Finally! Federal officials reach deal on US$2 trillion aid package for COVID-19

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (left) accompanied by White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland and acting White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday (March 24). (Photo: Times of Isreal)

The White House and Senate leaders of both parties have struck an agreement on a sweeping US$2 trillion measure to aid workers, businesses and a health care system strained by the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight, Wednesday (March 25).

The agreement came after days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure and still needs to be finalised in detailed legislative language.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are done. We have a deal,” Ueland said.

The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a US$367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

One of the last issues to close concerned US$500 billion for guaranteed, subsidised loans to larger industries, including a fight over how generous to be with the airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well.