The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved $484 billion in fresh relief for the U.S. economy and hospitals hammered by the coronavirus pandemic, sending the measure to the House of Representatives for final passage later this week.
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved nearly $500 billion more in coronavirus relief for the U.S. economy… bringing the total relief to nearly $3 trillion.
Part of the deal includes $321 billion for a small business lending program.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: (SOUNDBITE)(English) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, MITCH MCCONNELL, SAYING: "We're feeling our way along here, trying to do the best we can to get money to our people and our small businesses to get us through this period so we can begin to get back to normal." On the same day nurses protested outside of the White House - demanding the government provide adequate personal protective equipment - or PPE - to medical staff... Congressional leaders and President Donald Trump agreed to the new bill, which also includes $75 billion for hospitals.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin: (SOUNDBITE)(English) U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY, STEVE MNUCHIN, SAYING: "…Also allows us, as the president said, more money to hospitals and an unprecedented amount of money for testing." Upon House approval, the bill would be the fourth major piece of legislation passed as the federal government seeks to ease the heavy economic and personal toll of the pandemic... one that has killed more than 45,000 Americans and left more than 22 million people out of work.
(SOUNDBITE)(English) SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER, CHUCK SCHUMER, SAYING: "So the bill we passed was greatly improved…" Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday said $125 billion of small business funds in the latest package would go to "mom and pop" and minority-owned stores.
(SOUNDBITE)(English) SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER, CHUCK SCHUMER, SAYING: "The smaller people will not have to compete with the pot bellies." This - after critics of the previous aid program - which was quickly exhausted - said too much of the money had gone to larger, better-connected businesses.
Tuesday's bill comes amid Trump's criticism of Democratic governors in several swing states as going too far with their stay-at-home orders, amplifying a message touted by his political supporters in a series of protests across the country.
But health experts and lawmakers on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis have said the United States could face a second and even deadlier wave of infections if the lockdowns end prematurely.
The United States has by far the world's largest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19.