US House speaker Nancy Pelosi addresses a news conference on Washington, DC, the US, on Tuesday, April 21 2020. Picture: SARAH SIBIGER/BLOOMBERG
US House speaker Nancy Pelosi addresses a news conference on Washington, DC, the US, on Tuesday, April 21 2020. Picture: SARAH SIBIGER/BLOOMBERG

Washington  — US House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer welcomed a bipartisan deal reached on small business loan support of $484bn, along with money for hospitals and testing.

In a statement, Pelosi and Schumer said they were disappointed the deal did not have funding for state and local governments, adding that they would aim to include that in the next bill on coronavirus relief.

The US Senate late on Tuesday unanimously approved $484bn in additional coronavirus relief for the US economy and hospitals treating people sickened by the pandemic, sending the measure to the House of Representatives for final passage later this week.

The bill, approved by the Senate on a voice vote in a near-empty chamber, was hurried along shortly after congressional leaders and the White House brokered an agreement.

The House is expected to vote on Thursday, which Pelosi said would pass. It will be the fourth coronavirus-response law. Taken together, the four measures amount to about $3-trillion in aid since last month to confront a crisis that has killed more than 43,000 Americans.

Previously, Washington provided nearly $350bn in loans to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus that can turn into grants if certain requirements are met. That funding was quickly exhausted.

Critics of the programme said too much of the money had gone to larger, better-connected businesses. To combat that, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said, $125bn of small business funds in the latest package would go to “mom and pop” and minority-owned stores.

Noting the “crash timeline” for passing the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said it was necessary during “unprecedented times for the entire nation.”

The deal includes $321bn for a small business lending programme, $60bn for a separate emergency disaster loan programme, also for small businesses, as well as $75bn for hospitals and $25bn for national coronavirus testing.

Congress already is working on a fifth coronavirus-response bill. Schumer said it could be “similar in size” to the $2.3-trillion economic stimulus enacted on March 27.

With each passing week, Washington has been confronted with a deepening crisis that has prompted Republicans and Democrats to work in a mostly bipartisan way to ease the heavy human and economic toll of a pandemic that has sickened more than 795,000 in the US and thrown more than 22-million people out of work.

Reuters

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