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Washington • The Senate passed an emergency funding bill to offer relief to businesses and workers impacted by the coronavirus crisis, a second phase of aid that is expected to be followed by a third round that would offer direct payments to Americans.
Sen. Mitt Romney voted for the package while his Utah colleague Sen. Mike Lee opposed it.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday night signed measure, approved by a 90-8 vote in the Senate, expanding paid sick leave, extending food stamp help and ensuring free testing for those affected by the continuing outbreak.
Lee, a Republican, has supported a measure that would require the federal government to find cuts to pay for the multibillion-dollar legislation but after that move failed, he opposed the bill that had previously passed overwhelmingly by the House.
“The coronavirus is a real emergency and the federal government can and should act to mitigate the economic pain from this situation,” Lee tweeted. “Unfortunately, this House response bill is [a] Rube Goldberg machine of unfunded mandates and tax benefits that will only end up hurting workers.”
Romney said he was pleased the phase two package passed “in a bipartisan manner” and it was time for the Senate to look at the next steps.
“Now, we must urgently act on additional measures to provide economic relief for working Americans & families, protect health workers & patients, boost small businesses, and help secure our economy,” Romney said in a statement.
Meanwhile, as the outbreak continues to grow, infecting tens of thousands worldwide and killing more than 100 Americans so far, the Treasury Department pressed forward on a plan to send checks or make direct deposits to Americans.
That could include two checks of $1,000 each to most American adults, beginning April 6.
That’s likely to be included in bill that could top $1 trillion that would also help small businesses and bail out large corporations, like airlines, that are seeing a dramatic drop in revenue.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday that the Senate passage of the bill was a “very important first step” but the Senate would remain in session until it could finish phase three.
“We are moving rapidly because the situation demands it,” McConnell said.
Romney had on Monday suggested a one-time, immediate payment of $1,000 to every American adult as a way to help those affected by the coronavirus, a suggestion that was quickly backed, and expanded, by the White House and other senators.
This story will be updated.