After months of tough negotiations, Democrats and Republicans announced on Sunday that they had reached an agreement to keep afloat the world’s largest economy hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We can finally say what our nation has needed to hear for a long time. More (economic) aid is on the way, ”Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told the Senate, confirming that the contingency plan will amount to“ nearly $ 900 billion ”.
“The four leaders in the Senate and the House (of Representatives) have finalized an agreement,” he added.
This plan will include a check for 600 dollars per adult and per child for the most vulnerable households, 25 billion in housing assistance to avoid evictions as well as nearly 100 billion to help schools and nurseries to reopen, detailed the House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a joint statement.
In addition, Democrats have secured an unemployment benefit of $ 300 per week against $ 600 in the spring.
It remains, however, to finalize the text of this agreement and to avoid last-minute obstacles, noted Mitch McConnell.
“We consider that this is a first step and that more will have to be done,” Nancy Pelosi commented Sunday night on CNN.
House Democrat No. 2 Steny Hoyer said the vote would take place in both chambers on Monday.
Congress has also decided to extend by 24 hours the short-term law allowing the financing of federal administrations, a measure intended to avoid a “shutdown” while the 2021 budget must be voted.
“As our citizens continue to fight the coronavirus this holiday season, they will not fight alone,” said McConnell, regretting, however, that this agreement was not reached “months ago”.
The two parties have been blaming each other for months for blocking negotiations for this second plan.
The first, for a gigantic amount of $ 2.2 trillion, was voted on in an emergency at the end of March, in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sunday morning, Republican Senator Mitt Romney had indicated on CNN that an agreement should be reached Sunday, the two parties having managed to remove the main obstacle on the role of the Central Bank in supporting the economy.
The deal will maintain the Federal Reserve’s ability to set up emergency loan programs without congressional approval, the Federal Reserve said. Wall Street Journal.
On the other hand, the powerful institution will need its approval if it wants to launch programs similar to those included in the spring emergency plan.
These programs of the law known as “Cares Act” will expire at the end of this year.
Since the summer, Democrats and Republicans have been at an impasse, opposing the overall amount of the new emergency plan: the former demanded a plan equivalent to that of the spring when the latter wanted to limit it to 1 trillion dollars maximum.
Democrats were also demanding checks of at least $ 1,200, double what the deal finalized on Sunday includes.
“It would be good if they were (by an amount) higher, but those working on the development of this plan recognize that the priority is to help small businesses” to maintain employment, had argued Sunday morning Republican Mitt Romney.
Helping small businesses is “essential”, he insisted.
The new plan will also include measures for the equitable distribution of vaccines against the coronavirus.
For months, economists had urged Congress to take further aid measures as the economic recovery slowed in the fall.
Worse, the resurgence of the pandemic has caused new jobless claims to jump in the past two weeks.
And ever since he was elected president, Joe Biden himself has not stopped calling for a vote “without delay”.
On Saturday evening, Republican President Donald Trump joined him: “Why does Congress not give our people a stimulus package? DO IT and give them more money in direct payments, ”he tweeted.
According to the Fed, the unemployment rate will rise to 6.7% this year and 5% next year, far from the 3.5% recorded in February.