Congress has finally reached agreement on a new law to stimulate coronavirus.
After eight months of back-and-forth, Democratic and Republican leaders announced on Sunday that they had agreed on a roughly $ 900 billion plan. The House of Representatives will vote on the bill on Monday, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
“We can finally report what our nation has had to hear for a long time: more aid is on the way,” confirmed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Legislation contains much-needed coronavirus measures, including a $ 300 weekly unemployment insurance boost, a new round of $ 600 economic reviews, and renewed support for small businesses.
Legislators in both houses have an opportunity to review the bill attached to the annual government spending package before voting. Congress passed a one-day rolling resolution on Sunday to maintain government funding beyond the pre-established December 20 deadline and to prepare for the vote on Monday.
The final bill bypasses a few sticking points: controversial provisions (including state and local aid and corporate liability protection) have been dropped, and last minute disagreements have risen over the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending agencies – one that seemed to derail negotiations entirely – has also been resolved .
The $ 900 billion bill ultimately offers far less help than an earlier $ 2.2 trillion proposal tabled by the House Democrats, and significantly more than the scant $ 550 billion bill favored by Senate Republicans to have. Democrats signaled on Sunday that this was not the last relief they wanted to send.
Currently, however, this deal is the only option for additional coronavirus relief as millions of Americans grapple with unemployment, impending evictions and rising coronavirus case numbers. “This is a good start, but much more needs to be done,” said Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate minority, on Sunday.
What the stimulus deal contains
While much is omitted from the business cycle agreement, it is expected to provide much-needed assistance on a number of different fronts. The legislature has not yet published the final text of the law. So so far we know the following:
Stimulus tests: There is a second round of stimulus checks, but with less money than the first wave earlier this year. These direct payments include $ 600 for individuals earning an adjusted gross income of $ 75,000 per year or less, rather than the $ 1,200 provided for in the CARES Act, the Washington Post reports. Couples earning a total of $ 150,000 or less are eligible for direct payments of $ 1,200. Individuals and couples with children who qualify for the Stimulus Checks will receive an additional $ 600 per child. Payments for those earning more annual income will be gradually reduced, similar to what happened earlier this year.
Unemployment Insurance (UI): The plan calls for additional weekly UI payments of $ 300 through March 14, 2021. This additional payment is intended to support the weekly payment beneficiaries would receive from their state unemployment programs, similar to what an earlier provision in the CARES Act did. The bill would also extend the pandemic unemployment insurance programs that expire at the end of December. These pandemic-specific programs currently provide UI benefits to approximately 12 million Americans.
Small business support: $ 325 billion is earmarked for small business support, including misappropriated funds for the Paycheck Protection Program, a forgivable loan program that entrepreneurs can apply to cover wages, salaries and operating expenses. These loans are aimed at companies whose sales have declined this year. For many, however, this aid comes too late – according to a Fortune report, nearly 100,000 small businesses have already closed permanently during the pandemic.
Rent assistance and eviction moratorium: Rent support of $ 25 billion is included, as is the establishment of a federal eviction moratorium. As Voxs Jerusalem Demsas previously reported, proponents have argued that rental subsidies of at least $ 100 billion are needed to cover current deficits. Additional measures would be needed to ensure millions of Americans are not displaced by the end of January.
Food aid: $ 13 billion in food aid to fund a 15 percent monthly increase in individual SNAP benefits, aid for children who received food support in school, and money for other programs, including Meals on Wheels and WIC (the special nutritional supplement program for women, toddlers, and children). The demand for such supplies has increased dramatically during the pandemic, and the need for food banks across the country has been overwhelming in recent months.
Paid sick leave: There’s an extension of paid vacation tax credits for businesses that continues a policy set out in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. However, it is not clear whether the new legislation would guarantee vacations for workers with coronavirus or for children worrying about school closings.
The legislation also includes a number of other provisions, including $ 82 billion for reopening schools. According to Reuters, $ 15 billion in airline aid that would be needed to bring back employees on leave. and language that prohibits surprise medical bills for emergency care.
There are also new guidelines for the Federal Reserve after Republicans – led by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) – called for the Fed to remove emergency loan programs from a final bill.
As Vox’s Emily Stewart explained, the Fed will be forced to cancel several CARES Act-funded emergency loan programs this spring and will not be allowed to restart them without the approval of Congress. It will also return to the Treasury Department the unused portion of the $ 454 billion congressional allotted to it under the CARES Act, which the Fed agreed to in November.
The bill does not provide direct aid to state and local governments, a Democratic priority, or the liability protection that protects companies from coronavirus-related lawsuits that were advocated by Republicans.
How long will it be before people get help?
Due to the timing of help from the CARES Act, it could be a few weeks before people see direct relief from the legislation.
Earlier this year, the first round of direct payments was deposited in people’s bank accounts in mid-April: “Within two weeks of the CARES law coming into force in March, more than 81 million payments were made, a total of more than 147 billion US dollars according to the Government Accountability Office through electronic transfers to recipients’ bank accounts, ”reports CNBC.
Individuals who do not have bank accounts or whose information is not on file with the IRS are likely to experience delayed distribution of payments.
The timing of the introduction of increased unemployment insurance payments will also depend on the state. States began distributing $ 600 of additional UI about two weeks after the CARES bill was passed last spring, meaning the weekly addition of $ 300 could begin in early January.
And when it comes to the paycheck protection program, banks and other financial institutions filed motions about a week after the funds were approved by Congress in March. This could allow applications for a new round of loans to begin in late December or early January.
This lag time can be costly to those waiting for help. As Stewart wrote, the programs they are supposed to renew have expired for weeks when much of that money goes to those who need it.
However, such aid comes at a crucial time: According to the latest report by the Labor Department, 19 million people are currently receiving unemployment insurance. In November, employment growth slowed significantly from the previous month, suggesting that the unemployed have limited opportunities for new work. And this winter, coronavirus cases are expected to skyrocket, forcing thousands of companies to close or slow down their operations to prevent the disease from spreading.