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Today’s Headlines: A big dose of economic aid

The House passed a $1.9-trillion COVID-19 economic aid package Wednesday, sending to President Biden a sweeping measure that includes not only pandemic-related $1,400 checks and expanded unemployment benefits, but also the biggest expansion of Obamacare and hefty new tax credits to combat child poverty.

President Biden is expected to sign a $1.9-trillion COVID-19 economic aid package on Friday, after the U.S. marks a year since major shutdowns took effect.

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A Big Dose of Economic Aid

The House passed a $1.9-trillion COVID-19 economic aid package, sending to President Biden a sweeping measure that includes not only pandemic-related $1,400 checks and expanded unemployment benefits, but also the biggest-ever expansion of Obamacare and hefty new tax credits to combat child poverty.

Biden is expected to sign what is likely to become a definitive achievement of his presidency on Friday, before unemployment insurance expires for more than 10 million Americans on March 14. He will give a prime-time address tonight to mark a year since much of the country shut down — and to promote the relief package.

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The bill, which passed the House 220-211, could be Congress’ last major response to the pandemic. It includes mortgage and rental assistance; targeted aid to the restaurant, childcare and airline industries; funding for vaccines and testing; aid to small businesses, schools and tribal governments; and billions of dollars to help state and local governments deal with the economic fallout of COVID-19-related closures. (Here’s a look at how it could benefit you.)

California is in line to receive $42.6 billion, with $26 billion going to the state government and $1.35 billion heading directly to Los Angeles.

Whether this major legislative victory is the first of many for Biden or foreshadows a tough slog ahead on infrastructure, voting rights, immigration and climate change remains to be seen. In the end, not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted for the relief package, guaranteeing it will become a political football in next year’s midterm elections and perhaps for years to come.

More From Washington

— The Senate has confirmed Merrick Garland to be the next U.S. attorney general; Marcia Fudge to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Michael Regan to run the Environmental Protection Agency.

— Weeks after earmarking $4 billion in U.S. aid for Central America, the Biden administration is fine tuning its plans and sharply limiting how much money will go directly to the governments of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, a senior administration official told the Los Angeles Times.

Biden’s first 50 days: Where he stands on key promises.

The Year of Living Desolately

Los Angeles is intimately familiar with collective trauma — earthquakes and mudslides, heat waves and wildfires. But the size and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic has tested even this resilient metropolis. We have not all suffered equally since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic a year ago today, but we have all suffered.

And if we’ve been spared the worst — still have our jobs and our loved ones are healthy — there’s still a price. To be lucky in L.A. is to be isolated and lonely.

Over the past 12 months it’s become increasingly clear that L.A. and other parts of California were ideal targets for the novel coronavirus. The state implemented some of the most extreme restrictions in the country — closing schools, restaurants, sports and more last March — but it could not stave off deadly surges which so far have left more than 54,000 dead in California, 22,000 of them in Los Angeles County.

At the same time, we bore witness to a barrage of other emotionally wrenching events both locally and nationally: The videotaped killing of George Floyd by police and the protests that followed, some of the largest wildfires in California’s recorded history, spiking homicides, the storming of the Capitol by domestic terrorists, and a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. Along the way, the virus itself changed, creating new variants.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— While some parents are eager for their kids to return to school, others are struggling with a different dilemma: Is it safe? Meanwhile, experts say COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens are not far off.

— In the coming weeks, Los Angeles County’s supply of COVID-19 vaccine will tighten because of an expected shortage of shots manufactured by Johnson & Johnson — just as people with underlying health conditions become eligible for inoculations.

— Using their networks, Mexican and Guatemalan Indigenous leaders in L.A. and across the state are taking on vaccine inequity in underserved communities.

— Why vaccines alone won’t be enough to end the threat any time soon.

Send In the Deep-Sea ‘Roombas’

When Californians learned in October that the waters off Santa Catalina Island once served as a dumping ground for thousands of barrels of DDT waste, the ocean science community jumped into action.

A crew was swiftly assembled, shipping lanes cleared, the gears set in motion for a deep-sea expedition aboard the Sally Ride, one of the most technologically advanced research vessels in the country.

