House votes Friday on $3 trillion virus relief package

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has unveiled a $3 trillion coronavirus rescue package that will receive a vote on the House floor on May 15 (AFP Photo/SAUL LOEB)

Washington (AFP) - US House Democrats will aim to pass a record $3 trillion coronavirus response package Friday to fund the fight against the pandemic and provide emergency payments to millions of American households.

"Our next step is to pass the bill. We're going to do that tomorrow," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday.

"The challenge is a clear one, and we are very proud of The Heroes Act which addresses the urgent need and the actions we want taken to meet those needs."

Pelosi unveiled the 1,815-page legislation only on Tuesday.

Republicans quickly attacked it as a "liberal wish list" and said it would be dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate.

That chamber's leaders have said new emergency funding is not yet needed, a sentiment echoed by President Donald Trump.

But with more than 1.4 million recorded COVID-19 infections, US fatalities soaring past 85,000 and the economy in free fall due to prolonged stay-at-home orders, Democrats are arguing for swift additional support for American families and businesses.

"We're putting our offer on the table," Pelosi said. "We're open to negotiation."

The measure includes a second round of direct payments to most families -- up to $6,000 per household -- to help ease the economic burden, with more than 36 million Americans having lost their jobs in the pandemic.

It sets aside nearly $1 trillion to state and local governments whose coffers have been depleted while fighting outbreaks.

It also provides hazardous duty pay for health workers and emergency responders, expands virus testing and tracing, boosts lending to small businesses, bolsters housing assistance and strengthens food security for poor families.

Pelosi noted that the bill would also fund the US Postal Service, whose financial viability is under threat just as Democrats press to expand vote-by-mail options ahead of the November presidential election.

Trump has already signed four pandemic relief measures into law.

They include a $2.2 trillion package in March and a $483 billion measure to pump additional funds into a loan program for hard-hit small businesses.

The House on Friday will also vote on a unique measure, a change of the chamber's age-old rules to allow lawmakers to vote by proxy during crises such as a pandemic.