/Federal officials reach deal on $2 trillion aid package

Federal officials reach deal on $2 trillion aid package


WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House and Senate leaders of both parties have struck an agreement on a sweeping $2 trillion measure to aid workers, businesses and a health care system strained by the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.

Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight.

The agreement came after days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure and still needs to be finalized in detailed legislative language.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are done. We have a deal,” Ueland said.

The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

One of the last issues to close concerned $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries, including a fight over how generous to be with the airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well.

AN ASSOCIATED PRESS BREAKING NEWS UPDATE

Unprecedented legislation to rush sweeping aid to businesses, workers and a health care system slammed by the coronavirus pandemic remained snagged on Capitol Hill Tuesday night, despite predictions by negotiators that a deal was at hand.

After days of pressure, unusual partisanship in a crisis, and intense haggling over the fine print, negotiators were almost done with a $2 trillion bill to respond to what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called “the most serous threat to Americans’ health in over a century and quite likely the greatest risk to America’s jobs and prosperity that we’ve seen since the Great Depression.” The final details proved nettlesome as Trump administration officials continued negotiations deep into the night.

Yet even as the public-health crisis deepened, President Donald Trump expressed eagerness to nudge many people back to work in coming weeks and held out a prospect, based more on hope than science, that the country could be returning to normal in less than a month.

“We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought,” Trump told a Fox News town hall. He said he’d like to have the country “opened up and just raring to go” by Easter, April 12. But in a White House briefing later, Trump said “our decision will be based on hard facts and data.”

Medical professionals say social distancing needs to be stepped up, not relaxed, to slow the spread of infections. At the White House briefing, the public-health authorities said it was particularly important for people in the hard-hit New York City metropolitan area to quarantine themselves for 14 days, and for those who have recently left the city to do the same.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said pointedly at the briefing, “No one is going to want to tone down anything when you see what is going on in a place like New York City.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and congressional leaders engaged in final negotiations after a tumultuous but productive day Monday. While the two sides have resolved many issues in the sweeping package, some sticking points remained. A Senate vote appeared likely Wednesday, with a House vote to follow.

“We’re trying to finalize all the documents, going through a lot of complicated issues, and we’re making a lot of progress,” Mnuchin said.

Ravaged in recent days, stocks rocketed as negotiators signaled a resolution was in sight.

At issue is an unprecedented economic rescue package that would give direct payments to most Americans, expanded unemployment benefits, and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. One of the last issues to close concerned $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries, including a fight over how generous to be with the airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well.

A one-time payment of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child would go directly to the public.

A huge cash infusion for hospitals expecting a flood of COVID-19 patients grew during the talks at the insistence of Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, while Republicans pressed for tens of billions of dollars for additional relief to be delivered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal disaster agency.

Democrats said the package would help replace the salary of furloughed workers for four months, rather than the three months first proposed. Furloughed workers would get whatever amount a state usually provides for unemployment, plus a $600 per week add-on, with gig workers like Uber drivers covered for the first time. Companies would be able to defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax.

Opening the Senate on Tuesday, McConnell combined optimism about the chances for a deal with frustration at the delays — and a sober view of the crisis at hand.

“The urgency and the gravity of this moment cannot be lost on anyone,” he said. On the negotiations, he said, “It’s taken a lot of noise and a lot of rhetoric to get us here.” Still, “we are very close. We are close to a bill that takes our bold Republican framework, integrates further ideas from both parties, and delivers huge progress.”

Earlier Tuesday, Trump urged swift action. “Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today,” he tweeted. “The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy.”

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA – MARCH 18: Shoppers at Walgreens in San Franciscoâs Castro District make last minute purchases minutes before the shelter in place directive was to take effect on March 18, 2020. (Photo by Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

SAN JOSE, CA, USA – MARCH 18: A Safeway store in San Jose posts new shorter store hours to provide a safer work environment ahead of Tuesdayâs directive to shelter in place for residents of the six counties that make up the Bay Area, on March 18, 2020. (Photo by Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA – MARCH 18: Mounted officers patrol the area outside Pier 39 in San Francisco on day one of the shelter in place order on March 18, 2020. (Photo by Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

