U.S. Senate passes $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package; House up next

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Senate late Wednesday unanimously passed an historic, $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that would send billions of dollars directly to Americans and provide hundreds of billions more for businesses, health care systems, and others impacted by the pandemic.

The measure passed 96-0 and now moves to the U.S. House, which has been in recess but where a vote is tentatively scheduled for Friday. It would be the largest relief package in the country’s history.

President Donald Trump said he supports it as the country deals with the health and financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused at least 785 deaths in the U.S. There also are more than 55,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country.

“This is a proud moment for 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 said after the vote.

The stimulus package includes $250 billion in direct payments to Americans depending on their income, $250 billion in expanded unemployment insurance benefits, $350 billion in guaranteed small business loans and $500 billion in loans for businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic.

If passed in the House and signed by Trump, the legislation would provide payments of $1,200 to each adult and $500 to each child under age 17 depending on a household’s 2019 income. A married couple with children could receive up to $3,400.

The payments start to phase out for individuals with income of $75,000 or more, or income of $150,000 for couples filing jointly. Individuals making more than $99,000 or couples earning more than $198,000 would not be eligible.

With thousands of businesses across the U.S. shuttered over fears of spreading COVID-19, and unemployment claims skyrocketing, Trump urged a stimulus deal to keep the economy running and to help Americans who in larger numbers are losing their jobs daily.

The measure would extend jobless insurance benefits by 13 weeks. It would include independent contractors such as freelancers, furloughed employees and gig workers.

Small businesses that pledge not to lay off their workers would be eligible for low-interest loans through June 30. The loans would be forgiven if the businesses continued to pay workers during the pandemic.

Airlines and airports could receive up to $32 billion in grants for wages and benefits as the industry screeches to a halt with travel restrictions in place across the globe.

Student loan payments also would be suspended until Sept. 30.

The package had been stalled for days by Democrats wanting to include non-stimulus measures in it, including higher emissions standards for airlines, and concessions to unions.

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