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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday that lawmakers are very close to reaching a deal on a nearly $2 trillion stimulus package meant to address widespread health and economic problems created by the coronavirus outbreak, and that an agreement could be reached "in the next few hours."
Fresh off what he said was a "very productive meeting" with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House congressional liaison Eric Ueland and acting White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Schumer reported on progress that he said includes securing four months' full salary for workers if businesses can no longer afford to keep them.
"This is a great plan," Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. "What it says is if you lose your job in this crisis, you can be furloughed by your employer. That means you can stay on that employer's worklist; if you have health benefits with the employer you can keep getting them. But, most importantly, the federal government will pay your salary -- your full salary -- for now four months."
Schumer said this assistance -- which he called "unemployment insurance on steroids" -- is critical because not only will it protect workers, it will help businesses recover more easily after the crisis is over.
The Democratic leader also pointed to his party's efforts to obtain greater funding for hospitals, specifically so they can secure additional beds, masks and ventilators.
A point of contention has been $500 billion for guaranteed loans to larger industries. Schumer said he is working to ensure oversight and transparency for any "bailout" funds given to companies.
When Democrats refused to move forward on the bill Sunday and Monday, they were accused of trying to insert provisions unrelated to the outbreak into the package. Schumer claimed that this is currently not the case.
"We are not looking for things that are extraneous to this crisis, and I don’t believe that they are in this package," he said.
The House Democrats' bill, however, is another matter, and it's unclear how the two chambers might reconcile immense differences between their legislation.
Leaders from both parties continue to iron out a final agreement, but Schumer remained optimistic that it could be done by day's end.
"Of the few outstanding issues, I don’t see any that can’t be overcome in the next few hours," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.