Covid19 News

Coronavirus Live Updates: $2 Trillion Aid Bill Becomes Law as U.S. Cases Reach 100,00

Earlier this week, the country surpassed the case totals in China and Italy. The number of known cases has risen rapidly in recent days, as testing ramped up after weeks of widespread shortages and delays.

On Friday, President Trump signed into law a $2 trillion measure designed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Under the law, which creates the largest economic stimulus package in modern American history, the government will deliver direct payments and jobless benefits for individuals, money for states and a huge bailout fund for businesses battered by the crisis.

Mr. Trump signed the measure in the Oval Office hours after the House approved it by voice vote, and less than two days after the Senate unanimously passed it. Mr. Trump thanked “Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first.”

The legislation will send direct payments of $1,200 to millions of Americans, including those earning up to $75,000, and an additional $500 per child. It will substantially expand jobless aid, providing an additional 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits, and for the first time will extend the payments to freelancers and gig workers.

The measure will also offer $377 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and establish a $500 billion government lending program for distressed companies reeling from the crisis, including allowing the administration the ability to take equity stakes in airlines that received aid to help compensate taxpayers. It will also send $100 billion to hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic.

Hours after signing the bill, Mr. Trump undermined a key safeguard that Democrats had insisted upon: the ability of Congress to monitor the corporate bailout fund. The president suggested he had the power to decide what information a newly established inspector general could share with Congress, a measure intended to thwart any abuse of the fund.

Faced with a torrent of criticism from cities and states that have been pleading for help, President Trump announced on Friday that the federal government would buy thousands of ventilators from a variety of makers, though it appeared doubtful they could be produced in time to help American hospitals that are now overwhelmed.

His announcement came shortly after he authorized the government to “use any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act,” a Korean War-era authority allowing the federal government to commandeer factories and supply chains, to produce ventilators.

It was the latest example of Mr. Trump’s mixed messages about how to ramp up production to meet the crisis. Just 24 hours before, he had dismissed the complaints of mayors and governors who said they were getting little of the equipment they needed for an expected onslaught of serious cases. And this week he praised companies that — General Motors included — were rallying to help provide necessary equipment.

But he turned on G.M. on Friday, accusing it of “wasting time” and seeking to “rip off” the government. “Our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course,” the president said.

It was unclear whether Mr. Trump’s use of the law would make much difference. He was essentially ordering the company to do something it had already arranged to do: G.M. announced earlier on Friday that it was moving forward with an emergency joint venture with a small manufacturer, even in the absence of a federal contract. Company executives seemed stunned by the president’s effort to command them to carry through with an effort they had initiated.

Comments from Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, in which she dismissed ventilator shortages and lavished praise on President Trump have raised questions about her independence in her role as one of the nation’s top communicators on the virus.

Dr. Birx built up much bipartisan goodwill in her career as a health official. But more recently, she has accommodated herself to the political winds with the kind of presidential flattery that Mr. Trump demands from aides. Some public health professionals have expressed sympathy for her position, saying she was accumulating the necessary political will to ensure that her suggestions were implemented.

But others see downplaying the need for ventilators and more hospital beds as dangerous, in light of what many experts believe will soon be a crush of patients.

“No matter what assumption you use, even on the lower end, the ventilator capacity is just not going to be there,” said Dr. Mahshid Abir, an emergency physician at the University of Michigan and an expert on hospital preparedness.

As the coronavirus pandemic…

Source Website Coronavirus Live Updates: $2 Trillion Aid Bill Becomes Law as U.S. Cases Reach 100,00

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