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White House, Congress agree on $2 trillion virus rescue Bill

Measures include aid to businesses, workers and healthcare

The White House and Senate leaders of both parties announced agreement on Wednesday on an unprecedented $2 trillion emergency Bill to rush sweeping aid to businesses, workers and a health care system slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The urgently needed measure is the largest economic rescue Bill in history. It is intended as a weeks-long or months-long patch for an economy spiralling into recession — or worse — and a nation facing a potentially ghastly toll.

‘Help is on the way’

“To the American people, we say, big help, quick help is on the way,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement on Wednesday, capping days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure. Some final pieces of the agreement need to be finalised in detailed legislative language.

The measure is the third Bill produced by Congress and by far the largest in response to COVID-19, building on earlier efforts focussed on vaccines and emergency response, sick and family medical leave for workers, and food aid.

It would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion programme for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

One of the last issues to close concerned $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidised loans to larger industries, including a fight over how generous to be with the airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well.

“After days of discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The package would give one-time payments to Americans — $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.

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