Senate approves $484 billion 'interim' Coronavirus relief measure

With the number of Coronavirus deaths in the United States going over 44,000 on Tuesday, the U.S. Senate approved an interim relief package of nearly half a trillion dollars to help offset the negative economic impact of the virus, speeding more aid to small businesses and hospitals, and approving $25 billion to help with testing needs.

"This bipartisan agreement will provide more than $320 billion in additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which is already helping millions of small-business employees receive paychecks instead of pink slips," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

While McConnell welcomed the agreement, he also took several swipes at Democrats over the extra time taken for negotiations, after Democrats blocked a $250 billion addition in small business funding last week in the Senate.

"Republicans never wanted this crucial program for workers and small businesses to shut down," McConnell added.

This nearly half trillion plan - when added to the original $2.2 trillion in aid approved last month in Congress - upped the total amount to $2.7 trillion.

"This is a significant package," McConnell added on the Senate floor.

"The agreement announced today will help workers, families, employers, and health professionals weather the enormous impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic," said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).

Democrats said their insistence on extra money for hospitals and virus testing paid off.

“Democrats flipped this emergency package from an insufficient Republican plan that left behind hospitals and health and frontline workers and did nothing to aid the survival of the most vulnerable small businesses on Main Street,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a joint statement.

On the Senate floor, Schumer told Republicans it was better to negotiate than to try to “steamroll us.”

“We don't have enough tests,” Schumer said in a loud voice on the floor.

This deal also added more money for another small business program, known as Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), which will see $60 billion more, with $50 billion going to disaster relief loans, and the other $10 billion to grants.

"EIDL provides economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue," said Sen. John Boozman (R-AR).

As for the main chunk of small business aid, $250 billion would be available to companies of all size that qualify for the assistance, but other money would be walled off depending on the size of the financial institution.

$30 billion in aid would be available for community banks with under $10 billion in assets, with another $30 billion specifically going to lenders with between $10 billion and $50 billion in assets.

At the White House, President Trump signaled his support for the plan before the Senate vote, but also made clear he's ready to spend much more money to spur economic growth.

The President has already said he wants a $2 trillion infrastructure package; his proposal for a payroll tax cut has been estimated by some budget groups to cost $1 trillion on its own.

This plan still needs approval in the U.S. House.  A vote is expected on Thursday, as leaders are telling lawmakers to plan for a recorded vote on the bill.

Jamie Dupree

Jamie Dupree, CMG Washington News Bureau

Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau