UPDATE 4-U.S. Senate races to agree on massive coronavirus relief package

(Recasts with efforts to forge deal; adds fresh quotes from McConnell, Schumer and Rubio)

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON, March 21 (Reuters) – The Republican-led U.S. Senate scrambled on Saturday to forge a bipartisan agreement on a $1 trillion-plus bill aimed at stemming the economic fallout from the growing coronavirus outbreak, as talks neared a deadline for drafting and passing the legislation.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers worked behind closed doors to produce formal legislation by the end of the day that would aim to help individuals, small businesses and industries hard hit by the public health crisis.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who took part in the discussions, told reporters he expects the final legislative package to be worth $1.3 trillion to $1.4 trillion. Lawmakers shied away from putting an overall price tag on the package.

The prospective Senate bill, combined with actions undertaken by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the administration, would have a $2 trillion net impact on a U.S. economy facing powerful headwinds spawned by the outbreak, according to White House officials.

“We’re getting closer and closer to an agreement. And all the discussions have been in good faith,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who intends to hold a vote to pass the sprawling package on Monday.

“I think we’re clearly going to get there,” he told reporters.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in mid-day remarks on the Senate floor that a number of issues were still outstanding but observed lawmakers were “making very good progress.”

Republicans and Democrats wrangled in private over how to get money into the hands of individuals impacted by the health crisis including proposals that would issue $1,000 checks to some Americans and utilize state unemployment insurance programs to provide income to those unable to work due to the effects of coronavirus on schools and employers.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio said lawmakers were close to agreement on a provision that could provide more than $350 billion in aid to small businesses via federally guaranteed loans that would be forgiven if used to sustain unemployment. The original proposal called for $300 billion in assistance.

“We’re talking about half the workers in America. We’d like to help even more people,” said Rubio, who chairs the Senate Small Business Committee. (Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Tom Brown and Chris Reese)

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