U.S. congressional leaders reached agreement on Sunday on a $900 billion package to provide the first new aid in months to an economy and individuals battered by the surging coronavirus pandemic, with votes likely on Monday.
The relief package would be the second-largest economic stimulus in U.S. history, following a $2.3 trillion aid bill passed in March. It comes as the pandemic accelerates, infecting more than 214,000 people in the country each day. More than 317,000 Americans have already died.
“At long last, we have the bipartisan breakthrough the country has needed,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor, following months of contentious debate.
Republican and Democratic leaders said the relief package should have enough support to pass both chambers of Congress.
President Donald Trump supports the bill and will sign it into law, White House spokesman Ben Williamson said.
The package would give $600 direct payments to individuals and boost unemployment payments by $300 a week. It also includes billions for small businesses, food assistance, vaccine distribution, transit and healthcare. It extends a moratorium on foreclosures and provides $25 billion in rental aid.
“Anyone who thinks this bill is enough does not know what’s going on in America,” Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said at a news conference. He said he would push for more aid after Democratic President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20.
Lawmakers said they had resolved disputes over the Federal Reserve’s pandemic lending authority and other issues that had forced negotiations into the weekend.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives will likely vote on the package on Monday, with the Republican-controlled Senate to follow, according to House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer.
Congress aims to include the coronavirus relief package in a $1.4 trillion spending bill funding government programs through September 2021.
That funding was due to expire at midnight Sunday. The House and the Senate both voted to extend funding through Monday, buying more time to pass the coronavirus package and the larger government spending bill. Trump signed the extension into law.
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and David Shepardson; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Steve Holland; Editing by Heather Timmons and Peter Cooney)
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