiations.
“We have a bipartisan agreement on the largest rescue package in American history,” Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, said shortly after McConnell spoke.
“So many people are being put out of work through no fault of their own. They don’t know what their future is going to be like, how are they going to pay the bills,” Schumer added. “Well, we come to their rescue.”
The Senate and House of Representatives still need to pass the legislation before sending it to US President Donald Trump for his signature.
McConnell said the Senate would vote on the measure later yesterday.
The deal aims to buttress the teetering economy by giving about US$2 trillion to health facilities, businesses and ordinary Americans buckling under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure would put cash directly into the hands of Americans hard hit by the crisis, provide grants to small businesses and hundreds of billions of dollars in loans for larger corporations, including airlines, and expand unemployment benefits.
It would also inject about US$130 billion into what Schumer calls “a Marshall Plan for hospitals” and healthcare infrastructure, referring to the huge US aid program to rebuild Europe after World War II.
With viral outbreaks spreading coast to coast, hospitals have been in dire need of equipment, such as protective gear, intensive care beds and ventilators.
McConnell and Schumer negotiated the deal with US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and other White House officials amid days of bitter partisan infighting over what to put into the final package.
Mnuchin had shuttled between the Capitol offices of the Senate’s leaders, as they and staffers hammered out the language of the bill.
The agreement followed multiple failed attempts to advance a Republican-led proposal, and pressure had soared to swiftly reach a compromise that provides relief for hundreds of millions of Americans.
Trump called for an immediate resolution to the stalemate.
“Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today,” he said on Tuesday on Twitter. “The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy. Our workers will be hurt!”
Any relief package that passes the Senate will need to clear the Democratic-led House too before going to Trump.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a more generous US$2.5 trillion counterproposal that included ambitious elements like guaranteed paid and family medical leave, student loan forgiveness and oversight of the US$500 billion earmarked for corporations.
However, she signaled the House might simply take up the Senate bill and try to pass it.
“Much of what we have in our bill is reflected in this supposed agreement,” Pelosi said.
Schumer said the compromise legislation includes an oversight mechanism for the company loans, and expanded unemployment provisions for workers laid off or sickened during the pandemic.
“Every American worker who is laid off will have their salary remunerated by the federal government, Schumer said.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and