Talks drag on US coronavirus aid programme

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Late-stage negotiations in Washington on a new $450 billion (£364.5 billion) coronavirus aid package dragged past Monday’s hoped-for deadline, but the White House insists a deal is within reach.

President Donald Trump said he expects a Senate vote “hopefully” on Tuesday.

As talks continued, the basics of the deal appear largely set with most of the funding going to a small-business payroll loan program that is out of money.

Additional help would be given to hospitals and billions more would be spent to boost testing for the virus, a key step in building the confidence required to reopen state economies.

Democratic demands have caused the measure to balloon, though they likely will be denied the money they want to help struggling state and local governments.

The Senate met for a brief session on Monday afternoon that could have provided a window to act on the upcoming measure under fast-track procedures, but it was not ready in time.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set up another session for Tuesday in the hope that an agreement will be finished by then.

“It’s now been four days since the Paycheck Protection Program ran out of money,” he said.

“Republicans have been trying to secure more funding for this critical program for a week and a half now.

HEALTH Coronavirus
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The emerging deal would provide more than $300 billion (£243 billion)for the small-business payroll program, with $60 billion (£48.6 billion) or so set aside for community lenders that seek to focus on under-banked neighbourhoods and rural areas.

Another $60 billion (£48.6 billion) would be available for a small-business loans and grants program that has previously been aimed at helping businesses harmed by natural disasters like hurricanes.

Additionally, it would bring $75 billion (£60.8 billion) for hospitals and $25 billion (£20.3 billion) for testing, according to those involved in the talks.

The government’s Paycheck Protection Program has been swamped by companies applying for loans and reached its appropriations limit of 1.7 million last Thursday.

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