After Days Of Negotiations, Deal Reached On Emergency Aid Measure

Mar 25, 2020
Originally published on March 25, 2020 1:41 pm
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It took a few days of negotiations, but if you measure it in dollars per hour, a coronavirus relief bill moved pretty fast. Around 1:30 this morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stood next to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and they announced a $2 trillion package of coronavirus aid.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: The men and women of the greatest country on Earth are going to defeat this coronavirus and reclaim our future. And the Senate's going to make sure they have the ammunition they need to do it.

CHUCK SCHUMER: To all Americans, I say, help is on the way - big help and quick help. We're going to take up and pass this package to care for those who are now caring for us.

INSKEEP: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales is with us now. Good morning.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: How are they going to spend $2 trillion or so?

GRISALES: So, many ways. In terms of direct payments to Americans, that provision is in there. They're looking at $1,200 to most adults who will receive that. There's also details for an extended unemployment insurance program that will extend benefits to laid-off workers. This will allow for four months of full pay rather than the usual three months. It will also raise the maximum unemployment insurance benefit by $600. There's also more than...

INSKEEP: I want to make sure I understand. When you said four months of full pay - meaning that you're off the job, you've been furloughed - the government is going to make sure you get your regular paycheck; not a smaller unemployment check, but your regular paycheck?

GRISALES: Exactly. Exactly.

INSKEEP: OK. Go on.

GRISALES: It's pretty significant. It is quite the win for Democrats. And it will also include gig workers, self-employed - so a really large net of workers will be captured in this who lose their jobs in this crisis. And then in addition to that, there's $150 billion that will be directed to the health care system, including funding for hospitals and research treatment and the national stockpile to raise supplies of ventilators, masks and other equipment. So quite a few things are in this bill.

INSKEEP: Now, there was a big difference of opinion between Democrats and Republicans over who would decide if this money is well spent. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said this on NPR Monday. Let's listen.

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ELIZABETH WARREN: You can't just take $450 billion, hand it over to the secretary of treasury and say, hand it out to your closest friends on a no-strings-attached basis. No. There has to be strings.

INSKEEP: Claudia, will there be strings?

GRISALES: Many, many strings. Democrats are also very happy about this. They have created a Treasury Department special inspector general to oversee these loans, as well as a pandemic response accountability committee, and they will ensure that some of this money goes to the right places, they say. There's also limits on the loan's participation; such as the president, vice president, members of Congress won't be able to participate in any of these programs. They banned stock buybacks for the term of the assistance plus an additional year, and there's worker protections, as well as bans on CEO bonuses being funded by these loans.

INSKEEP: OK. Claudia, thanks so much for the update.

GRISALES: Thanks so much.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Claudia Grisales. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.