WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a $2 trillion economic rescue package – the largest such measure in U.S. history – just before midnight on Wednesday in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The measure now heads to the House, which is expected to vote on the measure Friday. 

“Congratulations AMERICA!” President Donald Trump tweeted after the measure was approved in a 96-0 vote following days of heated debate. Two earlier efforts to introduce the initial version of the bill failed to make it to a final vote before Democrats agreed to the current package. 

Trump plans to sign the bill once it clears the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said it is expected to pass when the body reconvenes at 9 a.m. EDT on Friday. 

The third, and largest, economic aid package out of Congress since the coronavirus outbreak began includes one-time payments of $1,200 to individuals making less than $75,000, as well as $500 per child, $367 billion for small businesses, more than $130 billion toward the health care system, expanded unemployment benefits and $500 billion in loans for ailing industries. 

Full text:The $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill released

The virus has spread to all 50 states and the U.S. now trails only China and Italy in confirmed cases, which now number nearly 70,000. One thousand people have died as of Thursday morning, but that number is expected to rise in the coming days and weeks. 

Businesses across the country have shutdown in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. The aid package aims to lift some of the burden on small businesses that are fighting to avoid collapse amid the crisis and the workers who won’t be collecting paychecks. 

A Labor Department report on Thursday will reveal the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits after the outbreak.

– William Cummings

Fed chairman: ‘We may well be in a recession’

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the economy may be in recession as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but has potential to rebound depending on how quickly the virus is contained.

During an interview with NBC’s Today show, Powell said the economy was in a strong position before the COVID-19 outbreak spread in the United States, citing 50-year lows in unemployment.

“We may well be in a recession,” said Powell during the interview, but added this recession is different from normal, and there is nothing “fundamentally wrong” with the economy.

“This is a situation where people are being asked to step back from economic activity, close their businesses, stay home from work,” said Powell. “In principle, if we get the virus spread under control fairly quickly, then economic activity can resume, and we want to make that rebound as vigorous as possible.”

– Brett Molina

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