The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a roughly $105 billion aid package to combat the ravaging effects of the coronavirus.
In rare a bipartisan effort – spurred by desperate times - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had his told his fellow Republicans to “gag and vote on it” after the measure passed in the Democratic-led House of Representatives days earlier.
(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) SEN. MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL:
“This is a time for urgent bipartisan action, and in this case, I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers.”
The bill bolsters safety-net programs and provides free testing for the virus.
Separately, the Trump administration on Wednesday continued to press congress to take up its $1 trillion stimulus proposal, asking Congress to approve $500 billion in cash payments to households that would be tiered based on income and family size.
They would be made in two separate rounds starting April 6 and May 18.
(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) SEN. MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER:
“The coronavirus is slowing our economy to a near standstill and we are almost certainly anticipating a recession.”
But some, like Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Wednesday that expanded unemployment benefits might be more effective.
Trump on Wednesday also invoked the Defense Production Act, putting in place a law that will allow the government to accelerate production of needed equipment for the pandemic.
The Senate is now also working on legislation to support small businesses, as proposed by Republicans Marco Rubio and Susan Collins.
(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:
“I want to make sure that we provide a federally-guaranteed loan that would allow them to maintain their payrolls, and it would keep those businesses alive so that when this crisis passes, they - the employees would have jobs to return to.”
Additionally, Reuters has learned exclusively that U.S. regulators are considering issuing guidance that would encourage lenders to offer loans to low-income individuals and to provide leniency on some repayments amid the coronavirus pandemic.