US lawmakers make progress towards long-awaited Covid-19 relief deal

Washington, Dec 17 : US Democratic and Republican lawmakers have made progress in negotiations on the long-awaited coronavirus relief deal, aimed at assisting American businesses and workers affected by the pandemic amid the unabated resurgence of new cases and deaths.

“We made major headway toward hammering out a targeted pandemic relief package that would be able to pass both chambers with bipartisan majorities,” Xinhua news agency quoted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as saying on the Senate floor on Wednesday morning.

Taking to Twitter also on Wednesday, McConnell added: “The American people need more help. We need vaccine distribution money. We need to re-up the Paycheck Protection Program to save jobs. We need to continue to provide for laid-off Americans.

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“Congressional leaders on both sides are going to keep working until we get it done.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the chamber, also said on Wednesday that “we are close to an agreement”, while noting that “it’s not a done deal yet”.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday unveiled a two-part $908 billion Covid-19 relief package, as many Americans are set to lose pandemic relief benefits by the end of 2020.

The relief package includes a bill that outlines a wide range of relief spending totalling $748 billion, and another piece that provides $160 billion to state and local governments with pandemic-related liability protections.

More aid to state and local governments, demanded by Democrats, and liability protections for businesses, sought by Republicans, have been key sticking points in the relief talks.

The amount of the new stimulus checks will be lower than the payments of up to $1,200 per adult approved by Congress in The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March.

Amid the ongoing resurgence, US economic recovery seems to be losing momentum, but Democratic and Republican lawmakers had been deadlocked for months over the size and scope of the next round of relief package.

Economists, as well as Federal Reserve officials, have repeatedly argued that more fiscal relief is needed to sustain the economic recovery, warning of dire consequences if further fiscal support is not provided in time.

The pandemic has so far infected a total of 16,959,267 Americans, and killed at least 307,291 others.

The country is the hardest-hit country in the world with the highest number of coronavirus cases, as well as deaths.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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