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Donald Trump has asked Congress to speed emergency cheques to Americans, enlisted the military for hospitals and implored ordinary people to do their part by staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
In a massive federal effort, the president’s proposed economic package alone could approach a trillion dollars (£840 billion), a rescue initiative not seen since the Great Recession.
He wants cheques sent to the public within two weeks and is urging Congress to pass the stimulus package in a matter of days.
For the people that are now out of work because of the important and necessary containment policies, for instance the shutting down of hotels, bars and restaurants, money will soon be coming to you. The onslaught of the Chinese Virus is not your fault! Will be stronger than ever!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2020
As analysts warn the country is entering a recession, the government is grappling with an enormous political undertaking with echoes of the 2008 financial crisis.
At the Capitol on Tuesday, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell vowed the Senate would not adjourn until the work was done.
“Obviously, we need to act,” he said. “We’re not leaving town until we have constructed and passed another bill.”
He said the Senate will vote on a House-passed package of sick pay, emergency food and free testing, putting it back on track for Mr Trump’s signature — despite Republican objections.
Overnight, the White House sent legislators a 46 billion dollar (£38 billion) emergency funding request to boost medical care for military service members and veterans, fund production of vaccines and medicines, build 13 quarantine centres at the southern border for migrants and make federal buildings safer, among other measures.
The Trump request also reverses cuts to the Centres for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health that he proposed in his February budget for next year and would create a 3 billion dollar (£2.5 billion) fund for unanticipated needs.
Senators gathered at an otherwise shut-down Capitol as Americans across the country were implored to heed advice and avoid crowds. Young adults in particular are being urged to stop going out because even seemingly healthy people can be spreading the virus that causes the Covid-19 illness.
Bigger than the 700 billion dollar 2008 bank bailout or the nearly 800 billion dollar 2009 recovery act, the White House proposal aims to provide a massive tax cut for wage-earners, 50 billion dollars for the airline industry and 250 billion dollars for small businesses.
“This is a very unique situation,” said Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, exiting a private briefing of Senate Republicans. “We’ve put a proposal on that table that would attract a trillion dollars into the economy.”