U.S. senators were set to vote on a $2 trillion bipartisan package of legislation to alleviate the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, although critics from the right and left threatened to hold up the bill.
(SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, SAYING: “The senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic.” Help is finally on the way.
(SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER, SAYING: “Big help, and quick help.” That’s the message from the U.S. Senate Wednesday, which reached an agreement on the $2 trillion bipartisan stimulus package to alleviate the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic – the largest rescue package in American history.
Among the elements: Direct payments of up to $3000 to American households.
Up to $500 billion in "liquidity assistance" for distressed industries, including hard-hit airlines, doled out with congressional oversight.
Businesses owned by President Trump, other administration officials and members of Congress are not eligible for assistance.
$250 billion to expand unemployment insurance.
Payments would increase by up to $600 per week per worker and last for up to four months, said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who also noted that $100 billion will go to the healthcare system.
(SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER, SAYING: “There is much more money for our hospitals, for our nurses and physicians for our nursing homes, for our community and health centers to do the job they need to do.” $350 billion will go to small businesses loans, with billions more for education, mass transit systems, local governments and non-profits.
The stimulus package amounts to nearly half of what the U.S. government spends annually.
And yet, for New York – which accounts for nearly half of all coronavirus cases in the U.S. – the package is “terrible,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who noted that the $3.8 billion allocated for his state falls way short of need.
(SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) NEW YORK GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, SAYING: “3.8 billion dollars sounds like a lot of money, but we’re looking at a revenue shortfall of 9, 10, 15 billion dollars.” And it is still unclear how fast the bill will get to President Trump to sign into law, as the Senate still has to vote on it.
Some Republicans late Wednesday said the language needed to be changed to ensure laid-off workers would not be paid more than they earned on the job.
In response, Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he was prepared to block the bill if Republicans do not drop their objections.
After a Senate vote, the bill then moves to the House of Representatives, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it may undergo some changes.