The Senate has passed a $2-trillion economic stimulus package. Up next: a House vote.
The $2-Trillion Plan
With the U.S. gripped by a health and financial crisis, the Senate passed a record-setting $2-trillion economic stimulus package designed to pump money directly into Americans’ pockets while also shoring up hospitals, businesses and state and local governments struggling against the coronavirus pandemic. After days of delay, the vote was 96-0.
President Trump said he would sign the bill immediately when it reaches his desk, but that can’t happen until the package passes the House, where it faces another test with a vote scheduled for Friday morning. It will be subject to a voice vote, which means representatives scattered across the country wouldn’t have to return to Washington.
Along with providing a one-time direct payout of up to $1,200 for most American adults, the bill includes $500 billion in loans to struggling businesses, $377 billion in loans and grants for small businesses, $150 billion for local, state and tribal governments struggling with a drop in revenue and $130 billion for hospitals.
The package also blocks foreclosures and evictions during the crisis on properties where the federal government backs the mortgage; pauses federal student loan payments for six months and waives the interest; gives states millions of dollars to begin offering mail or early voting and provides more than $25 billion in new money for food assistance programs like SNAP. (Read it in its entirety here.)
“This is not even a stimulus package,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “It is emergency relief.”
Sounding the Alarm
California’s top medical advisor says that coronavirus cases continue to double in the state every three to four days, a fast pace on par with New York‘s, where some hospitals are overwhelmed, a makeshift morgue was set up outside Bellevue Hospital, and the city’s police, their ranks dwindling as more fall ill, were told to patrol nearly empty streets to enforce social distancing. Health officials have hinted that it’s possible that California’s coronavirus crisis could look like Italy’s soon.
In L.A. County, officials are now requiring all individuals who are presumed positive or have tested positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate, and for all close contacts of such individuals to self-quarantine. And in a desperate attempt to conserve supplies, county officials are advising doctors and nurses to reuse face masks and wear gowns and masks that are expired.
Meanwhile, as the $2-trillion bill makes its way through Congress, California is moving ahead with some financial relief too. Gov. Gavin Newsom said several major banks and other financial institutions have agreed to delay foreclosures and provide mortgage relief to homeowners in the state who are struggling to make their monthly payments due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. But the financial relief that the governor announced for homeowners is significantly more than renters across the state are receiving.
Newsom also said more than 1 million Californians have applied for unemployment benefits this month due to layoffs or reduced hours amid the pandemic.
States Are on Their Own
When Trump invoked emergency war powers last week to fight the coronavirus outbreak, many were hopeful that the federal government would take charge in addressing the nation’s dire shortage of ventilators, protective masks and other critical gear.
But Trump has not made actual use of the powers, even though governors, health experts and lawmakers of his own party want him to use that authority to increase production and ensure that the equipment is distributed to areas of most urgent need.
The reason given: Trump says private companies have stepped up enough on their own.
That means states are forced to fend for themselves and bid against one another, creating confusion and competition. And it has at times tied the hands of his own administration officials.
Nowhere to Turn
Hospitals and nursing homes across the country are stuck in high-stakes battles over the fate of elderly patients amid fears over the spread of coronavirus.
Hospitals are desperately trying to discharge patients to clear space for an expected wave of COVID-19 victims. But nursing homes are reluctant to accept any new patients — or even returning residents — until it is proven that they are free of the virus.
More Top Coronavirus Stories
— San Francisco’s mayor fears city could face a crisis as big as New York’s.
— A health officer in California is urging people to exercise only in their own immediate neighborhoods and to stop visiting family in other households.
— Rural hospitals across the Pacific Northwest that were already struggling financially have seen steep declines in business this month, shunned by patients who fear exposure to the coronavirus as it spreads from urban areas. The lull threatens to bankrupt them.
— A Louisiana pastor defied the state’s stay-at-home order and held services for hundreds in Baton Rouge.
— Mexico’s coronavirus fight has just begun. Doctors say they’re already running out of masks.
— Wanted: A coronavirus test to identify people who were infected and then recovered.
— A look at AIDS researcher Deborah Birx, who has taken a prominent role in coronavirus messaging for the Trump administration.
Plus, here are some tips on getting through the days ahead. For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter that will help you understand more about COVID-19. As with all our newsletters, it’s free:
— Be sure to practice social distancing, such as maintaining a 6-foot radius of personal space in public.
