Fri, 03 Apr 2020

Next Up: US House to Consider Coronavirus Rescue Package

Voice of America
27 Mar 2020, 05:35 GMT+10

Passage of the $2 trillion U.S. coronavirus rescue package is nearing the finish line, with the House of Representatives set to act Friday, followed quickly by President Donald Trump signing it into law.

"I anticipate - I feel certain - that we will have a strong bipartisan vote," Speaker Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrat-controlled House, said Thursday.

Republican Congressman Thomas Massie of the southern state of Kentucky said he will object to passage of the stimulus by a voice vote without a roll call of each lawmaker's vote. But Pelosi said she plans to move ahead anyway with the voice vote. Massie said he objects to how much the rescue effort will add to the U.S. debt, which already totals more than $23 trillion.

Pelosi said she thinks some minority Republicans will object to approval of the massive funding measure, the biggest in U.S. history, but one that is designed to flood the U.S. economy with cash to overcome the significant downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

She said the Democratic lawmakers who negotiated the pact with the majority Republican leaders in the Senate and the White House "didn't get everything we wanted" in the measure, but that they "won the day."

Pelosi said she did not think the rescue package would end congressional efforts to prop up the U.S. economy, the world's biggest, as the damage from the pandemic continues to wreak havoc.

She said she did not "think we've seen the end of direct payments" to American workers.

The rescue was approved by the Senate on a 96-0 vote late Wednesday after days of at times contentious negotiations.

Businesses

Trump told reporters Wednesday evening at the White House that he would act quickly after congressional approval, saying the signing would mark "a great day for the American worker and for American families and, frankly, for American companies."

"I encourage the House to pass this vital legislation and send the bill to my desk for signature," he said. "Without delay, I will sign it immediately."

The bill provides $500 billion in assistance to the hardest-hit major U.S. companies, another $367 billion to small businesses with fewer than 500 employees, and $250 billion to bolster state-run unemployment compensation funds, as the ranks of the jobless have ballooned in the last two weeks.

Nearly 3.3 million furloughed workers filed for unemployment compensation claims last week, a U.S. record.

About $150 billion would go to help hospitals suddenly under the strain of caring for the flood of coronavirus patients.

Individuals

Another major plank of the aid package is aimed at helping most American families, with the government set to send about $3,400 to families of four - two parents and two children. The payouts could cover about 90% of U.S. households.

Officials said some checks could be deposited in bank accounts within three weeks.

Individual taxpayers would get $1,200, and couples $2,400, with aid ending for individuals earning more than $99,000 annually and $198,000 a year for couples.

Trump says he wants to restart the U.S. economy as quickly as possible, as lockdown orders in many states have kept workers home and closed such businesses as restaurants, bars and movie theaters, as well as factories employing thousands of workers.

On Tuesday, he said he hopes the country is "raring to go" by Easter Sunday, April 12. But medical experts have voiced skepticism, with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths rising by the hour.

The United States has about 70,000 confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 1,000 deaths.

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