March 26 (UPI) — The Senate has unanimously passed a historic $2.2 trillion stimulus package aimed to flood funds into the stalling U.S. economy and put money into the hands of suffering Americans due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Senate passed the bipartisan bill 96-0 late Wednesday, sending it to the House, where it is expected to pass this week before landing on the desk of President Donald Trump, who has said he will sign it.
“This is a proud moment of the United States Senate and for the country and we’re going to win this battle in the very near future,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters during a press conference after the vote. He described the legislation as a “rescue bill to save America individuals, small businesses, large businesses and to provide considerable funding for healthcare workers and the scientists and doctors and others who are trying to solve this pandemic.”
Under the legislation — the largest the Senate has ever passed — Americans who earn up to $75,000 will receive cheques of $1,200 with most children to receive $500. It also creates a $367 billion small business loan program, a $500 billion fund for industries and a $150 billion fund for states and localities whose coffers have been depleted in their fight against COVID-19. It also beefs up unemployment insurance to four months and includes $130 billion for hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said from the Senate floor that a bill of this size was needed to confront “a historic crisis” and that the government is the only force large enough “to staunch the bleeding and begin the healing” due to the coronavirus that has killed more than 1,000 people in the United States since it registered its first infection on Jan. 21.
“There are millions of Americans watching out right now at home on their televisions, separated from friends and family, fearful for their children and their livelihood, unsure when the time will come when all of our lives may return to normal,” he said. “Let us tell them tonight that help is on the way, that they are not truly alone, that this country, that this Senate, that this government is here for them in a time of dire need.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who negotiated the bill on behalf of the White House, said during a coronavirus briefing earlier Wednesday that they anticipate the bill will keep the economy afloat for about three months.
“This is going to be enormous help for the American workers in the American economy,” he said.
The bill’s passing follows five days of negotiations between senators of both parties and the White House. Introduced Thursday by McConnell, the bill quickly stalled as Democrats twice declined to sign off on it saying it focused too much on helping big corporations while doing too little for workers.
Another issue the Democrats fought for was oversight of loans given to corporations.
“Every loan document will be public and made available to Congress very quickly so we can see where the money is going, what the terms are and if it’s fair to the American people,” Schumer said Wednesday.
Early Wednesday, both sides of the Senate and the White House agreed to the bill, which the Senate passed nearly 24 hours later.
The vote occurred as millions of Americans are under some form of shelter-in-place order to try and prevent further spread of the coronavirus that has infected nearly 70,000 people in the United States and more than 470,000 worldwide.