Congress passes 2nd coronavirus aid package for families

WASHINGTON — Congress has successfully passed a second package to help ease Americans’ financial hardship linked to widespread coronavirus shutdowns, but lawmakers say their work is far from done.

They are now preparing a third deal that would expedite pay directly to Americans.

“We are dealing simultaneously with a health care crisis and a massive economic crisis,” Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said. “Bottom line, we have to make sure that families are protected.”

He said the Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed Wednesday is a good first step. It provides paid leave to some workers and food for kids unable to attend school.

But, Peters noted, “it’s not enough.”

“Nearly half of American families don’t have $400 in savings” he said. “They’re going to run through those savings very quickly.”

The third measure could drastically expand unemployment benefits, protect homeowners from foreclosure and even send checks directly to Americans.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she supports the direct payments, saying drastic times call for drastic measures.

“The impact to our society at large will be tremendous,” Ernst said of the coronavirus, promising to “stay here until that phase three is done.”

She wants a plan passed immediately so workers can get checks as quickly as possible.

But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., argued the payments alone won’t save the economy.

“It may not be adequate to the challenge,” he said on the Senate floor, “but I hope it is substantial and I hope it isn’t a one-time helping hand that isn’t followed up.”

Lawmakers and the White House are negotiating the details of who would be eligible for checks and how much they might get.

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