The White House is pitching Senate Republicans on an $850 billion coronavirus relief package that could contain provisions like a payroll tax cut and aid for hard-hit industries as President Trump warned the fast-spreading disease may push the U.S. into a recession.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is expected to meet with Senate Republicans on Tuesday to discuss the proposal, which could include broader economic measures like $250 billion in Small Business Association loans, $500 billion for a payroll tax cut and $58 billion for airlines.
The Senate’s discussions on a third round of stimulus took on new urgency as the stock market plummeted again, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average shedding nearly 3,000 points, its second-worst day in history. American life has come to a grinding halt, with schools and businesses across the country closing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“The Senate is committed to meeting these uncertain times with bold and bipartisan solutions,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday.
Airlines are seeking more than $50 billion in financial assistance from the government, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, more than three times the size of the industry’s bailout after the Sept. 11 attacks. A potential aid package could include government-backed loans, cash grants and other measures like relief from taxes and fees, according to the Journal.
“We’re going to back the airlines 100 percent,” Trump said at a news conference Monday. “We have to back the airlines. It’s not their fault.”
Work on the bill follows the enactment of an $8.3 billion package of emergency funding for prevention efforts and research earlier this month, and the House passage of a bill aimed at expanding the social safety net, including free COVID-19 testing, even for the uninsured, extending paid sick leave to more Americans and providing billions in funding to state and local governments for food programs and unemployment benefits.
After making technical corrections to the legislation, the House sent the second bill to the Senate to be considered for a vote at some point this week. Senate GOP leaders have not yet specified which day they will vote on the bill, but have signaled they want to act on it as soon as possible.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told reporters that Mnuchin is expected to present an overall dollar figure for the new proposal, according to The Washington Post.
"I think the assumption’s going to be that we’re going to do something, it should be big. Because we can’t assume that we’re just going to keep coming back,” Rubio told reporters after the meeting. “We are basically telling people not to go out, not to spend money at these stores ... It’s an unprecedented challenge.”
The third package, which is expected to be the biggest effort yet to insulate the economy from the fast-spreading virus, is likely to include additional federal funding for improving public health infrastructure, the Post reported, citing congressional aides. Funding for local transit authorities and cleaning supplies to disinfect city subways and buses have also come up as likely critical needs.