The US Senate has passed a $2.2tn emergency relief package as the coronavirus pandemic devastates the economy, marking the biggest rescue deal of its kind in US history.
“This is a strange and evil disease,” said the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer ahead of the vote. “When we pass this bill, instead of hugging each other, we’ll wave from a distance.”
The bill would provide up to $1,200 in direct relief for American adults, create a $500bn lending program for businesses, cities and states and $367bn fund for small businesses. The plan also provides $130bn to hospitals, and expands unemployment insurance.
Senators overwhelmingly voted to pass the legislation, approving it 96-0.
The House is expected to vote on the bill on Friday. “We are working to ensure that those who are unable to return to Washington will be able to express their views on this legislation remotely,” said the House leader Steny Hoyer in a statement.
Lawmakers scrambled on Wednesday to smooth over snags as they rushed to pass the legislation, which provides direct payments to American families, and loans and grants to businesses. A last-minute amendment, from Republican senators who complained that the bill would incentivize workers to collect unemployment payments rather than take a job, failed.
After casting her vote Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat of Massachusetts, said: “This is not the bill I wanted, but its immediate investments are vital.” “They are also insufficient,” she added. “We will need to do more – and soon.”
McConnell similarly reflected on the compromises that Republicans and Democrats made to arrive at the deal. “It’s been a long, hard road, with a remarkable number of twists and turns,” he said. “But for the sake of millions of Americans, it will be worth it. It will be worth it to get help to millions of small businesses and save tens of millions of jobs.”