House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that Congress has reached an agreement with the Trump administration on an emergency aid package to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The billions in relief will provide free coronavirus tests, paid sick leave, and bolster Medicaid funding for states.
“We are proud to have reached an agreement with the Administration to resolve outstanding challenges, and now will soon pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to fellow Democrat lawmakers.
News: Pelosi and Mnuchin have reached a deal. pic.twitter.com/IYQeK5JTor
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) March 13, 2020
The House could take up a vote on the bill as earlier as this evening.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin negotiated the agreement with Pelosi. The two spoke by telephone four times to hash out the deal on Thursday, according to The Hill.
Earlier Friday, Pelosi delivered a terse statement in which she made implied criticisms of President Trump’s handling of the outbreak. “The American people expect and deserve a coordinated, science-based and whole-of-government response to keep them and their loved ones safe: a response that puts families first to stimulate the economy,” the speaker stated.
The president said the declaration will release up to $50 billion for states to battle the disease, which has sickened more than 1,200 people and killed at least 33 in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University figures as of noon Friday.
“No resource will be spared, nothing whatsoever,” Trump said during a news conference in the White House’s Rose Garden.
The tentative deal comes hours after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency and announced a host of measures to combat the virus that originated from Wuhan, China.
President Trump called on all states to set up emergency operation centers and all hospitals to activate their emergency preparedness plans immediately.
He also announced “broad new authority” for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, allowing him to waive certain regulations and requirements to allow “all hospitals maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients.”
Under this new authority, Azar will be able to waive requirements and allow doctors to practice at out-of-state hospitals, and allow hospitals to increase bed capacity and length of stay for patients.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said the declaration will allow healthcare facilities to “do everything they possibly can” to contain and mitigate the virus.
“We still have a long way to go,” he said. “There will be many more cases, but we’ll take care of that.”
The UPI contributed to this report.