US Congress passes $900bn Covid-19 relief package

US Congress passes $900bn Covid-19 relief package

WASHINGTON: US Congress has passed a $900 billion coronavirus relief package, sending the measure to President Donald Trump for signing into law, as many Americans were set to lose pandemic relief benefits by the end of the year.

The long-awaited relief package was approved late Monday by the Republican-majority Senate with a 92-to-6 vote, along with government funding for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2021, reports Xinhua news agency.

The Democrat-led House of Representatives has also passed the package. “The Senate just passed another major bipartisan, Covid-19 relief package. The American people can rest assured that more help is on the way, immediately,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, top Republican in the upper chamber, tweeted early Tuesday.

Following months of deadlock over the size and scope of the next round of relief package, Democratic and Republican lawmakers finally reached a deal on Sunday.

The $900 billion relief plan includes another round of direct payments for individuals, federal unemployment benefits, and more funding for Paycheck Protection Program to support small businesses.

It also features hundreds of billions more for schools, testing and the distribution of vaccines.  In order to reach an agreement, both parties agreed to drop their key demands: more aid to state and local governments, sought by Democrats, and liability protections for businesses, sought by Republicans.

These have been key sticking points in the marathon negotiations. As of Tuesday morning, the virus, which originated in China a year ago, has infected a total of 18,029,528 Americans and killed 319,354 others, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

The two tallies are the highest in the world, making the US the hardest-hit country by the pandemic.