The number of job losses recorded in the United States amid the Coronavirus pandemic now stand at 26.4 million.
Governors in some states have also begun plans to reopen businesses.
The data released by the Labor Department showed 4.4 million US workers filed new claims for jobless benefits in the week that ended April 18, underscoring the damage done to the world’s largest economy by the crisis.
The figure represents a drop from recent weeks, but the weekly totals are many times higher than any recorded during the global financial crisis starting in 2008, as virus lockdown measures force businesses to close nationwide.
The House of Representatives was set to give its seal of approval to the latest stimulus bill, which would add nearly $500 billion in fresh relief funds for devastated small businesses and overwhelmed hospitals.
That builds upon the massive $2.2 trillion CARES Act stimulus measure passed in late March.
The new bill under consideration would provide another $320 in funding for a depleted program to aid small businesses, along with $75 billion for hospitals, $25 billion to expand virus testing and $60 billion in disaster recovery loans and grants.
More than 200 lawmakers were to attend the session to ensure a quorum, and only small groups were allowed to enter the chamber at a time. Many wore face masks.
After that, President Donald Trump has said he will sign it into law.
In states where the outbreak has been less severe, governors are moving to begin the slow process of returning to normal, some in response to a spate of anti-lockdown protests.
But their measures are being called into question — and Trump specifically criticized a decision to open hair salons, tattoo parlors and gyms in Georgia from Friday.
“I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday.
“At the same time, he must do what he thinks is right.”
In Florida, another Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is considering similar measures.
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