Senate approves $483B virus aid deal, sends it to House

A $483 billion coronavirus aid package flew through the Senate on Tuesday after Congress and the White House reached a deal to replenish a small-business payroll fund and provided new money for hospitals and testing.

Posted: Apr 21, 2020 9:38 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A $483 billion coronavirus aid package flew through the Senate on Tuesday after Congress and the White House reached a deal to replenish a small-business payroll fund and provided new money for hospitals and testing.

Passage was swift and unanimous, despite opposition from conservative Republicans. President Donald Trump tweeted his support, pledging to sign it into law. It now goes to the House, with votes set for Thursday.

U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. | Source: MGN Online

“I urge the House to pass the bill,” Trump said at the White House.

After nearly two weeks of negotiations and deadlock, Congress and the White House reached agreement Tuesday on the nearly $500 billion package — the fourth as Washington strains to respond to the health and economic crisis.

“The Senate is continuing to stand by the American people,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to an almost empty chamber.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill was made “better and broader” after Democrats forced the inclusion of money for hospitals and testing.

A copy of the measure was provided to The Associated Press by a GOP aide.

Most of the funding, $331 billion, would go to boost a small-business payroll loan program that ran out of money last week. An additional $75 billion would be given to hospitals, and $25 billion would be spent to boost testing for the virus, a key step in building the confidence required to reopen state economies.

Missing from the package, however, was extra funding for state and local governments staring down budget holes and desperate to avert furloughs and layoffs of workers needed to keep cities running.

Trump said he was open to including in a subsequent virus aid package fiscal relief for state and local government — which Democrats wanted for the current bill — along with infrastructure projects.

Not all Republicans are backing Trump on the deal.

Two conservative Republicans, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., voiced opposition during Tuesday's session but did not halt passage.

Lee said it was “unacceptable” that the full Senate was not present and voting in the pro forma session as Congress shuttered during the virus outbreak.

Paul said no amount of federal funding will be able to salvage a shuttered economy. “Deaths from infectious disease will continue, but we cannot continue to indefinitely quarantine,” said Paul, who tested positive for the virus last month but has since recovered.

The House is being called to Washington for a Thursday vote, said Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader.

Hoyer, D-Md., said the House will also vote on a proposal to allow proxy voting on future business during the pandemic, a first for Congress, which has required in-person business essentially since its founding.

“The House must show the American people that we continue to work hard on their behalf,” Hoyer wrote to colleagues.

But the landmark rules change met with objections from conservative Republicans.

“I don’t support it at all,” said Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., one of a handful of Republicans who showed up for Tuesday's pro forma session to protest proxy votes. “Congress should be in session.”

Signaling concerns, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., wrote Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., seeking more information on plans to reopen the House.

The emerging virus aid package — originally designed by Republicans as a $250 billion stopgap to replenish the payroll subsidies for smaller businesses — has grown into the second largest of the four coronavirus response bills so far.

Democratic demands have caused the measure to balloon, though Republicans support additions for hospitals and testing.

The now $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program includes $60 billion or so set aside for — and divided equally among — smaller banks and community lenders that seek to focus on underbanked neighborhoods and rural areas. Democrats have highlighted the number of smaller and minority-owned shops missing out on the aid.

Another $60 billion would be available for a small-business loans and grants program delivered through an existing small business disaster aid program, $10 billion of which would come in the form of direct grants.

The bill provides $25 billion for increased testing efforts, including at least $11 billion to state and tribal governments to detect and track new infections. The rest will help fund federal research into new coronavirus testing options.

Currently, the U.S. has tested roughly 4 million people for the virus, or just over 1% of its population, according to the Covid Tracking Project website.

While the White House says the U.S. has enough testing to begin easing social distancing measures, most experts say capacity needs to increase at least threefold, if not more.

Despite yet another big package from Congress, all sides say more aid is likely needed.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin outlined infrastructure and broadband spending for the next bill. And there's pressure to help cities with populations of less than 500,000 that were shut out of the massive $2 trillion relief bill that passed last month.

Schumer said Monday that he had talked to Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell and that Powell said the Fed is working to open up the Main Street Lending program to nonprofits and municipal governments.

The government’s Paycheck Protection Program has been swamped by companies applying for loans and reached its appropriations limit last Thursday after approving nearly 1.7 million loans. That left thousands of small businesses in limbo as they sought help.

Controversies have enveloped the program, with many businesses complaining that banks have favored customers with whom they already do business. Some businesses that haven't been harmed much by the pandemic have also received loans, along with a number of publicly traded corporations.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844594

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1160612006
Mobile741651379
Madison53255732
Shelby38313368
Baldwin38061589
Tuscaloosa35996641
Montgomery34473781
Lee25541263
Calhoun22582518
Morgan22441406
Etowah20009517
Marshall18771316
Houston17723425
St. Clair16863358
Limestone16123218
Cullman16032303
Elmore15902294
Lauderdale14945306
Talladega14186299
DeKalb12957269
Walker12011380
Blount10700192
Autauga10512157
Jackson10151194
Coffee9412192
Colbert9325208
Dale9013191
Tallapoosa7248201
Russell707465
Chilton7015170
Escambia6951143
Covington6926195
Franklin6337108
Chambers5778142
Marion5400130
Dallas5283209
Pike5114109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4777110
Geneva4640136
Bibb434094
Barbour369180
Butler3433100
Marengo342393
Monroe336666
Randolph334067
Pickens333188
Fayette329885
Henry320566
Hale317989
Cherokee316963
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254360
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184647
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139041
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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