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McConnell says deal reached on $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill

U.S. congressional leaders have reached agreement on a $900 billion package to provide the first new aid in months to an economy hammered by the coronavirus pandemic, the Senate’s top Republican and Democrat said on Sunday (December 20), but it remained unclear when Congress would vote to seal the deal.

“As our citizens continue battling this coronavirus this holiday season, they will not be fighting alone,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.

The package would be the second-largest economic stimulus in U.S. history, following a $2.3 trillion aid bill passed in March. The deal comes as the pandemic accelerates, infecting more than 214,000 people in the country each day. More than 317,000 Americans have already died.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the package should have enough support to pass both chambers of Congress.

“Finally we have some good news to deliver to the American people,” he said on the Senate floor.

The package would give $600 direct payments to individuals, boost unemployment payments by $300 a week and give hundreds of billions of dollars in additional aid to small businesses. It would also provide $25 billion for rental assistance, sources said.

Lawmakers said they had resolved disputes over the Federal Reserve’s pandemic lending authority, education funding and small-business lending.

Congress aims to include the coronavirus aid package in a $1.4 trillion spending bill funding government programs through September 2021.

Lawmakers said there may not be enough time to pass the measures before government funding expires at midnight Sunday (0500 GMT Monday), which means they would have to pass another temporary extension to keep the government operating.

(Production: Vanessa Johnston)


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