Working over the weekend, US lawmakers finally agreed to pass a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package, including a $600 stimulus check. This represents a breakthrough in negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, as the nation continues to struggle with the ongoing pandemic. Congress will vote on the bill on Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Sunday afternoon that Congress managed to settle all outstanding issues regarding the bill. He said “At long last, we have the bipartisan breakthrough the country has needed. Now we need to promptly finalize the text, avoid any last-minute obstacles, and cooperate to move this legislation through both chambers.”
$1.4 Trillion Budget Bill
The $900 billion aid package is part of the $1.4 trillion annual spending budget bill Congress is working on. If Congress can’t agree to this budget, it will trigger a government shutdown beginning December 21. While working on the spending bill, Congress passed a series of temporary budget bills that helped keep the government operating. Last Sunday, Congress approved a one-day spending measure that will keep government offices running until midnight Monday. This gives them time to approve the new budget bill, along with the relief package, until Monday night.
“More help is on the way. Moments ago, in consultation with our committees, the four leaders of the Senate and House finalized an agreement. It would be another major rescue package for the American people,” McConnell said. “As our citizens continue battling this coronavirus pandemic this holiday season, they will not be fighting alone.” Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said that “This agreement is far from perfect, but it will deliver emergency relief to a nation in the throes of a genuine emergency.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said on the Senate floor. In addition, while there’s broad agreement among the measures in the bill, nothing is final until the bill gets signed, hopefully, Monday.
$600 direct payments
The new bill contains funding for struggling businesses, with small businesses taking priority. And, it will include a much-awaited stimulus check for Americans. The proposed amount of $600 is half of the last stimulus check issued earlier this year. For Americans earning more than $75,000 in 2019, the amount will go lower. Anybody earning beyond $99,000 will not receive the stimulus check. However, initial reports say households can receive multiple checks depending on the number of qualified individuals. Each child can receive $600 as well.
Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) said that the aid package also includes $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program small business loans. Another $20 billion is given to small business grants, while $15 billion budgeted for live event venues. Also, the package kicks in a weekly $300 in additional unemployment benefits until mid-March 2021.
In addition, the relief aid contains a $30 billion budget for vaccine distribution funds and $82 billion assistance for colleges and schools. It also earmarks $13 billion into enhanced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Moreso, a $25 billion kitty for rental assistance and an extension of the eviction moratorium. Notably absent from the budget is the much-debated issue of coronavirus liability insurance for companies that operate during the pandemic. Reportedly, it does include a tax break for corporate meal expenses lobbied for by the White House. President Donald Trump lobbied for inclusion for this measure, referred to as the “three-martini lunch” by critics. It serves as a way to revive the restaurant industry badly battered by the pandemic.
While many expressed a sigh of relief that the two parties came to terms, some find the stimulus check amount to be too small. Even a return of the one-time payment of $1,200 might not cut it. In an interview with CBS MoneyWatch, restaurant owner Stephani Bonin remarked that “Our [COVID-19] numbers are bigger than ever and the scale of this pandemic is almost limitless, but the aid is not. ” Bonin started a Change.org petition calling for Congress to provide stimulus relief of $2,000 a month. The petition already received nearly 2 million signatures.
Meanwhile, millions of U.S. families face rent evictions and bill payments. Half of Americans affected by the pandemic say they worry about having enough to pay for rent or their mortgage. According to a TransUnion survey, 40% of impacted consumers really need a future stimulus check. This new $900 billion relief aid is a start and can hold off crushing debt for the moment. Hopefully, more help will arrive along the way.
What the Good Morning America breaking new reports of Congress finally agreeing to pass a COVID stimulus package:
Right now, everybody seems just grateful that Congress managed to work together long enough to finalize this bill. Do you support the $600 stimulus check that is part of the $900 billion relief package? Let us know what you think by leaving your comments below.