Senate passes $2.2 trillion emergency relief bill

Senate White House reach deal on $2 trillion stimulus package to lessen COVID-19’s economic impact		
		
	Catherine Shu

			@catherineshu	 
		7 hours

"At last, we have a deal", said Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, after days of intense negotiations, according to a report from the Financial Times on Wednesday.

It wasn't easy, and it took a little longer than many would've liked, but around 2 a.m. (E.T.) this morning, Senate leaders and the White House reached an agreement on a $2 trillion economic rescue bill, meant to help mitigate the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

Among other provisions, the bill includes direct checks of $1,200 for individuals who made less than $75,000 in 2018, or less than $150,000 for those filing jointly. The House needs to pass the bill before it can reach President Donald Trump's desk. Those making more than the limit receive a reduced benefit, amounting to $50 less for every $1,000 above $75,000, until the benefit is phased out entirely for those earning more than $99,000 per year.

Schumer specifically praised the beefed-up $260 billion unemployment package, calling it "unemployment insurance on steroids" that would provide "a social safety net wide enough to catch the millions of American workers who became unemployed virtually overnight". The White House has indicated that Americans could be seeing direct payments as soon as April 6.

The US agreed on legislation to help businesses, workers and the health care system amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

The loans would be available during an emergency period ending at the of June, and would be forgiven if the employer pays its workers for the duration of the crisis.

The largest stimulus legislation in the country's history cleared the Senate floor with a 96-0 vote with some lawmakers missing as they were self-quarantining or ill. Most of those funds would be used to guarantee loans that small businesses could use to keep their cash flow going - and thus keep employees on their payroll and make other necessary payments - while the economy sputters.

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An additional $25 billion is provided for the food stamp program, along with $9.5 billion for the agricultural industry.

This was a major sticking point for Democrats: they successfully pushed for oversight, including the installment of an inspector general and a congressionally appointed board to monitor the fund.

The plan also calls for an immediate disclosure of the fund recipients.

As part of the deal, airlines will be prohibited from stock buybacks and CEO bonuses, Schumer wrote in a letter Wednesday to Democratic senators. They said the expanded unemployment benefits were overly generous and would encourage workers to get laid off - an objection that immediately triggered a counterthreat from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who promised to place his own hold on the bill over his concerns about "corporate welfare" if they did not drop theirs. Hospitals would receive $130 billion, and state and local governments would get $150 billion in assistance.

According to New York Times reporter Alan Rappeport, the deal also includes a provision, secured by Schumer, that bars businesses controlled by the president, vice president, members of Congress and heads of executive departments from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs.

Lawmakers also agreed to increase Medicare payment increases to all hospitals and providers, Schumer said.

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