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Senate approves $500 billion COVID-19 relief bill after bipartisan deal

Congress reaches $500 billion deal on COVID-19 relief bill
Posted at 12:45 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 17:56:54-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress has reached a tentative agreement with President Donald Trump on a nearly $500 billion coronavirus relief bill.

The US Senate voted in favor of the bill on Tuesday with a small group of senators pushing the bill through in whats known as a "pro forma session." Sen. Rand Paul spoke up to say he objected to the bill being voted on without the full Senate, but stopped short of forcing the entire Senate to return to Washington.

The bill now moves to the House.

The measure would replenish a small business rescue program, provide hospitals with another $75 billion, and implement a nationwide virus testing program to facilitate reopening the economy.

Trump has announced his support, saying he'll sign the bill if passes both chambers.

Most of the funding, more than $300 billion, would go to boost a small-business payroll loan program that ran out of money last week.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued the following statement:

“I am encouraged that Democratic leaders have finally agreed to reopen the Paycheck Protection Program and abandon a number of their unrelated demands.

“Republicans never wanted this crucial program for workers and small businesses to shut down," McConnell said in his statement. "We tried to pass additional funding a week before it lapsed. But Democratic leaders blocked the money and spent days trying to negotiate extraneous issues that were never on the table. I am grateful our colleagues have walked away from those demands and will finally let Congress act.

“This bipartisan agreement will provide more than $320 billion in additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which is already helping millions of small-business employees receive paychecks instead of pink slips. This is even more money than Senate Republicans first requested. At our request, there will now be a special focus on community banks and credit unions. Thanks to the hard work of colleagues such as Senator Collins and Senator Rubio, there will also be $60 billion more for Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and because of the hard work of Senator Roberts, Senator Daines, and our other colleagues from rural states, it will be clear that farmers and ranchers are eligible.

“In the week-plus while our Democratic colleagues delayed the urgent PPP funds, additional federal help for hospitals and healthcare providers became urgent as well. Republicans have always supported more medical funding as soon as necessary and I am proud this package will provide roughly $75 billion more to fund hospitals and healthcare providers in this crisis. Thanks to Chairman Alexander and Senator Blunt, there is also an additional $25 billion for state-led COVID-19 testing plans and for research, development, and other testing support from key agencies such as the CDC and the NIH.

“I welcome this bipartisan agreement and hope the Senate will quickly pass it once members have reviewed the final text. I am just sorry that it took my colleagues in Democratic leadership 12 days to accept the inevitable, and that they shut down emergency support for Main Street in a search for partisan ‘leverage’ that never materialized. The American people are counting on Congress to put aside reflexive partisanship and work across the aisle to help our nation through this pandemic.”