WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House and Senate leaders of both parties announced agreement early Wednesday on unprecedented emergency legislation to rush sweeping aid to businesses, workers and a health care system slammed by the coronavirus pandemic, according to an Associated Press report.
The pandemic response measure is the largest economic rescue measure in history and is intended as a weeks- or months-long patch for an economy spiraling into recession and a nation facing a potentially ghastly toll.
The measure must still be approved by the full House and Senate. That is expected To happen later today.
In other developments, President Donald Trump approvedna major disaster declaration for Louisiana after state leaders asked the federal government for resources to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. The declaration paves the way for financial assistance to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the federal economic rescue package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.
“After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a key negotiator. “It will rush new resources onto the front lines of our nation’s health care fight. And it will inject trillions of dollars of cash into the economy as fast as possible to help Americans workers, families, small businesses and industries make it through this disruption and emerge on the other side ready to soar.”
The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct a one-time payment of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child directly to the public.
A huge cash infusion for hospitals expecting a flood of COVID-19 patients grew during the talks at the insistence of Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, while Republicans pressed for tens of billions of dollars for additional relief to be delivered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal disaster agency.
Democrats said the package would help replace the salary of furloughed workers for four months, rather than the three months first proposed. Furloughed workers would get whatever amount a state usually provides for unemployment, plus a $600 per week add-on, with gig workers like Uber drivers covered for the first time.
“It ensures that all workers are protected whether they work for businesses small, medium or large, along with self-employed and workers in the gig economy,” Schumer said.
Republicans won inclusion of an “employee retention” tax credit that’s estimated to provide $50 billion to companies who retain employees on payroll and cover 50 percent of workers’ paychecks. Companies would also be able to defer payment of the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax.
Democrats pointed to gains for hospitals, additional oversight of the huge industry stabilization fund, and money for cash-strapped states. A companion appropriations package ballooned as well, growing from a $46 billion White House proposal to more than $300 billion, which dwarfs earlier disasters — including Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy combined.
To provide transparency, the package is expected to create a new inspector general and oversight board for the corporate dollars, much as was done during the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program bank rescue, officials said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.