By Wednesday, the ship was ready to leave San Diego and head for the San Pedro Basin, where 31 scientists and crew members will spend the next two weeks surveying almost 50,000 acres of the seafloor with sonar robots that have been compared to “underwater Roombas.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES

The 1933 Long Beach earthquake was a magnitude 6.3 — far weaker than other devastating quakes at the time. And yet it was so significant that it helped define the region’s reputation as “earthquake country,” The Times reported in 2008.

On March 10, tremors shook newly built neighborhoods and damaged hundreds of structures, including 230 school buildings. Ultimately, 115 people were killed and experts said the toll might have been higher if the earthquake had struck earlier than 5:54 p.m.

The earthquake prompted the state to impose new regulations for school building safety.

The facade of a building after it crumbled
March 11, 1933: The heavily damaged Masonic Temple in Compton following the March 10, 1933, Long Beach earthquake.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

CALIFORNIA

— Supermarket-chain owner Kroger said it will close three stores in L.A. in response to new rules requiring a $5-per-hour pay bump for grocery workers during the pandemic.

— The L.A. Police Department has identified an officer who shared a Valentine-style image of George Floyd with the words “You take my breath away” and is in the process of interviewing that officer, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said.

— Troubled Los Angeles trial attorney Tom Girardi suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and cannot understand or participate in court proceedings, according to a psychiatrist who examined him last month.

— A winter storm reached the L.A. area, bringing heavy rain and thunder, as well as mudslides in areas recently burned by wildfires.

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NATION-WORLD

Mexico’s lower chamber approved a marijuana legalization bill, setting the country on the path to becoming one of the world’s largest legal marijuana markets.

Britain’s tabloid newspapers — pugnacious, salacious and utterly unabashed — have long played an outsized role in the country’s culture and society. They’ve offered no regrets about their treatment of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

Prince William defended Britain’s monarchy Thursday against the accusations of bigotry made by his brother and sister-in-law, insisting that the royal family is not racist.

Russian authorities said they are slowing down the speed of Twitter — part of growing efforts to curb social media platforms that have played a major role in amplifying dissent.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Eleven classical musicians from the West and East coasts share their stories of struggle, survival and hope over the past year of pandemic shutdowns.

— For the first time since 1991, the Recording Academy’s affiliated charity MusiCares will not honor a Person of the Year nor throw its annual gala. But it will turn to K-pop megagroup BTS for fundraising sizzle.

— On Sunday, local jazz polymath John Beasley could have a Grammys for the ages. And he’s not the only one — read The Times’ predictions for who will take home key awards.

Filming in the Los Angeles region saw a huge boost in activity last month, as the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic began to recede and officials allowed productions to restart.

BUSINESS

— The U.S. will experience near-record growth this year thanks to widespread vaccinations and massive federal relief. California will likely rebound even faster, UCLA forecasters predict.

— The Curacao retail chain has agreed to pay $10.5 million to partially settle a lawsuit brought by the California attorney general’s office alleging that the company exploited its customer base of largely Spanish-speaking immigrants.

Facebook asked a federal judge to throw out a U.S. antitrust case against the social media company, saying the government is attempting a “do-over” by trying to unwind acquisitions that won regulatory approval years ago.

SPORTS

UCLA men’s basketball wants more in March after having made the best of a rocky regular season.

— Three months after Major League Baseball threw the Lancaster JetHawks out of the California League, the team has thrown in the towel.

With the return of high school sports in Southern California, The Times is launching Prep Rally, a newsletter written by the dean of Southland prep coverage, Eric Sondheimer. Sign up for it here.

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Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

OPINION

— Republicans are still sticking their heads in the tar sands on climate change, writes Scott Martelle. It imperils red states just as much as anywhere else.

— Will 2021 be the year women are finally declared equal under the U.S. Constitution? Passing the Equal Rights Amendment must be a priority, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— We can finally see the end of the pandemic. We just need to not implode before we get there, columnist Mary McNamara writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— “Becoming a parent during the pandemic was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” (The Atlantic)

— Wildlife abounds in Fukushima, Japan, a decade after disaster struck. (National Geographic)

ONLY IN L.A.

During her bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex mentioned that her “first job was when I was 13 at a frozen yogurt shop called Humphrey Yogart.” Though the location she worked at apparently closed some time ago, there’s still one in Sherman Oaks. And since Sunday’s interview, the place has seen a major spike in attention and sales. Here’s looking at froy-o, kid.

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


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