WASHINGTON – U.S. leaders said early Wednesday they have reached an agreement on a $2 trillion economic rescue package to help workers and businesses cope with the coronavirus outbreak.
The text of the bill is due to be released Wednesday morning with a vote in the Senate to follow. If the Senate gives its approval, the measure will go to the House of Representatives.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill is “far from perfect,” but that after improvements from days of negotiations it should be quickly approved.
“We have a bipartisan agreement on the largest rescue package in American history,” Schumer said. “This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity.”
“Help is on the way,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
He described the measure as good news for doctors and nurses around the country who need more funding and protective equipment such as masks to care for coronavirus patients, as well as for families who are set to get checks as part of an effort to “inject trillions” of dollars into the U.S. economy.
“In effect, this is a wartime level of investment into our nation,” McConnell said.
President Donald 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 businesses like restaurants, bars and movie theaters.
The aid package is aimed at boosting the U.S. economy by sending direct payments to more than 90% of Americans and a vast array of U.S. businesses to help them weather the immediate and burgeoning economic effects of the coronavirus.
“This legislation is urgently needed to bolster the economy, provide cash injections and liquidity, and stabilize financial markets to get us through a difficult and challenging period in the economy facing us right now, but also to position us for what I think can be an economic rebound later this year,” said Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow.
Most U.S. families of four would get $3,000 in assistance, with the aid package also creating the $500 billion lending program for businesses, cities and states, and $350 billion more to help small businesses meet payroll costs at a time when there is a declining demand for their products and services.
During negotiations this week, Democrats focused their objections on the $500 billion lending program for businesses, which some critics called a “slush fund” because the Treasury Department would have wide discretion over who gets the money, with little accounting for how the money is spent.
That led to inclusion of an oversight panel to review the government handouts to businesses, to try to make certain the money is spent appropriately.
The United States has about 55,000 confirmed cases with more than 700 deaths from the coronavirus.