MANASSAS, USA – MARCH 17: Weapons on display at a gun shop in Manassas, Virginia, United States as gun and ammunition sales in the U.S. have skyrocketed as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spread across the country. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A security officer stands guard at a tent set up outside the emergency room at an AdventHealth hospital on March 17, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. The tent is part of AdventHealth’s surge planning in case extra space is needed to care for potential coronavirus cases in the community. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A tent is seen set up outside the emergency room at an AdventHealth hospital on March 17, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. The tent is part of AdventHealth’s surge planning in case extra space is needed to care for potential coronavirus cases in the community. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

External and outside of emergency room views of the pandemic, novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19 are seen at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital on March 17, 2020 in Park Ridge, Illinois, United States. The collection includes additional tents, a warning construction sign, an empty road, a congested road, a law enforcement vehicle, and a drive through testing area. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

NEWTON, MA – MARCH 17: Medical professionals work in coronavirus testing tents at Newton Wellesley Hospital in Newton, MA on March 17, 2020. (Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

BOSTON, MA – MARCH 17: An emergency tent is set up at the Carney Hospital in Boston’s Dorchester for coronavirus pandemic use on March 17, 2020. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

LEONARDTOWN, MARYLAND – MARCH 17: Nurses screen patients for COVID-19 virus testing at a drive-up location outside Medstar St. Mary’s Hospital on March 17, 2020 in Leonardtown, Maryland. The facility is one of the first in the Washington, DC area to offer coronavirus testing as more than 5,200 cases have been confirmed in the United States, and more than 90 deaths have been attributed to the virus. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A sign on a table provides instructions for social distancing, while a group of people are seen in the background, selective focus, sitting around a small table, at a hospital in San Francisco during an outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, California, March 16, 2020. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

NEWTON, MA – MARCH, 16: Nurse practitioner Amy Israelian puts on protective gear in a tent in the parking lot of the Newton-Wellesley Hospital before testing a possible coronavirus patient in Newton, MA on March 16, 2020. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Two staff members wheel Amwell telemedicine carts into the entrance of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospital in Mission Bay, San Francisco, California during an outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, March 16, 2020. As a result of the outbreak, patients are increasingly being asked to conduct telemedicine appointments to avoid infecting healthcare workers. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

People line up to enter a triage tent outside of the emergency room at Memorial West Hospital in Pembroke Pines, Fla., on Monday, March 16, 2020. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

WESTMINSTER, MARYLAND – MARCH 16: Dawn Canova, clinical manager for outpatient wound care at Carroll Hospital, takes off her protective gloves after taking a sample to test a person for the coronavirus at a drive-thru station in the hospital’s parking garage March 16, 2020 in Westminster, Maryland. Not open to the general public for testing, the station was set up to take samples from people who had spoken with their doctors and received explicit direction to get a test for the novel coronavirus called COVID-19. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WESTMINSTER, MARYLAND – MARCH 16: Carroll Hospital Critical Care Unit Clinical Manager Stephanie Bakert talks to a person through his car window using a mobile phone before testing him for the coronavirus at a drive-thru station in the hospital’s parking garage March 16, 2020 in Westminster, Maryland. Not open to the general public for testing, the station was set up to take samples from people who had spoken with their doctors and received explicit direction to get a test for the novel coronavirus called COVID-19. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 15: An exterior view of Lenox Hill Hospital as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States on March 15, 2020 in New York City. The World Health Organization declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic on March 11th. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 15: Passengers disembark from the Norwegian Bliss cruise ship on March 15, 2020 in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday that any cruise ship passenger disembarking in New York City with a temperature over 100.4 will be given the choice of self-isolating at home or be taken to a hospital to protect against the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

DAYTON, WA – MARCH 14: Dr. Lewis Neace, head of the ER at Dayton General Hospital poses for a photograph. Dayton, a small town in rural southeast Washington has an aging population, had its first positive test for Coronavirus and is waiting on results of more tests. (Photo by Nick Otto for the Washington Post)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 14: An exterior view of Harlem Hospital Center, aka NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem, as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States on March 14, 2020 in New York City. The World Health Organization declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic on March 11th. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, FL – MARCH 14: A general view of the Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside Hospital on March 14, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

Un puñado de personas transitan la terminal de Grand Central en Nueva York el 23 de marzo del 2020. Normalmente hay multitudes en la estación, pero muy poca gente está viajando como consecuencia del coronavirus. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

A sign displaying messages on how to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is displayed at the mouth of the Manhattan Bridge, Monday, March 23, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

