Washington, DC, Mar 25 (efe-epa).- The US Senate on Wednesday approved the biggest fiscal stimulus package in the country’s modern history to try and counteract the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The package was approved by 96 votes in favor and none against after several days of delays as the Democrats were unable to come to an agreement with the White House over the administration of the funds.
The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, which on Friday will vote by voice to allow the representatives to vote from their respective quarantines amid limited flights and stay-home orders issued in several states.
It will then be moved to the president of the United States, Donald Trump, who is expected to ratify it immediately.
The $2 trillion stimulus package is almost three times the package implemented during the 2008 financial crisis.
The bill includes $1,200 in one-time direct payments to Americans earning less than $75,000 per year, plus $500 per child under the age of 17.
The stimulus measure provides more than $350 billion in loans to small businesses, and another $250 billion to expand unemployment insurance benefits for people who lose their jobs.
The measure also includes $150 billion for state and local authorities and another $130 billion to strengthen the nation’s healthcare system, which in hotspots of the epidemic, such as New York City, is beginning to be overwhelmed.
One of the main bones of contention in the bill was the distribution of $500 billion in loans to businesses hard-hit by the pandemic – including airlines, the hotel industry and cruise lines – with the White House and GOP lawmakers wanting these funds administered exclusively by the Treasury Department.
Democratic lawmakers refused to agree to this and ultimately the funds will be supervised by an independent inspector and will include conditions such as prohibiting the money from being used for executive salaries or stock buybacks.
According to the latest figures from the authorities, some 69,000 people are known to have been infected in the US and more than 1,000 have died. EFE-EPA