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18 Mar, 2020 21:47

Trump signs ‘families first’ coronavirus act, with additional $1 trillion stimulus in the works

Trump signs ‘families first’ coronavirus act, with additional $1 trillion stimulus in the works

The US Senate has voted 90-8 for the House bill providing for free coronavirus testing, paid emergency leave for those infected, and more funding for social programs. Next up is another bill that would give Americans cash.

Dubbed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” by the Democrat-dominated House, the bill sailed through the Senate on Wednesday with 90 votes in favor and only eight opposed. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law just a few hours after it passed through the upper chamber, according to the White House.

In selling the bill to fellow Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) had to deal with pushback from his party over what they said were attempts by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) to ram through a wish list of permanent entitlement expansions in what was supposed to be an emergency bill.

Also on rt.com ‘Free tests for everyone’: Pelosi announces Democrats reach deal with White House on coronavirus relief

It was unclear which provisions may have been dropped in the final negotiations. Some estimates said the bill could cost up to $350 billion, mainly in paid sick and child care leave mandate for companies already stressed by the economy that has ground to a halt due to the outbreak. 

“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,” McConnell said. 

While it has “real shortcomings,” he added, “in this case, I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers.”

The bill provides free Covid-19 coronavirus testing for all who need it, as well as paid emergency leave for those who are infected or caring for a family member who is. In addition, it gives additional funding to the federal Medicaid healthcare program, food stamps and unemployment benefits.

It is the second massive spending bill the US Congress has adopted in response to the pandemic, following last week’s $8.3 billion appropriation for vaccine research and development.

Senate Republicans are now moving at “warp speed,” per McConnell, to draft the third bill – based on a $1 trillion White House proposal that would include up to $500 billion in direct payments to Americans, starting as early as April 6. The rest of the money would go to bail out the airline industry and other “distressed” sectors of the US economy, as well as small businesses forced to shutter by the pandemic. 

Quarantines, lockdowns and “social distancing” have put a great strain on Americans, the vast majority of whom live paycheck to paycheck and rely on schools for child care. Work closures also mean layoffs and workers losing their health insurance. The White House has already moved to halt debt payments, evictions and foreclosures in an effort to mitigate the hardship. 

There have been 8,403 confirmed Covid-19 infections in the US so far, and the disease has been reported in every state. More are expected as testing expands. As of Wednesday, there have been a total of 133 deaths due to the disease.

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