A month after the massive $2 trillion stimulus bill passed and the U.S. Senate has approved a supplemental $484 billion aid package to help small businesses and hospitals get through the tough times.
The package, which was the subject of frenetic negotiations over the past two weeks, allocates $380 billion towards small business loan programs, $75 billion to emergency funding for hospitals and $25 billion for disease testing.
Weeks of negotiations
Democrats and Republicans had gone back and forth for two weeks before reaching a compromise on the size of the package and the areas targeted. The Republicans wanted to keep the legislation tightly focused on $250 billion in small-business loans, while the Democrats sought a broader package that included sizable funding for hospitals.
A priority for the Democrats was to set aside $60 billion from the total $321 billion allocated to the depleted Paycheck Protection Program, to help underbanked small businesses who had difficulty accessing funds in the first round of loans.
After 12 days of negotiations, Democrats had to give up their pursuit of $150 billion extra for states and local governments in the face of Republican opposition, but got more money for hospitals and testing.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised the agreement:
“The American people are counting on Congress to put aside reflexive partisanship and work across the aisle to help our nation through this pandemic.”
At press time, almost 1,500 Americans died Monday, raising the toll to nearly 44,000 among 816,000-plus confirmed cases, according to John Hopkins University data.