India on Thursday announced a 1.7 trillion rupee ($22.6 billion) economic stimulus plan that will be released through direct cash transfers and food security measures aimed at giving relief to millions of poor hit by the nationwide lockdown in the country.
“We have come with a package which will immediately take care of the welfare concerns of the poor and suffering workers, and those who need immediate help,” said Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, at a press briefing.
The moves comes two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a 21-day nationwide lockdown to try to protect India’s 1.3 billion people from the fast-spreading coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the US Senate unanimously passed the nation’s largest-ever rescue package late Wednesday, a $2 trillion lifeline to suffering Americans, critically depleted hospitals and an economy ravaged by a rapidly spreading coronavirus crisis.
The measure cleared the Senate 96-0 after days of tumultuous, sometimes bitter negotiations and debate, as the US death toll for the pandemic soared past 1,000, with 68,000 confirmed infections.
Outbreaks have grown nationwide, but with particular fear that New York could be the next epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Let us tell them tonight that help is on the way, that they are not truly alone, that this country, that this Senate, that this government is here for them in a time of dire need,” top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said moments before the vote.
“Let us marshal this government into action.”
The measure now heads to the House of Representatives, where a Democratic leader said he expected it to pass by voice vote Friday before it goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.
Second-ranking House Republican Steve Scalise was urging his fellow Republicans to vote to pass the package, his communications director said.
The monster package, thrashed out between Republicans, Democrats and the White House, provides direct cash payments to millions of hurting American taxpayers, amounting to $3,400 for an average American family of four.
It provides some $500 billion in grants and loans to small businesses and core industries, including as much as $50 billion for strained airlines and their employees.
It also provides $100 billion of desperately needed resources for hospitals and other health facilities in dire need of medical equipment, and dramatically expands unemployment benefits to help workers sickened by the coronavirus or laid off during the crisis.
[Reuters and AFP]