US Congress Reaches Agreement on Covid-19 Aid Package, Senate Republicans and Democrats say

WASHINGTON: U.S. Congress leaders agreed on a $ 900 billion package to provide the first new aid in months to an economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, the Senate chief Republican and Democrat said Sunday, but it remained unclear when Congress would vote to seal the deal.
“We finally have the bipartisan breakthrough the country needed,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The package would be the second largest economic boost in US history after a $ 2.3 trillion relief bill was passed in March. The deal comes when the pandemic accelerates and infects more than 214,000 people in the country every day. More than 317,000 Americans have died.
Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic minority in the Senate, said the package should have enough support to pass both houses of Congress.
“We finally have good news for the American people,” he said in the Senate.
The package would provide $ 600 in direct payments to individuals, increase unemployment benefits by $ 300 per week, and provide hundreds of billions of dollars in additional aid to small businesses. It would also provide $ 25 billion in rental assistance, sources said.
Lawmakers said it settled disputes over the Federal Reserve’s pandemic lending agency, education funding and small business lending. “I think it’s mostly closed,” Republican Senator John Thune told reporters.
Congress intends to include the coronavirus relief package in a $ 1.4 trillion spending bill to fund government programs by September 2021.
Legislators said there may not be enough time to pass the measures before state funds run out at midnight on Sunday (5:00 a.m. GMT Monday), which means they would have to pass another temporary extension to the government keep going.
House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, the chamber’s top Democrat, told reporters earlier Sunday that she wanted to give members some time to review the package before calling a vote.
The bill leaves out two of the most controversial elements in the negotiations: legal protection for coronavirus lawsuits filed by Republicans, and substantial aid to state and local governments advocated by Democrats.
Sources informed on the matter told Reuters on Sunday that the deal is expected to provide US airlines with $ 15 billion in new payroll assistance, which will allow them to have more than 32,000 workers on leave by March 31 Bring back payroll.
It would also include $ 1 billion for the Amtrak passenger railroad, $ 14 billion for public transportation systems and $ 10 billion for state highways, one of the sources said. Another $ 3.2 billion would help bring broadband internet access to low-income Americans.
Expect votes?
The bill would have to be passed by the Democrat-run House of Representatives before the Republican-controlled Senate could adopt it. If passed, it would go to President Donald Trump to sign the law.
Republican Senator John Cornyn said lawmakers may not be able to vote on the deal until midnight.
“I think it’s doubtful, I’d guess,” he said.
Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican, had insisted on language that would guarantee the Federal Reserve could not revive the emergency loan programs for small businesses and state and local governments after they expired on December 31st.
Republicans had said the programs were unnecessary government interference in the private sector.
Democrats, in turn, accused Republicans of attempting to curtail Democratic-elect Joe Biden’s ability to fuel the ailing economy after he took office on Jan. 20.
The pandemic will be the biggest crisis for Biden’s new administration, although signs of hope have surfaced as the United States begins vaccinating people against the disease.
The two sides agreed on a language that does not allow the current program to be renewed but does not block the creation of similar programs.
In the eleven months since the first cases of the new coronavirus were documented in the United States, COVID-19 has put million Americans out of work and unemployment has risen. Economists say growth is likely to remain sluggish until vaccines become widespread by mid-2021.

Source