World

Trump aides, Senate Republicans agree on $1.3 trillion virus package

WASHINGTON: Top aides to US President Donald Trump said they agreed in principle with Senate Republicans on a US$1 trillion (S$1.3 trillion) coronavirus relief package - the party's opening offer in negotiations with Democrats less than a week before enhanced unemployment benefits expire.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters in the Capitol that he expected the package to be unveiled later in the day (today, Singapore time) after some final details are clarified.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the package would contain extended unemployment benefits that aim to replace 70 per cent of a laid-off worker's previous wages.

This comes after the country recorded 55,187 new cases in 24 hours, Johns Hopkins University reported.

The world's hardest-hit country now has a total caseload of 4,229,624, the Baltimore-based university showed. An additional 518 deaths brought the overall death toll to 146,909.

Mr Mnuchin and Mr Meadows would not discuss details, but the US$1 trillion Republican offer was expected to include another round of direct payments to individuals, a reduced federal supplement to unemployment benefits and liability protections against coronavirus-related lawsuits.

An extra US$600 per week in federal unemployment benefits, which economists say has propped up consumer spending and has allowed laid off workers to pay rent and mortgages, is due to expire on Friday.

The benefits were part of US$3.7 trillion in coronavirus aid approved in March as the US economy shut down.

House Democrats passed their own US$3 trillion coronavirus relief bill in May, which would keep the US$600-a-week supplement in place through the end of this year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, criticised Republicans for not being able to agree on a plan when Americans are "on the brink" and going hungry.

"They're in disarray and that delay is causing suffering for America's families," Ms Pelosi told CBS's Face the Nation.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Americans will receive a US$1,200 check as part of the new package, along with tax credits for small businesses and restaurants.

Mr Mnuchin told Fox News Sunday that he was optimistic about a deal with Democrats.

"We can move very quickly with the Democrats on these issues. We've moved quickly before, and I see no reason why we can't move quickly again." - REUTERS, AFP

WORLD