U.S. President Donald Trump is appealing to both houses of the U.S. Congress to pass the $2 trillion stimulus bill aimed at rebooting an economy brought to a standstill by the coronavirus pandemic.
It is the biggest single package to help American citizens and shuttered businesses cope with the ensuing disaster.
The Senate and White House hammered out the details Wednesday after a complex series of negotiations and procedural votes.
While it includes a lot of provisions aimed at relieving the economic stress, the bill’s outstanding features include cash payments to individuals and married couples making less than $99,000 a year.
Unemployment benefits are boosted, student loan payments suspended, and the badly hit airline industry will get tens of millions of dollars in help.
The bill specifies that none of Trump’s businesses will benefit and no money for the Pentagon can be spent on the border wall.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that the administration anticipates the stimulus package will keep the economy afloat for three months.
“Hopefully, we won’t need this for three months,” he added.
The bill contains details that both Democrats and Republicans say they don’t like.
But even Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has threatened to block it, said he supports the plan overall.
It was unclear as of late Wednesday when the full Senate and House will vote on the bill.
If the Senate passes it, it goes to the House, which is currently not in session. Representatives would either agree to its passage by unanimous consent, or return to Washington to vote, risking debate and objections by lawmakers from both sides who are unhappy with some of its provisions.
Late Wednesday, the government of Washington, D.C., ordered a citywide lockdown with the number of cases in the city and suburbs topping 1,000.
The coronavirus death toll in the U.S. now exceeds 900, with New York City the epicenter of the country’s outbreak.
Mayor Bill de Blasio bitterly complained Wednesday that the stimulus bill doesn’t do enough to help the country's largest city. He blamed Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and said he will appeal directly to President Trump for more help.
Spain has now surpassed China and only trails Italy as the world’s coronavirus hot spot. China has lifted the lockdown on Hubei province, where the global outbreak began in December.
China had been the epicenter of the pandemic but reported just 67 new cases Wednesday – all of them in people who came to China from overseas.
Russia confirmed its first coronavirus deaths Wednesday, and Britain’s Prince Charles has become one of the most recognizable names to become ill.
The heir to the British throne has isolated himself in Scotland, saying his symptoms are mild. He said he is not sure where or how he caught the virus.
As of late Wednesday, nearly 469,000 people around the world were infected and close to 21,200 had died. The coronavirus has now reached every country on Earth.