US House unanimously passes $484bn coronavirus bill to fund small businesses and hospitals

The US House of Representatives unanimously approved a $484bn coronavirus relief bill on Thursday.

The relief bill will fund small businesses and hospitals and has pushed the total spending response to the crisis to almost $3tn.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed the same package that will support businesses and hospitals affected by the coronavirus pandemic and expand testing for Covid-19.

The measure passed the Democratic-led House by a vote of 388-5, with one member voting present. House members were meeting for the first time in weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the beginning of March, Congress has approved bills for coronavirus research, expanding paid leave and $2.2 trillion for economic aid, topped off with $484 billion in additional relief focused on small businesses and hospitals.

The unprecedented string of bills was driven by a consensus among party leaders.

Lawmakers, many of whom were wearing masks, approved the bill during an extended period of voting intended to allow them to remain at a distance from one another, in line with public health recommendations.

The House action sent the latest of four relief bills to the White House, where Donald Trump has promised to sign it quickly into law.

Prior to the vote Nancy Pelosi said in an interview that the Democrats will prioritise money for state, local and tribal governments, funding for food-aid programs and worker-safety regulations.

Democrats also pushed to send money directly to many Americans, on top of the $1,200-per-person checks in the bill that passed last month.

“We’d like to see another direct payment go forward,” Mrs. Pelosi said, without outlining how much she thought it should be.

At the top of the list for Democrats was the aid for states and localities, hard hit by the declines in local sales and income tax amid store closures and job losses.

The bipartisan National Governors Association—led by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat— had asked for $500 billion to cover the costs of the pandemic and avoid laying off first responders and cutting services.

The House also approved a select committee, with subpoena power, to investigate the US response to the coronavirus. It will have broad powers to investigate how federal dollars are being spent. The panel will also oversee the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

Mrs Pelosi, said the panel was essential to ensure funds go to those who need them and to prevent scams. However, the Republicans said the committee was not needed, citing existing oversight bodies, and called the panel’s creation another expensive Democratic slap at Trump.

The $484bn aid bill is the fourth passed to address the coronavirus crisis.

Trump has said he supports more funding for states and has promised to back it in future legislation.