By Andrew Trunsky
Congress announced a sweeping compromise on a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package and a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill Sunday night, setting the stage for Americans to receive much-needed economic relief and for government funding through September 2021.
The package, which Congress hopes to send to President Donald Trump’s desk Monday, includes direct cash payments, enhanced unemployment benefits, and a critical lifeline for small businesses and other industries that have been relentlessly hammered by the pandemic. The funding package includes 12 appropriations bills as well, meaning that the President-elect Joe Biden will not have to wage a political battle over government funding in the first few weeks of his term.
Though the bill’s text has yet to be officially released, here’s what is included in the enormous, long-sought congressional compromise, according to reports and summaries given by congressional leadership.
This is how Pelosi and Schumer explain what’s in the $900 billion relief proposal. Bill text has yet to be released pic.twitter.com/hzcOgxBJji
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) December 21, 2020
Direct Cash Payments ($166 billion)
Americans making $75,000 a year or less will receive a $600 stimulus check, and couples making $150,000 a year or less will receive $1,200, plus $600 per child, the summary says.
While the $600 is half of that issued after the CARES Act passed in March, the $600 per child is $100 greater than what the CARES Act authorized.
Several senators, led by the bipartisan team of Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, had pushed for $1,200 payments. Their effort was ultimately blocked two separate times Friday by Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who cited concerns over the stimulus bill’s size and the national debt.
Enhanced Unemployment Benefits ($120 billion)
Unemployed workers will receive an extra $300 a week through March 14, and workers who are self-employed or gig workers will receive additional benefits that were set to expire as well, the summary outlines.
Its passage could avert a financial crisis of millions of Americans as unemployment numbers rise amid a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths and since the $600 unemployment benefits created through the CARES Act expired in July.
Small businesses hammered by the pandemic will receive $284 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program, the summary describes, including $20 billion for businesses in low-income communities and $15 billion for live venues, including museums and theaters, that have been especially hurt.
Transportation ($45 billion)
Airlines, citywide mass transit and railways have also seen wide declines in service due to the pandemic. Airlines will receive $15 billion, mass transit systems in cities across the country will receive $14 billion while city bus systems will receive $2 billion and state highways will receive $10 billion, according to the release from House leadership.
Additionally, airports will receive $2 billion and Amtrak will receive $1 billion.
The provisions could be a critical life line for some of the largest transit systems in the country, including New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and the D.C. Metro system as well, which said that it would introduce vast service cuts without federal funding.
Coronavirus Vaccines, Testing and Tracing ($69 billion)
The congressional compromise includes $20 billion the vaccines’ purchase, approximately $9 billion for their distribution and about $22 billion for states’ testing, tracing and prevention efforts, according to the summary. (RELATED: FDA Grants Moderna’s Coronavirus Vaccine Emergency Use Authorization)
The Federal Reserve
Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey led a last-minute effort to curb the Fed’s lending programs adopted after the CARES Act, which briefly threatened to stall congressional talks Friday.
However, he and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reached a compromise late Saturday, and Toomey agreed to narrow the scope of his efforts, the New York senator said Sunday.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) heads to the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for ongoing talks for the COVID-19 relief bill on Capitol Hill on December 15, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Nutrition and Agricultural Assistance
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will receive $13 billion, allowing it to increase its benefits by 15%, a big priority of congressional Democrats. The program, however, will not expand its eligibility.
Farmers and ranchers will also share a $13 billion pot to help mitigate losses imposed by the pandemic, according to a summary released by the House Agriculture Committee.
Education ($82 billion)
Schools and colleges will receive $82 billion towards reopening classrooms while simultaneously preventing the spread of the virus. The package delivers $54 billion to K-12 schools, $23 billion to colleges and universities, $4 billion to an emergency relief fund and $1 billion for Native American schools.
The package also allows for the expansion of Pell Grants by up to 500,000 students and for 1.5 million to receive the grant’s full value, according to a summary released by Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The massive compromise also includes a 3% raise for U.S. troops, allocates $7 billion for improving broadband access in rural and low-income areas — an effort led by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden — and provides $25 billion in rental assistance while also banning evictions through January.
It also prevents Americans from receiving “surprise” medical bills from out-of-network or emergency care, a major priority of Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander.
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