US Congress passes Covid-19 relief bill, federal budget


The US Congress on Monday passed a coronavirus relief bill worth more than 900 billion dollars, in a long-awaited move that will bring some degree of respite for people hit hard by the pandemic.

The new relief package will temporarily boost weekly unemployment benefits and will give many workers a one-off 600-dollar stimulus cheque, which may go out before the end of the year.

Also, about 275 billion dollars will be allocated for forgiveable loans for small businesses, such as restaurants, which are being battered.

The House passed the bill earlier Monday evening, followed by the Senate shortly before midnight (0500 GMT).
President Donald Trump still needs to sign the bill.

In the House, lawmakers approved the bill with 359 votes in favour and 53 opposed. In the upper chamber, 92 Senators voted in favour while 6 opposed.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell tweeted: “The Senate just passed another major bipartisan, Covid-19 relief package. The American people can rest assured that more help is on the way, immediately.”

Lawmakers have been haggling over the relief bill for months, as Democrats sought to increase the size of the package. Their initial proposal weighed in at more than 3 trillion dollars.

Republicans pushed for a more pared-down version and have accused Democrats of holding up a deal since the summer.
Along with the stimulus package, Congress also passed pass the 1.4-trillion-dollar federal government annual budget.

The combined bills, made public only hours before the votes, clocked in at more than 5,000 pages, drawing anger from some lawmakers who argued that the content cannot be properly reviewed.

The votes came as lawmakers prepare to go on the holiday recess for Christmas. Democrats had insisted the relief bill is not enough and are aiming to get another bill passed once Joe Biden is sworn in as president in January. “Our work is far from over,” Biden himself said.

Congress has already passed more than 3 trillion in aid since the pandemic hit.

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