WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump administration reached a last-minute deal Friday on a sweeping coronavirus aid package that will provide free testing for all Americans.
The “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” will guarantee free tests for all Americans, including the uninsured, and provide two weeks of paid sick leave for those affected by the health crisis, Pelosi said.
It will also provide up to three months of paid family and medical leave and strengthened unemployment Insurance for those facing layoffs amid the health and economic crisis.
The aid package will also strengthen food banks, seniors’ meals and the food stamps program, known as SNAP.
Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been locked in feverish negotiations as the crisis rapidly escalated — speaking up to seven times a day — and by Friday morning, senior Democrats were confident the package would pass the House by the end of the day.
But the deal appeared to hit a snag when Trump on Friday declared a State of Emergency at the White House Rose Garden and announced he didn’t support the aid package.
“We don’t think the Democrats are giving enough,” Trump told reporters.
“We are negotiating. We thought we had something, but all of a sudden they didn’t agree to certain things that they agreed to,” he added, without specifying the sticking point.
The president has repeatedly demanded a payroll tax cut be included in the bill, something that has been met with tepid support from within his own administration.
“We could have something but we don’t think they are giving enough. They are not doing what is right for the country,” he concluded.
Pelosi was bullish about passing the bill on Friday, even though it now languishes until Monday when the Senate returns from a break, calling the health outbreak a “grave and accelerating challenge.”
The new bill comes after Trump last week signed into law a separate $8.3 billion in emergency aid for states and local authorities to combat the spread of the virus.
As of Friday evening, the COVID-19 outbreak has killed 41 people in the U.S. and infected another 1,629, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lawmakers have been under immense pressure to pass a bipartisan bill which would provide a financial safety net to Americans confronting the deadly disease while also making tests available to all Americans who need one.
“The three most important parts of this bill are testing, testing, testing,” Pelosi said.
Doctors around the country have been crying out for more tests, which are in short supply — one White House official conceding on Wednesday that the government was “failing” when it came to testing.