Wednesday morning news – April 22, 2020

Congress reaches deal on relief package » Senate Republicans and Democrats reached an agreement Tuesday to replenish aid money for small businesses.

MCCONNELL: At the core of our agreement is $320 billion more for the Paycheck Protection Program, which is already saving millions of small business jobs, and helping Americans get a paycheck instead of pink slips.

The measure passed with unanimous support.

Last week, Democrats blocked attempts to replenish the program because they wanted more funding for hospitals, local governments, and food assistance.  

But the Senate, along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, were able to reach a compromise for another almost $500 in relief. 

Two-thirds of the pot will go toward the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses. The rest of the new relief package will go to aid hospitals and expand COVID-19 testing. 

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the measure Thursday. 

States reopen, file lawsuits » Meanwhile, three states with Republican governors are moving to jump start their economies. Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina have all announced similar plans to begin allowing non-essential businesses and public spaces to reopen. 

Some health officials worry reopening businesses and public gathering sites too soon could lead to a second wave of infections. 

But South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said he believes people will continue social distancing practices to avoid spreading infections. 

MCMASTER: So in light of the great common sense being shown by the great people of South Carolina, we are ready to take some steps that will help South Carolina ensure that our economic health is as strong as our public health.

And, Missouri announced yesterday it’s taking legal action against China.

Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit alleging China suppressed information that led to “death, suffering, and economic losses” inflicted on the world and Missourians. 

The state is seeking restitution for damage to its economy, and the more than 200 state residents who have died of COVID-19.

President Trump suspends immigration » President Trump announced plans to roll out a major immigration policy change to help restart the U.S. economy. WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg has that story.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER:  The president first made the announcement on Twitter late Monday night. 

He wrote, quote, “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” 

At yesterday’s Coronavirus White House press briefing, the president gave more details. He said the executive order will bar family members of U.S. citizens and foreign workers from moving to the United States for the next 60 days. At the end of that period, the president will either lift or extend the ban based on economic conditions.  

The order will not block foreigners coming into the country on temporary visas for work or travel. That means seasonal workers employed by farms and other businesses can still enter. 

Immigration advocates point out that much of the immigration system has already come to a standstill with restricted travel and U.S. consulates pausing most visa processing. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg. 

U.S. intelligence agencies monitoring North Korea » South Korea is downplaying rumors that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in fragile health after having surgery. 

South Korea’s presidential office said Kim appeared to be in control of state affairs as usual and that it had not detected any unusual activity inside the country.

But speaking on Fox News Tuesday, U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said American intelligence officials are monitoring the situation.

O’BRIEN: North Korea’s a very closed society. There’s not a free press there. They are parsimonious about the information they provide about many things, including the health of Kim Jong Un. So, we’re monitoring the developments closely.

North Korea’s state-run media outlet reported that Kim presided over a meeting on April 11th. But he missed the national celebration of his late grandfather’s birthday on April 15th. Kim Il Sung is considered the state’s founding father, and his birthday is the country’s most important holiday.

Rivals reach power-sharing deal in Israel » Israeli political rivals Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz have agreed to form a unity government, avoiding an unprecedented fourth election in just over a year.

GANTZ: [Speaking Hebrew]

Gantz told lawmakers he made the deal to “safeguard” Israel’s democracy.

Netanyahu’s Likud party won the most seats in the last election but didn’t have a majority in parliament. Under the new deal, Netanyahu will remain prime minister for the next 18 months. Gantz will take the job for the next 18 months.

The deal guarantees Netanyahu will remain in power during his upcoming corruption trial, set to start in May. It also gives him a framework for pressing ahead with plans to annex parts of the West Bank. 

Gantz does not support the proposal. But he agreed to allow Netanyahu to make his case in parliament, where he may have enough support to push it through—even without Gantz’s help.

Scripps National Spelling Bee canceled » AUDIO: And this is the night Paul Leffler that the kids won the Spelling Bee! [CONFETTI CANNON] 

Those of us who count on the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee to learn some new vocabulary will have to wait until next year. 

After exploring virtual options, organizers of the elite event announced they had canceled the 2020 competition. Hundreds of students and family members usually attend the bee in Washington, D.C., at the end of May.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee began in 1925 and hasn’t been canceled since World War II. Organizers say instead of competing for this year’s $50,000 grand prize, all national finalists will receive a backpack and keepsakes in the mail.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks with reporters after the Senate approved a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid bill, Tuesday, April 21, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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