March 24, 2020
The U.S. Senate and Trump Administration officials have reached an agreement on a $2 trillion stimulus bill that would give families, small and large businesses, and local and state governments funding (in the form of loans) to survive through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We have a deal,” Eric Ueland, legislative affairs director with the White House, said at 1 a.m. ET March 25, as reported by The Washington Post.
Lawmakers in the Senate have to formally vote on the largest government fiscal bailout in history — no small task as two previous cloture motions failed to garner the 60 votes required to bring the bill to a final vote, where a simple majority would pass it.
In addition to $1,200 checks to many people, and the establishment of a $367 billion loan program for small businesses, the bill has a $500 billion fund earmarked for cities, states and industries, including entertainment companies in Hollywood. Passage of the bill should provide movie exhibitors the fiscal lifeline they have been begging for as theaters remain shuttered during the pandemic.
The measure also includes expanded unemployment benefits and directs $150 billion to U.S. hospitals dealing with the virus that has now infected nearly 55,000 people in the country and killed almost 800, according to the Johns Hopkins University pandemic tracker.
The $500 billion fund had drawn criticism earlier from Democrats over concerns that Treasury Department disbursement of the money wouldn’t be as transparent as they wanted. When asked this week who would oversee the $500 billion, Trump said he would be the “oversight.”
That didn’t sit well with Democrats. The White House reportedly agreed to have an independent inspector general and oversight board analyze all lending decisions.
“We got better oversight,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said. “The oversight basically is saying that … you can’t just exempt everybody and give all your corporate executives, based on the backs of taxpayers, free carnival.”