White House, Senate agree on RM8.8t rescue plan

By AFP

WASHINGTON • The White House and Senate have reached agreement on a US$2 trillion (RM8.77 trillion) stimulus package for the US economy and millions of Americans ravaged by the coronavirus crisis, top lawmakers said early yesterday.

“At last, we have a deal,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, hailing the massive “wartime level of investment into our nation” reached after five days of arduous and tense negotiations.

“We have a bipartisan agreement on the largest rescue package in American history,” top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said shortly after McConnell spoke.

“So many people are being put out of work through no fault of their own. They don’t know what their future is going to be like, how are they going to pay the bills,” Schumer added. “Well, we come to their rescue.”

The Senate and House of Representatives still need to pass the legislation before sending it to US President Donald Trump for his signature.

The deal aims to buttress the teetering economy by giving roughly US$2 trillion to health facilities, businesses and ordinary Americans buckling under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic.

It will put cash directly into the hands of Americans hard hit by the crisis, provide grants to small businesses and hundreds of billions of dollars in loans for larger corporations including airlines.

It also proposes the injection of around US$130 billion into what Schumer calls “a Marshall Plan for hospitals” and healthcare infrastructure, referring to the huge American aid programme to rebuild Europe after World WarII.

With infection numbers rising from coast to coast, hospitals have been in dire need of equipment like protective gear, intensive care beds and ventilators.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a more generous, roughly US$2.5 trillion counterproposal that included ambitious elements like guaranteed paid and family medical leave, student loan forgiveness and oversight of the US$500 billion earmarked for corporations.

But she signalled the House may simply take up the Senate bill and try to pass it.

“Much of what we have in our bill is reflected in this supposed agreement,” Pelosi said. — AFP