US Senate passes $2 trillion bill to help families affected due to Covid-19 outbreak
Coronavirus update: The relief package includes a one-time $1,200 payment for adults and $500 for children for an estimated 150 million households.Updated: Mar 27, 2020 05:22 IST
The US Senate on Wednesday passed a massive $2 trillion emergency relief bill to help American families, businesses and the economy battered by the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 1,000 people, and shut down large parts of the country. It is the largest stimulus package ever.
The legislation was passed 96-0 in the 100-member Republican-controlled House in a sign of the enormity of the crisis facing the country. A record 3.3 million Americans applied for jobless benefits last week, according to new data released on Thursday. The legislation now goes to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives for a debate and vote scheduled for Friday.
President Donald Trump has said he is ready to sign the bill and welcomed the vote, noting the bipartisan support for it. “96-0 in the United States Senate. Congratulations AMERICA,” he wrote on Twitter.
“A fight has arrived on our shores,” Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republican-led Senate said. “We did not seek it. We did not want it. But now, we are going to win it.”
The relief package includes a one-time $1,200 payment for adults and $500 for children for an estimated 150 million households. It ramps up unemployment benefits to $600 a week for four months, sets aside $350 billion in loans for small businesses, and $500 billion for corporations, which had become one of the sticking points for Democrats and they had pressed for more transparency and accountability in the disbursements.
The legislation also sets aside $150 billion for state governments and cities. States like New York have been hit hard. New York will get $4 billion.
The relief package was put together by Senate negotiators from both parties and a White House team led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin over five days of talks ending early Wednesday morning. The Senate moved swiftly to vote it through just hours after on Thursday.
The House Democratic leadership has said they will put it up for consideration on Friday. They had earlier planned to pass it by unanimous consent, which is a process that can be blocked by any lawmaker, without a floor vote. But now they have scheduled a debate and voice vote, blaming Republicans. “Republicans have told us that is not possible from their side [to pass it by unanimous consent],” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters. “This is a $2 trillion bill, I would like to see a good debate on the floor.”
Some Republicans have reservations about the unemployment benefits, which they have argued are higher than wages in some states and could, therefore, incentivise people to not look for work. “This bill pays you more not to work than if you were working,” said Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator.
Some House Republicans share that view.