U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a 3-trillion-U.S.-dollar coronavirus relief package, which was proposed by Democrats but not likely to gain approval from Republican-held Senate.
The Democrat-led House passed the bill by vote of 208-199, shortly after the chamber approved a historic rules change to allow remote voting by proxy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The massive aid package includes nearly 1 trillion dollars for state and local governments, 200 billion dollars for hazard pay for essential workers, 75 billion dollars for coronavirus testing and tracing, as well as another round of cash payments to individuals, up to 6,000 dollars per family.
Calling it a “monumental bill,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said earlier that the package is “urgently needed” to protect the lives and livelihoods of the American people.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, however, lashed out at the proposal. “Forget about this 3 trillion left-wing wish list that even House Democrats are criticizing,” he said on Twitter earlier Friday.
“Republicans are focused on practical solutions like legal liability protections for medical workers and the schools, universities, and businesses that will be trying to re-open,” McConnell said.
Republicans have criticized Democrats for using the crisis to push their political agenda, noting that the bill includes some measures less directly related to cushioning the COVID-19 economic impact, such as requiring all voters to be able to vote by mail and providing aid for U.S. Postal Service.
Meanwhile, economists have said that the government’s relief efforts so far have not led to sufficient support for individuals and companies affected by the pandemic, calling for more action.
Congress has provided roughly 2.9 trillion dollars in fiscal support for households, businesses, healthcare providers, and state and local governments, to blunt the economic impact, with a major relief package, totaling 2.2 trillion dollars, approved in late March.
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that while the economic response has been “both timely and appropriately large,” it may not be the final chapter, given that the path ahead is both “highly uncertain” and subjected to “significant downside risks.”
The central bank chief said more policy measures might be needed to support the recovery and avoid prolonged recession. “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery,” he said.
The House passed the 3-trillion-dollar bill just a few hours after the Commerce Department reported that U.S. retail sales plunged by record 16.4 percent in April amid mounting economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data released Thursday showed that nearly 3 million Americans filed for jobless claims last week as COVID-19 continues to sweep the nation, bringing the eight-week total to a staggering 36.5 million.