Lawmakers in the Senate announced early Wednesday morning that they'd reached a deal with the White House on a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at cushioning the economic blow caused by the coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump says he hopes to get the country reopened and back to business by April 12, where he'd like to see churches filled with people on Easter Sunday.
The number of infections in the U.S. continued to rise, with at least 55,200 confirmed cases nationwide and more than 800 deaths.
Meanwhile, Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, was confirmed to have tested positive for coronavirus, as the number of cases in the United Kingdom reached 8,000.
Here is your #COVID19 update for Wednesday, March 25.
White House and Senate Reach Deal on $2 Trillion Stimulus Package
A third round of emergency legislation aimed at dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, came one step closer to being finalized early Wednesday morning after Senate lawmakers and the White House announced they'd reached a deal on a historic $2 trillion stimulus package.
"At last, we have a deal. After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), announced from the Senate floor early Wednesday morning. "In effect, this is a wartime level of investment for our nation."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the bipartisan agreement the "largest rescue package in American history."
"Like all compromises, this bill is far from perfect, but we believe the legislation has been improved significantly to warrant its quick consideration and passage, and because many Democrats and Republicans were willing to do the serious and hard work, the bill is much better off than where it started," Schumer said.
Among the bill's proposals are the proposed direct cash payments to Americans. Under the plan, individuals making up to $75,000 a year would receive checks for $1,200 and couples making up to $150,000 would receive $2,400. Individuals and couples would also be eligible for a $500 credit per child. According to NBC News, the current agreement does not exclude low-income Americans from receiving the full benefit of the payments as was previously discussed.
Amounts sent to individuals and couples would also be scaled down for every dollar that individuals make over $75,000, or $150,000 for couples. Checks would completely phase out for individuals who make more than $99,000 and $198,000 for couples. It'll take time before checks are sent to Americans with the earliest estimates having them begin arriving in mailboxes in May.
About 90% of Americans will be eligible for full or partial payments, according to estimates from the Tax Policy Center.
The bill also includes $350 billion in assistance for small businesses and another $500 billion for corporations, including airlines, which have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus outbreak.
Another $130 billion was set aside to provide assistance for hospitals and another $150 billion for state and local stimulus funds.
The bill also increases support for Unemployment Insurance over the next four months by increasing payments and extending benefits to workers who would otherwise not qualify, such as furloughed employees, freelancers and gig economy workers.
Businesses owned or controlled by President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, or members of Congress, would be prohibited from taking advantage of the stimulus package loans offered by the Treasury Department. An oversight board and an inspector general position was also created for the sole purpose of providing oversight on how the money will be distributed.
Senators are due to return at noon ET to vote on the proposed legislation, which McConnell said he expects to pass. The legislation would then head to the House to be approved before President Trump could sign it into law.
Waffle House Closes 365 Restaurants
In yet another signal that COVID-19 isn't going away anytime soon, Waffle House said it is closing 365 locations in multiple states across the country as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on American life.
The Georgia-based restaurant chain tweeted a photo showing closures in multiple states, with the majority of closures occurring in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
Last month, Waffle House said it was doing everything it could to keep its restaurants open and nearly 45,000 employees working in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We want to acknowledge the great efforts of our associates, who work hard every shift to create a safe, warm and welcoming dining experience 24 hours daily,” it said. "We are working hard to support them as we do our best to manage through this crisis."
Waffle House restaurants are known to rarely close - even in the face of major disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes. The rarity of closures has become something of an unofficial emergency system known as the Waffle House Index, which measures the severity and impact of a major storm on a region. The more Waffle Houses that close, or are only serving cold food, the more devastating the emergency.
L.A. Sheriff Says Gun Stores Aren't Essential Businesses and Should Close
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Tuesday that gun stores are not considered an essential business and that they will have to close under recent orders from state and local officials that restrict public gatherings.
In an interview with Fox11 News on Tuesday, Villanueva said said gun shops were not an "essential function."
“I'm a supporter of the Second Amendment, I'm a gun owner myself, but now you have the mixture of people that are not formerly gun owners and you have a lot more people at home," Villanueva said. “And anytime you introduce a firearm in a home, from what I understand from CDC studies, it increases fourfold the chance that someone is gonna get shot."
California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a sweeping order for residents in the state to remain at home as much as possible, and closed nonessential businesses. The order does not specify gun stores, which Villanueva pointed out that they are not on the list of retail operations considered essential like grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies.
With more than 2,600 cases statewide, California is third in the nation with the number of confirmed cases. L.A. County, which has more than 10 million residents, has seen long lines at gun stores amid the ongoing pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered residents to stay-at-home last week as part of the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak.
If gun shops refuse to close their doors, they could be cited, Villanueva said. The sheriff also noted that 1,300 deputies have been assigned to patrol duties.
Investor Sues Senator Richard Burr Over Stock Sales Ahead of Coronavirus Pandemic
Senator Richard Burr (R-S.C.) has been sued following a report last week that he sold shares in a hotel company while possessing inside information about the potential impact of the coronavirus in the United States.
According to the lawsuit filed by an investor in Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Burr allegedly used the private information he recieved as part of his job as the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee to sell up between $628,000 and $1.72 million worth of stocks.
"Senator Burr owed a duty to Congress, the United States government, and citizens of the United States, including Plaintiff, not to use material nonpublic information that he learned by virtue of his duties as a United States Senator in connection with the sale or purchase of any security," the lawsuit states. "Senator Burr breached that duty by selling stock, including Wyndham stock, based on that material nonpublic information."
According to a report from ProPublica last week, Senator Burr sold off a significant amount of stock shortly before the markets plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, he'd been recieving daily intelligence updates about the coronavirus infection as it spread around the world.
According to records of the transaction