Negotiators near agreement on COVID-19 economic aid bill

By ANDREW TAYLOR

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional negotiators closed in Wednesday on a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package that would deliver additional “paycheck protection” subsidies to businesses, $300 per week jobless checks, and $600 or so stimulus payments to most Americans.

The long-delayed measure was coming together as Capitol Hill combatants finally fashioned difficult compromises, often at the expense of more ambitious Democratic wishes for the legislation, to complete the second major relief package of the pandemic.

It’s the first significant legislative response to the pandemic since the landmark CARES Act in March, which delivered $1.8 trillion in aid and more generous jobless benefits and direct payments to individuals.

Since then, Democrats have repeatedly called for ambitious further federal steps to provide relief and battle the pandemic, while Republicans have sought to more fully reopen the economy and to avoid padding the government’s $27 trillion debt.

But President-elect Joe Biden is eager for an aid package to prop up the economy and deliver direct aid to the jobless and hungry, even though it falls short of what Democrats want. He called the emerging package “an important down payment” and promised more help next year.

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