US Congress seals deal to provide $900bn in COVID aid

After months of negotiations, legislators in the United States have agreed on a long-awaited COVID-19 relief bill that will boost unemployment payments and aid to small businesses.

The Senate’s top Republican and Democrat said on Sunday they had reached an agreement on a nearly $900bn package, a deal that would be the second-largest economic stimulus in US history, following a $2.3 trillion aid bill passed in March.

“At long last, we have the bipartisan breakthrough the country has needed,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.

“More help is on the way,” he added.

The agreement would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, healthcare providers and tenant facing eviction.

It comes as the pandemic accelerates, infecting more than 214,000 people in the country each day. More than 317,000 Americans have already died.Republican and Democratic leaders said the package should have enough support to pass both chambers of Congress.

President Donald Trump supports the bill and will sign it into law, White House spokesman Ben Williamson said.

‘We have to do more’

Democrats acknowledged that the package was not as robust a relief package as they initially sought and promised to push for more aid after Democratic President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20.

“Anyone who thinks this bill is enough does not know what’s going on in America,” Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said at a news conference.

“It is a first step,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “We have to do more.”

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