As the nation confronted the worst economic decline since the Great Depression, the United States Senate approved an unprecedented $2 trillion relief bill late on Wednesday night, in an effort to soften the financial blow of the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation is by far the most expansive economic assistance ever passed by Congress and will go to the House on Friday morning, lawmakers said.
Approved by an extraordinary and rapid bipartisan vote of 96 to 0, the package will deliver checks to more than 150 million American households, establish multi-billion dollar loan programs for big and small businesses, add billions of dollars to make unemployment insurance more generous, vastly increase spending on the nation’s hospitals, and support city, state, and local governments.
The relief bill will provide $1,200 to most American adults and $500 for most children, along with a $500 billion lending scheme for large private firms, cities, and states and a $367 billion employee retention fund for small businesses. It will also deliver four months of additional unemployment payments and direct $130 billion to both public and private hospitals.
Deep concern about the perils to the health care system and the broader economy is shared by both liberal and conservative senators who overcame differences to back the enormous spending bill, which President Trump has already promised to sign.
Four senators were unavailable to vote because they are in self-quarantine. Just minutes before the vote, according to the Washington Post, a spokesman for Sen. John Thune (R-SD) disclosed that the Senate’s second-ranking Republican had returned to South Dakota feeling ill. Al;sop absent were Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has tested positive for COVID-19, and Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney of Utah, who self-quarantined because they had spent time with Paul.