Top US Democrat Pelosi unveils $3-trillion COVID-19 aid package

United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a more than three-trillion-dollar coronavirus aid package Tuesday, encouraging Congress to “go big” with aid to cash-strapped states and struggling Americans.

The Heroes Act provides nearly one trillion dollars for states, cities and tribal governments to avert layoffs and another $20bn in “hazard pay” for essential workers, according to a summary. It will offer $1,200 direct cash aid to individuals, up to $6,000 per household. There is $75bn more for virus testing.

A vote is expected Friday.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday that it appears the sweeping Democratic-led bill “will be ready” to call legislators back to Washington, DC, for the vote.

“This is an unprecedented time in our history,” Hoyer said about the virus outbreak and economic shutdown. He said Congress needs to act in “unprecedented ways”.

But the legislation is heading straight into a Senate roadblock. Senate Republicans are not planning to vote on any new relief until June, after a Memorial Day recess.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says there is no “urgency” to act.

The new package, the fifth since March, is expected to carry another eye-popping price tag. President Donald Trump has signed into law nearly three trillion dollars in aid approved by Congress.

Its centrepiece is likely to be money to states and cities that are struggling to avoid layoffs in the face of skyrocketing healthcare costs and plummeting tax receipts during the economic shutdown. There will be money for virus testing and another round of direct cash payments and unemployment benefits for Americans, Pelosi said. She has not disclosed the cost.

As states weigh the health risks of reopening, McConnell said the nation needs to “regroup and find a more sustainable middle ground between total lockdown and total normalcy.”

The Republican leader on Tuesday called the emerging Democratic bill a “big laundry list of pet priorities”.