A multibillion dollar emergency package that boosts unemployment insurance and guarantees free testing for COVID-19 is now headed to President Donald Trump’s desk for approval.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 90-8 on the bill, which eliminates insurance copayments for coronavirus testing and provides billions of dollars to state and local governments for food assistance and unemployment benefits.
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The agreement — negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — also includes 10 days of sick pay for some workers, including all federal government employees as well as gig economy and self-employed workers, according to multiple reports. Millions of workers, however, may not be covered by such paid provisions since the measure does not apply to companies with more than 500 employees.
House lawmakers initially passed the bill on Saturday and approved it with corrections on Monday. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the measure is estimated to cost roughly $104 billion.
“It is a well-intentioned bipartisan product assembled by House Democrats and President Trump’s team that tries to stand up and expand some new relief measures for American workers,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
The measure — recognized as “phase two” of the emergency packages passed by the Senate amid the spread of an outbreak that has battered the U.S. economy — follows congressional approval of an $8.3 billion sweeping spending bill toward prevention efforts and medical research. A $1 trillion “phase three” stimulus, which was proposed Tuesday by the Trump administration, would include $50 billion for the hard-hit airline industry and a small business interruption loan scheme as well as two rounds of direct-check payments to Americans worth up to a total of $500 billion.
“For the people that are now out of work because of the important and necessary containment policies, for instance the shutting down of hotels, bars and restaurants,” Trump wrote on Twitter, “money will soon be coming to you.”
For the people that are now out of work because of the important and necessary containment policies, for instance the shutting down of hotels, bars and restaurants, money will soon be coming to you. The onslaught of the Chinese Virus is not your fault! Will be stronger than ever!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2020
Republican and Democratic senators are expected to begin negotiations on the $1 trillion emergency measure as soon as tonight.
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