House Democrats want fast passage of coronavirus bill, source says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A package of Democratic proposals to help Americans impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, including paid sick leave, could be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives as early as this week, a congressional aide said on Wednesday.

The Democratic aide said the proposed legislation, still being developed, could also expand federal food aid programs, especially to low-income families whose children might not be able to attend schools where they receive meals.

While the aide said the timetable for bringing the legislation to a vote in the Democratic-controlled House still could change, the pace of work on legislation has accelerated as the U.S. outbreak has worsened.

No details were yet available on the price of expanding federal aid. It would come on the heels of an $8.3 billion coronavirus funding bill that was enacted last week.

The House is scheduled to begin a week-long recess next week.

On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer outlined a series of steps the federal government should take to help Americans who could become sickened by the highly contagious coronavirus, which causes a sometimes fatal respiratory illness.

They include paid sick leave for workers who are ordered into quarantine or need to take care of children impacted by school closers. Pelosi and Schumer also said they would seek expanded unemployment insurance benefits and food assistance including the so-called “food stamp” program, free coronavirus testing and medical bill reimbursements for those without health insurance.

Aides to Pelosi were not immediately available for comment.

Pelosi met on Tuesday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss possible responses to the crisis. They spoke again on Wednesday.

It was not clear whether the White House would back the bill House Democrats are crafting.

More than 1,000 cases of coronavirus and 29 deaths have been confirmed in the country, according to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University center tracking the outbreak. Most of the deaths have occurred in Washington state.

Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao

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