Washington– The US Senate has approved a historic $2 trillion fiscal stimulus package, the in the country’s modern history, to try and counter the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The package was approved on Wednesday night by 96 votes in favour and none against after several days of delays as the Democrats were unable to come to an agreement with the White House over the administration of the funds, reports Efe news.
The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, which on Friday will vote by voice to allow the representatives to vote from their respective quarantines amid limited flights and stay-home orders issued in several states.
It will then be moved to President Donald Trump, who is expected to ratify it immediately.
The $2 trillion stimulus package is almost three times the package implemented during the 2008 financial crisis.
The bill includes $1,200 in one-time direct payments to Americans earning less than $75,000 per year, plus $500 per child under the age of 17.
The stimulus measure provides more than $350 billion in loans to small businesses, and another $250 billion to expand unemployment insurance benefits for people who lose their jobs.
The measure also includes $150 billion for state and local authorities and another $130 billion to strengthen the nation’s healthcare system, which in hotspots of the epidemic, such as New York City, is beginning to be overwhelmed.
One of the main bones of contention in the bill was the distribution of $500 billion in loans to businesses hard-hit by the pandemic, including airlines, the hotel industry and cruise lines, with the White House and Republican lawmakers wanting these funds administered exclusively by the Treasury Department.
Calling it an “emergency relief”, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said at the Senate floor earlier in the day that the package will “help the people of this country weather this storm”.
The package comes as the number of coronavirus cases in the US has increased to 69,018 with 1,042 deaths, according to the latest update by the Washington-based John Hopkins University.
New York, the epicentre of the outbreak in the country, has reported 280 fatalities 17,856 cases. (IANS)