Coronavirus stimulus update: Congress may offer $900 billion relief plan

Congressional leaders closed in on a $900 billion coronavirus relief deal Wednesday as millions of struggling Americans wait for help.

The aid agreement would not include liability protections for businesses or aid to state and local government, CNBC confirmed. Disagreements over those two issues have blocked lawmakers from crafting a year-end rescue package.

"I'm cautiously optimistic we're going to see this $900 billion package released today, and this will likely get passed before we go home this weekend," Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana told CNBC told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., arrives for the Senate Republican Policy luncheon in Hart Building on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Congress has rushed to find consensus on legislation to fund the government and rescue a health-care system and economy buckling under the pandemic. If lawmakers fail to act, the government will shut down on Saturday, 12 million people will lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas and millions more could face the threat of eviction.

Daines' comments follow Tuesday night negotiations among the top four congressional leaders in the Capitol. Republicans and Democrats had failed for months to make progress toward a bill that could get through a divided Congress. But they appeared to move close to an agreement during their talks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said they hoped to have an agreement "soon."

NBC News confirmed Politico's initial report that congressional leaders have moved close to agreement on a $900 billion rescue package. The measure will contain direct payments to individuals which could come out to about $600 per person, according to NBC.

Daines also said it would include about $300 billion for Paycheck Protection Program small business loans, money for Covid-19 vaccine distribution and testing and relief for hospitals.

Parts of the bill appear to reflect a bipartisan plan released by rank-and-file lawmakers this week. However, that proposal did not include any direct payments.

Congressional progressives have urged party leaders to include stimulus checks in any legislation. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., have also threatened to delay passage of a bill that does not include a direct payment.

At this stage, the Senate would likely need unanimous support to pass a bill quickly enough to meet the midnight Friday deadline.

Lawmakers cannot send help soon enough for millions of Americans. The economy has taken a hit in the face of an unchecked coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 300,000 people in the U.S.

As millions still have not gained back jobs they lost at the start of the pandemic, long lines have formed at food banks around the country. Many Americans remain in their homes due to eviction moratoriums but lack the money to pay the rent they owe.

In addition, the distribution of Covid vaccinations — which started this week and gave Americans a glimmer of hope that the crisis could ease in the coming months — will rely on additional federal funding.

— CNBC's Ylan Mui contributed to this report

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