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Today’s Headlines: A deal on economic aid, at last

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to his office from the Senate floor on Friday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to his office from the Senate floor on Friday. Congressional leaders on Sunday reached a nearly $900-billion coronavirus relief package.
(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

Congress’ leaders have reached a bipartisan deal providing direct payments to most Americans, continuing small-business loans and extending jobless aid with a bonus.

TOP STORIES

A Deal on Economic Aid, at Last

For eight months, members of Congress have talked about the need for another economic aid package to help struggling Americans in the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, congressional leaders have finally agreed on a nearly $900-billion deal to extend federal unemployment payments and forgivable loans for small businesses, and to give direct cash payments to many Americans.

The leaders from both parties — under increasing pressure from constituents and rank-and-file lawmakers, and confronted with a slowing economy and surging coronavirus infections and related deaths — are racing to pass it into law and have it signed by President Trump, who has mostly been out of the picture, before millions of Americans lose their financial lifeline.

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The additional federal unemployment aid created by Congress in March in the so-called CARES Act expires Saturday, and most other benefits lapse before the end of the year.

According to senators and representatives, the package would allow 11 additional weeks of compensation for jobless Americans, and add $300 a week from the federal government to the amount they receive through their state unemployment program. It would also provide a one-time direct payment of up to $600 to Americans making less than $75,000; extends for 11 weeks an unemployment benefits program for contract and gig workers; and include $284 billion for another round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses.

In California alone, hundreds of thousands of people dropped out of the workforce in November as businesses sharply curtailed the pace of hiring — trends that economists suggest are growing ever more dire.

More Politics

— Trump’s dismissive characterization of a massive cyberattack targeting multiple U.S. agencies drew pushback from lawmakers, cybersecurity experts and the incoming Biden administration amid growing questions over the president’s refusal to acknowledge that Russia was likely behind the intrusions.

President-elect Joe Biden rolled out an environmental team that he hopes will steer America toward greater action to curb climate change and protect the nation’s air and water.

— In an unusual move, Fox News aired a segment to counter previous remarks made by its conservative hosts and pro-Trump guests that voting software firm Smartmatic was involved in election fraud.

California’s Growing COVID-19 Crisis

It has been two weeks since California officials issued a second stay-at-home order, but unlike in the spring, no flattening of the curve of coronavirus infections has yet occurred in most of the state.

Instead, the numbers are looking increasingly dire. Los Angeles County recorded 100,000 new coronavirus cases in little more than a week. Hospitals in the county are being stretched so thin that many are preparing for the possibility of rationing care in the coming weeks as the number of patients exceeds their staffs’ abilities to care for them.

Not flattening the curve this time may be because restrictions are looser than those in the spring, and because many Californians are so fatigued by public health orders — or militantly resistant to them — that they are mixing with people from outside their households.

But experts say the most pertinent explanation has to do with the amount of the coronavirus in the community. The latest orders came after the virus was already raging out of control, in part because of Thanksgiving travel — a difference experts say will make the current surge much harder to corral.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— A federal advisory panel put people 75 and older and essential workers including firefighters, teachers and grocery store workers next in line for COVID-19 shots as a second vaccine began rolling out to hospitals.

— At L.A. County-USC Medical Center, COVID-19 patients have flooded in, putting an immense strain on its ICU capacity and staff. It’s a similar situation at many other hospitals across California and the U.S.

Supermarkets in L.A. County are seeing unprecedented infection rates among workers. Here are some tips for shopping safely.

— In the United Kingdom and several other countries, a disconcerting cluster of genetic changes has been detected in the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, prompting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to all but cancel Christmas in the British Isles.

OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND

— A former nurse with pancreatic cancer in Joshua Tree needed critical care, but she died without it because of the COVID-19 surge.

— The coronavirus is crushing Native American reservations. But distrust of the government makes vaccines a hard sell.

— Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing the long shot possibility of a recall election in 2021. The pandemic has helped fuel the effort.

— This man promised his wife he’d keep the house. Then he took out a reverse mortgage.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Holiday drinking and driving is a deadly problem, so law enforcement agencies have long ramped up their enforcement during this period, including the use of safety checkpoints — as these photographs from The Times’ archives show.

Law enforcement officers conduct traffic checkpoint in west Los Angeles in 1961.
Dec. 21, 1961: California Highway Patrol officers conduct a traffic check on westbound Sunset Boulevard at Sunset Plaza Drive.
(Dick Oliver / Los Angeles Times )

CALIFORNIA

— The prospect of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti not taking a position in the Biden administration and staying in L.A. comes as a relief for some community leaders.

Santa Monica politics this year have been upended by the pandemic, George Floyd protests and economic woes.

— Writer and adventurer Roy M. Wallack has died after a mountain biking accident in the Santa Monica Mountains.

— A breezy, bone-dry Christmas holiday is likely in the Los Angeles region.

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NATION-WORLD

— More than 1 million people have passed through U.S. airport security checkpoints in each of the last two days in a sign that public health pleas to avoid holiday travel are being ignored, despite an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases.

— In Latin America, a region hard hit by pandemic, poverty and flawed healthcare systems, many experts fear that large-scale coronavirus immunization campaigns could prove a logistical nightmare, even as vaccinations are set to begin.

Nepal’s president dissolved Parliament after the prime minister recommended the move amid an escalating feud within his Communist Party that is likely to push the Himalayan nation into a political crisis.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— After 60 years in showbiz, Glynn Turman is one of the busiest actors in Hollywood, scoring plum roles in prestigious films and TV series. “My manager calls it ‘the Glynnaissance,’” he says.

— The Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. named Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe” as best picture of the year, while the New York Film Critics Circle gave top honors to Kelly Reichardt’s “First Cow.”

“Amores Perros” at 20: Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film symphony of desire still provides a jolt.

BUSINESS

— An activist group is pressuring the NBA to oust Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores unless his private equity firm divests itself of a prison telephone company.

Commodities are back in fashion as investors get ready for a boom.

SPORTS

— The 2021 College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl is moving to Texas because of California coronavirus restrictions. Meanwhile, USC has opted not to play in any bowl games, bringing its season to a close.

— The NHL will start the season in January and has created new divisions to minimize travel and health risks.

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OPINION

— Picking two senators is too much. Columnist George Skelton has some ideas on how Newsom could handle the situation, if it arises.

Remote working in the post-COVID-19 era could transform L.A. and other cities, writes Andrii Parkhomenko, an assistant professor at USC.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— A frustrated Trump keeps looking for ways to overturn the election. (Washington Post)

— Why did journalist Christie Smythe upend her life for “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli? (Elle)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Kiano Moju was born in Oakland and spent time on her family’s ranch in the mountainous village of Sultan Hamud, Kenya — including many a Christmas. Moju, who runs a food video production studio in downtown L.A.’s Arts District, calls her style of cooking “Afri-Cali.” It’s on full display in her family’s Christmas feast, a blend of East African dishes customized with California ingredients and touched with flavors from West Africa.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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