US Congress Approves $ 892 Billion COVID-19 Relief Package; Trump to sign

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The US Congress approved a US $ 892 billion coronavirus aid package on Monday, throwing a lifeline for the pandemic-plagued economy after months of inaction, while keeping the federal government funded for another year.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the package into law soon.

After days of fierce negotiations, both legislative chambers worked through the night to pass the massive bill, with the House of Representatives approving it first and the Senate following it several hours later in bipartisan votes.

The virus relief bill includes payments of $ 600 to most Americans as well as additional payments to millions of people laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic, just as a larger package of benefits is set to expire on Saturday .

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat, said she supports the anti-virus bill even though it does not include direct aid to state and local governments that Democrats do had sought. She said they would try again next year after Democratic President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

The bill, she said, “does not go all the way, but it takes us on the path.”

Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to renew his campaign to protect against corporate lawsuits over any coronavirus aid bills the new Biden administration is pursuing in early 2021 (Ken Cedeno / Reuters)

Republican Representative Hal Rogers, who also backed the package, said “this reflects a fair compromise”.

At 5,593 pages, the sweeping bill that also spends US $ 1.4 trillion on an array of federal programs through next September, will likely be the last major bill for the 116th Congress which expires Jan. 3. . Congress has included a measure to maintain current levels of government spending for seven days, making sure not to disrupt federal operations.

It has a net cost of around US $ 350 billion for coronavirus relief, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, adding that more than $ 500 billion in funding comes from unspent money. that Congress had authorized.

The stimulus package, the first aid approved by Congress since April, comes as the pandemic accelerates in the United States, infecting more than 214,000 people every day and slowing economic recovery. Over 317,000 Americans have died.

The legislation also expands a small business loan program of around US $ 284 billion and directs the money to schools, airlines, public transportation systems and vaccine distribution.

The small business loans and grants program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, would exclude publicly traded companies from eligibility.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she supports the anti-virus bill even though it does not include the direct aid to state and local governments that Democrats have sought . (Ken Cedeno / Reuters)

Amid reports that the Trump organization has received past aid, the bill contains disclosure obligations for the president, vice president, cabinet department heads, lawmakers and spouses and prohibits such people to receive loans in the future.

State and local governments, struggling to pay for the distribution of newly approved COVID-19 vaccines, reportedly receive US $ 8.75 billion from Washington, including US $ 300 million for vaccinations in minority and high-risk populations .

Discarded blocking points

The deal, drawn up during a rare weekend session of Congress, omits the most thorny sticking points, which included Republicans’ desire for a liability shield to protect companies from coronavirus-related lawsuits as well. than the Democrats’ demand for a large outlay of money in cash. -State and local governments attached.

McConnell, interviewed by Fox News, has pledged to renew his campaign for protections from corporate lawsuits in any coronavirus aid bill the new Biden administration is suing in early 2021.

The measure is well below the US $ 3 trillion called for in a bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House in May, which the Republican-controlled Senate ignored.

Biden urged Congress to consider further stimulus measures to get him to adhere to the law when he takes office on January 20. “My message to all those currently struggling, help is on the way,” he said in a statement.

The bill would be the second-largest stimulus package in U.S. history, behind the roughly $ 2 trillion U.S. aid bill passed in March. Experts said money played a vital role as social distancing measures blocked large swathes of the economy.

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