Senate Republicans propose massive coronavirus spending bill

The Republican-led Senate is currently engaged in negotiations with Senate Democrats and the White House to work out the details on a massive new coronavirus spending bill.

The bill, which could top $1 trillion, will likely include special loans for small businesses, direct cash payments to Americans, financial assistance to large corporations and impacted industries, and more funding for public health agencies fighting against the viral contagion, The Hill reported.

McConnell: “This is no ordinary time”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) launched the negotiations on Thursday for what will be the third, and biggest, spending bill designed to address the economic disruption brought on by the new coronavirus pandemic. He made it clear that there was no time to be wasted and called for his colleagues to join him in taking “bold steps” to address the ongoing outbreak.

“It is critical that we move swiftly and boldly to begin to stabilize our economy, preserve Americans’ jobs, get money to workers and families and keep up our fight on the health front. That is exactly, exactly what our proposal will do,” McConnell said. “These are not ordinary policies. This is no ordinary time.”

McConnell added that he planned for the Senate to remain in session over the weekend and work at “warp speed” to get a workable spending package that could get bipartisan support in both the Senate and House and be signed into law by President Trump.

Direct cash payments and more

Politico reported that the “centerpiece” of what has come to be known as the “Phase 3” coronavirus stimulus package are the direct cash payments to Americans suffering financially by the government-imposed shutdown of large swathes of the U.S. economy.

Initially, it looks like individual Americans making less than $75,000 annually will receive a $1,200 check, while married couples with combined annual earnings of $150,000 will receive $2,400. Americans with children will receive an additional $500 per child, while those making between $75,000 and $99,000 will receive a smaller prorated stimulus check.

As for small businesses, The Hill noted that “hundreds of billions” of dollars will be made available to finance short-term loans to help them weather the current disruption in cash flow. Some of those loans, if used to maintain employee payrolls or to pay necessary bills like rent and utilities, may even be forgivable. On top of that, the bill also includes a number of proposed tax cuts and incentives for small and large businesses that are intended to help keep them afloat.

Meanwhile, there are also provisions in the bill for hundreds of billions in loans to large corporations and whole industries that have been especially hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak, such as airlines. McConnell suggested those shouldn’t be viewed as “bailouts” since the corporations and industries were plunged into economic distress through no fault of their own.

The bill also called for the IRS income tax filing deadline to be postponed for three months, but that part won’t be necessary anymore — on Friday, Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, announced that at the president’s direction, the deadline is now extended to July 15. The deadline for payments had already been postponed to July 15 earlier in the week.

Can everyone get on the same page?

Finally, Politico also noted that the bill will contain additional funds for the various federal agencies dealing directly with the health crisis, with the idea being that a portion of those funds will be distributed down to public health agencies at the state and local level.

Of course, Senate Democrats are working on their own proposal, as are House Democrats, and it remains to be seen if the varying proposals can be combined in a package that will pass bipartisan muster and also still gain the signature of the president — a big task in ordinary times, but as McConnell himself said, “This is no ordinary time.”

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