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House Poised to Pass Economic Stimulus Package in Response to Coronavirus

The United States is keeping a close watch on a vote expected today over the proposed economic stimulus package to address the impact of the coronavirus on American businesses and workers.

Yesterday, House Democrats and the Trump administration appeared to be nearing a deal that would eliminate insurance copayments for COVID-19 testing as well as provide billions of dollars to state and local governments for food assistance and unemployment benefits. The agreement — negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — will also include up to two weeks of sick pay for coronavirus-stricken employees who don’t receive such benefits from their employers and up to three months of leave for employees caring for ill relatives.

Both parties are still ironing out the details, but a vote on the measure is expected to take place this afternoon. The package would then be routed to the Senate, which called off a recess that had been scheduled for next week in anticipation of a concession.

“We’ve resolved most of our differences, and those we haven’t, we’ll continue the conversation because there will obviously be other bills,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday night.

Industries across the board are suffering losses as Americans take precautionary measures to mitigate their exposure to the virus, including limiting travel as well as unnecessary activities outdoors. The import-export industry is also taking a blow amid port closures and weeks of slowed production overseas — particularly in China, where the virus originated in December. (Various reports this week have indicated things are getting back to normal in China, where spread of the disease has now largely been stemmed. Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America president and CEO Matt Priest told FN Wednesday that in key production centers in China — provinces such as Guangdong, Fujian, and Zhejiang —  factories could be up to 80% to 90% operating capacity.)

Cases of COVID-19 have been reported in more than 100 countries, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirming 1,215 total cases and 36 deaths in the U.S. as of Friday. While experts say a majority of infected individuals will experience “mild” symptoms, the virus is still contagious and no vaccine is available. Health professionals have also recommended social distancing, or avoiding areas with large, enclosed crowds.

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