- Democratic leaders said they reached a deal with the Trump administration to provide financial relief to Americans hamstrung by the novel coronavirus.
- After some mixed messages, President Donald Trump tweeted that he supported the deal.
- COVID-19, the name of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has increasingly shuttered businesses across the nation and encouraged consumers to stay home.
- The legislation sought to expand paid sick leave and other programs during the pandemic.
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After an evening of mixed messages, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump announced a deal had been reached on Friday to provide financial relief to Americans hamstrung by the novel coronavirus, which has increasingly shuttered businesses across the nation and encouraged consumers to stay home.
Pelosi initially announced that a deal had been reached, but Politico reported that some GOP members said she spoke too soon. Shortly after, however, Trump tweeted that he supported the bill, saying he was looking “forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”
The House will vote on the bill on Friday night. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act seeks to expand paid sick leave and other programs during the pandemic. Washington has dramatically escalated its response this week to the respiratory illness COVID-19, which has sickened more than 1,200 throughout the US.
“The coronavirus crisis presents a grave and accelerating threat to public health and to the economic security and well-being of the American people,” Pelosi said in a statement. “As members of Congress, we have a solemn and urgent responsibility to take strong, serious action to confront and control this crisis and to put Families First and stimulate the economy.”
The legislation was meant to build on an $8 billion coronavirus response package, which was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support within a matter of days last week. It called to expand unemployment insurance and support for small businesses, potentially through loans and tax deferrals.
But Republican leaders initially objected to certain aspects of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that was proposed by Democrats a day earlier, prompting two days of behind-the-scenes negotiations between Pelosi and Mnuchin.
Key issues included how a paid sick leave mandate would be carried out, with Republicans arguing that the Social Security Administration would take six months to send out checks. Some also pushed for amendments that would set an end date for the legislation and offer certain businesses exemptions.
As concerns about the economy rose rapidly without signs of progress on the bill Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the upper chamber would no longer take a recess that had been scheduled for next week.
“I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong,” McConnell said.
On Wednesday evening, Trump announced the Treasury Department would defer tax payments for certain people and businesses in a move that he said would add $200 billion of liquidity to the economy. But other proposals from the White House have fallen flat on Capitol Hill, such as a payroll-tax cut that critics said would be ineffective and expensive.
Policy responses from Washington have done little to ease fears about growth in the largest economy, which a growing number of experts have forecast could contract this year. Wall Street suffered its worst day since the 1987 stock-market crash on Thursday, even as the Federal Reserve stepped in with $1.5 trillion worth of short-term loans to banks.