US President Donald Trump’s US$2.2 trillion aid package to try and protect the American economy in the face of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has finally been approved by the two major parties and will pass.
“I will sign it immediately,” Trump said, adding it would be “a great day for the American worker and for American families, and frankly for American companies.”
The massive financial package is intended to flood the economy with cash in a bid to stem the impact of an intensifying coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 1,050 people in the US and infected at least 69,000, Reuters reported. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio predicted half of New York’s population of 8.6 million would contract the coronavirus.
“It’s a fair bet to say that half of all New Yorkers, and maybe more than half, will end up contracting this disease,” de Blasio said. “And that’s worrisome, very deeply worrisome, for all of us, but we have to start with the truth.”
Only two other nations, China and Italy, have more coronavirus cases than the US and the World Health Organization has warned the US looks set to become the epicentre of the global coronavirus pandemic.
The package would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of US$1,200 per adult making up to US$75,000 a year, and US$2,400 to a married couple making up to US$150,000, with $500 payments per child.
Unemployed people would get an extra US$600 per week for up to four months, on top of state unemployment benefits to make up for 100 percent of lost wages. The final agreement provides an extra month of unemployment benefits than what Senate Republicans had originally sought.
Industries, cities and states will be loaned US$500 billion.
Airlines will receive US$29 billion in grants, and US$29 billion in loans and loan guarantees, together with the non-payment of three of their major excise taxes on the price of a ticket, the fuel tax and a cargo tax. The funding comes with conditions and half the funds would go toward “the continuation of payment of employee wages, salaries, and benefits” while the other half would go to loans and loan guarantees for passenger airlines, repair stations and ticket agents, Politico reported.
Businesses will get a tax credit for keeping workers on their payrolls who had no work during the coronavirus pandemic, providing the businesses meets certain criteria. They would get a refund for half of what they spend on wages, up to US$5,000 per worker.
Hospitals will receive US$130 billion in grants to help fight the coronavirus and make up for dollars they have lost by delaying elective surgeries and other procedures to focus on the pandemic. They would also get a 20% increase in Medicare payments for treating patients with coronavirus.
There is US$150 billion for state and local governments, with US$8 billion set aside for local governments, which are losing tax revenue with only essential businesses remaining open and unemployment claims rising daily.
The Department of Defence will get US$10.5 billion, including US$1.5 billion for the National Guard to deploy up to 20,000 on-call soldiers to help state response teams fight the coronavirus over the next six months. There also is US$415 million on research and development work at the Pentagon, aimed at developing vaccines and antiviral medicine.
Europe is enacting its own economic recovery packages, with huge amounts of credit guarantees, government spending and other support.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has agreed to commit over 1 trillion euros (US$1.1 trillion) in fiscal stimulus and support — roughly 30% of that nation’s entire annual output. France, Spain and Italy have launched similar programs.