NEW PALTZ, NY – MARCH 22: A highway information display says, “STOP THE SPREAD SAVE LIVES” on a mostly empty Interstate 87 on Sunday afternoon. The highway was mostly empty on the same day that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo pleads with New York residents to take the stay-at-home orders seriously regarding the Coronavirus pandemic. Photographed in New Paltz, New York on March 22, 2020, USA. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

People are seen lining up for testing Covid-19 in Elmhurst Queens to test for Coronavirus, on March 21, 2020. (Photo by John Nacion/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

People are seen lining up for testing Covid-19 in Elmhurst Queens to test for Coronavirus, on March 21, 2020. (Photo by John Nacion/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

STONY BROOK, NEW YORK – MARCH 21: A sign direct people to a COVID-19 test facility at Stony Brook University on March 21, 2020 in Stony Brook, New York. The World Health Organization declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic on March 11th. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump and other members of the task force listen as National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at the White House on March 21, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Women wear face masks a a scarf to protect their mouths and nose as they walk along 34th St., Friday, March 20, 2020, in New York. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ordering all workers in non-essential businesses to stay home and banning gatherings statewide. “Only essential businesses can have workers commuting to the job or on the job,” Cuomo said of an executive order he will sign Friday. Nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size or for any reason are canceled or postponed. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

A subway customer wears protective gloves on an empty car as it stops at a sparsely populated 57th Street station due to COVID-19 concerns, Friday, March 20, 2020, in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ordering all workers in non-essential businesses to stay home and banning gatherings statewide. “Only essential businesses can have workers commuting to the job or on the job,” Cuomo said of an executive order on Friday. Nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size or for any reason are canceled or postponed. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A postal worker wears a protective mask and gloves while operating a route in the Queens borough of New York, Friday, March 20, 2020. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ordering all workers in non-essential businesses to stay home and banning gatherings statewide. “Only essential businesses can have workers commuting to the job or on the job,” Cuomo said of an executive order he will sign Friday. Nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size or for any reason are canceled or postponed. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A Red Robin reastaurant in Tigard, Ore., has closed some tables in order to maintain ‘social distancing’ between diners per CDC guidelines Sunday, March 15, 2020. They said they were running the place at 50 percent capacity so they could leave tables empty between customers. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

A commuter pauses to read a video display on the Gallery Place Metro subway train platform in Washington, Friday, March 13, 2020, with a message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the proper way to wash your hands to combat the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

US Vice President Mike Pence, flanked by CDC Director Robert R. Redfield (L) and FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, shows documents to reporters during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at the White House on March 22, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP) (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

An electronic billboard sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides tips for the public on ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) on March 20, 2020 along Interstate 4 in Deland, Florida. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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Democrats pointed to gains for hospitals, additional oversight of the huge industry stabilization fund, and money for cash-strapped states. A companion appropriations package ballooned as well, growing from a $46 billion White House proposal to more than $300 billion, which dwarfs earlier disasters — including Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy combined.

To provide transparency, the package is expected to create a new inspector general and oversight board for the corporate dollars, much as was done during the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program bank rescue, officials said.

The sense of optimism extended to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who told CNBC, “I think there is real optimism that we could get something done in the next few hours.” Only Monday, Pelosi introduced a massive Democratic measure with liberal priorities, drawing scorn from Republicans.

Trump in recent days has sounded a note of frustration about the unprecedented modern-day effort to halt the virus’ march by essentially shutting down public activities in ways that now threaten the U.S. economy.

Even though Trump’s administration recommended Americans curtail activities for 15 days, starting just over a week ago, the president saids he may soon allow parts of the economy, in regions so far less badly hit by the virus, to begin reopening.

He continued on that theme Tuesday as he weighed a relaxation of social distancing guidelines after the 15-day period is up. His suggestion that the pandemic could ease and allow a return to normalcy in a mere few weeks is not supported by public health officials or many others in government.

On Tuesday, top defense and military leaders warned department personnel that the virus problems could extend for eight to 10 weeks, or longer. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Defense Department town hall meeting that the crisis could even extend into July.

The emerging rescue package is larger than the 2008 bank bailout and 2009 recovery act combined.

Trump has balked at using his authority under the recently invoked Defense Protection Act to compel the private sector to manufacture needed medical supplies like masks and ventilators, even as he encourages them to spur production. “We are a country not based on nationalizing our business,” said Trump, who has repeatedly railed against socialism overseas and among Democrats.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

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Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor, Zeke Miller, Mary Clare Jalonick, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Alan Fram and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.

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