Senators threaten to delay coronavirus relief bill with last-minute objections

Laverne Higgins
March 26, 2020

Senators were negotiating the final sticking points in the stimulus bill to help the USA economy get through the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill is the third congressional effort to aid America in the grip of the outbreak and is the largest effort taken thus far.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has agreed to commit over 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) in fiscal stimulus and support - roughly 30% of that nation's entire annual output.

By the early afternoon, with the final text of the bill still taking shape after a bipartisan deal by Senate leaders and the Trump administration, a group of Republicans threatened to hold it up.

The pandemic and the social distancing rules aimed to curb its spread have forced many businesses to resort to layoffs and furloughs.

The bill also calls for the government sending $1,200 checks to individuals who make less than $75,000 and $2,400 for couples making less than $150,000.

The more a person makes, the smaller the check: payments would be phasing out starting at $75,000 for individuals and will end completely at $99,000. For each qualifying child, a single taxpayer will receive $500. Those with no or little tax liability would receive the same check as others.

The legislation will also include $500 billion in direct payments to people in two waves of checks.

While the Senate may pass the deal on Wednesday, according to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, it remains to be seen when and how exactly Americans can expect the direct payments.

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Over $300 billion in small business loans will be available to companies who promise not to layoff workers. They also would have to limit executive bonuses and take steps to protect workers.

But along with the money being made available, Senate Democrats won significant concessions from the White House and Senate Republicans in the form of restraints on corporations and oversight of the funds.

Another $25 billion goes to public transit systems, $4.35 billion of that to NY - with $3.8 billion for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, whose ridership collapsed as COVID-19 spread. Loans to President Trump's businesses and those of members of Congress, other officials and their families are banned. "The block also would also extend to companies controlled by their children, spouses or in-laws".

Hospitals and health systems across the country are expected to get $130 billion in emergency grants, while billions more would be spent on medical and personal protective equipment.

The plan includes about $500 billion that can be used to back loans and assistance to companies, including $50 billion for loans to US airlines, as well as state and local governments.

The Senate blocked an amendment to modify the unemployment benefits provision that had been offered by Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse before moving to pass the overall Bill.

"At last we have a deal", Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said early Wednesday on the chamber's floor.

During an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in late February, Mulvaney tried to downplay the seriousness of COVID-19, saying it is "not a death sentence" and was being exaggerated because the media thinks "this will bring down the president".

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