— How can you tell if you’ve got the coronavirus?
— Was your job affected by coronavirus? Here’s how to file for unemployment.
— How to care for someone with COVID-19.
— Bored and on a budget? Here’s how to read for free while social distancing.
Get all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
On March 26, 2012, The Times visited Rodney King at his home in Rialto as part of a piece examining his legacy, 20 years after the L.A. riots. He was then 47 and would die in June of that year. He told The Times he was jobless and had nearly run through the $3.8 million in settlement money he received after suing the city, much of it spent on legal fees. Some on family and other purchases.
Still, “I would change a few things, but not that much,” he said.
In March 1991, video footage captured his beating by police. Four Los Angeles Police Department officers were tried and acquitted in April 1992. The outcome sparked intense conversations about civil rights and unleashed days of riots and chaos upon the city.
— The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is taking steps to remove Sheriff Alex Villanueva as the head of the county’s emergency operations center during the coronavirus outbreak, a move he called a “pure power grab at the worst time possible.” Three supervisors reached said the proposed change is months in the making.
— Responding to rumors, the Los Angeles Police Department said its officers are not stopping people for violating the city’s strict Safer at Home restrictions.
— The L.A. City Council will convene an emergency meeting Friday, allowing members of the public to comment by phoning in or sending email, an aide to Council President Nury Martinez said.
— USC’s top administrators apologized to the school community after some online classes fell prey to racist “Zoom-bombing,” a relatively new frontier in internet trolling that interrupts meetings.
— Due to the coronavirus, hikers are being advised to leave the Pacific Crest Trail. Some are refusing.
HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
— The Tony Awards have been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus.
— “Steven Universe” changed TV forever. For its creator, its queer themes were personal.
— How Lulu Wang embraced her identity, made a movie about her family and took on a new project: supporting doctors on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
— L.A.'s radio DJs are working from closets and kitchen tables, and people are still tuning in.
— Stuart Gordon, the film and theater director best known for his cult horror classics “Re-Animator,” “Castle Freak” and “From Beyond,” has died. He was 72.
— The U.S. government has concluded that retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished more than a decade ago, has died while in the custody of Iran, his family said.
— Citing the coronavirus, Russian President Vladimir Putin postponed a nationwide vote on proposed constitutional amendments that include a change potentially allowing him to stay in office until 2036.
— Two months into a coronavirus lockdown, novelist Fang Fang is writing an online diary that is a window into life and death in Wuhan.
— The man who committed the worst atrocity in New Zealand’s modern history when he slaughtered 51 worshipers at two Christchurch mosques has unexpectedly pleaded guilty to all charges.
— Across L.A., some businesses are defying government orders to shut down. The city threatened to shut off water and power to businesses breaking city rules. But on Wednesday, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department gave up on shutting down gun stores.
— Major fashion brands are using their sewing machines and supply chains to get more hospital gowns and masks to hospitals in need.
— Several of the nation’s largest airlines are eliminating or reducing food and drink service offered on most flights. They say it’s to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
— Once stuck in low gear, a high-speed train project between Las Vegas and Southern California is now moving forward.
— If not for the coronavirus outbreak, today would’ve been Major League Baseball’s opening day. Tom Lasorda has some thoughts on the situation. Plus, here’s a look at five memorable opening days for the Dodgers.
— How will baseball season get back on track? Sports agent Scott Boras pitched his idea for a 162-game MLB schedule with a World Series game on Christmas.
— Congress has to immunize election day against fear of the coronavirus.
— In their own way, supermarket workers have become a new kind of first responder, columnist Sandy Banks writes.
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
— How will this pandemic end? This article lays out the scenarios. (The Atlantic)
— Thirteen deaths in one day: Inside a New York hospital handling a surge of COVID-19 patients. (New York Times)
— The world’s response to the pandemic may depend on a small-town Maine factory that’s switched from making mint toothpicks to virus test swabs. The problem? A serious labor shortage. (Bloomberg)
ONLY IN CALIFORNIA
Under the state’s stay-at-home order, people are supposed to stay indoors and socially isolate with few exceptions. But no one said anything about bears. On Wednesday, a television crew spotted a black bear on a leisurely stroll through the human-free streets of an Arcadia neighborhood. It apparently stopped for breakfast at a few trash cans before heading back into Angeles National Forest. Times staff photographer Irfan Khan took some pictures of the bear in action — while staying socially distant for more than one reason.
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