Days before the holidays, Congress passed a $ 900 billion bill to extend unemployment insurance, pay out additional incentive checks to Americans, and provide more credit for small businesses.
The democratically controlled House of Representatives passed the auxiliary bill on Monday evening with a vote of 359-53, just hours after the final bill was published to members. A few hours later, the Republican-controlled Senate did the same, with more than ninety votes in favor of the legislation.
“It’s a good bipartisan bill,” said spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi on the floor of the house Monday morning, citing provisions that Democrats had secured such as additional food aid and a temporary extension of an eviction moratorium. Pelosi also nodded to the $ 600 direct payments that will go to the Americans. “I wish they were bigger, but they are significant and will go out soon,” she said.
The bill is said to be a short-term bridge to help Americans get financial relief as the country enters a particularly difficult period of the coronavirus pandemic with around 200,000 new confirmed cases per day. At the same time there can be an end in sight, with the first vaccines for health workers and more on the way.
“We can finally report what our nation has had to hear for a long time: more aid is on the way,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday evening. Pelosi and McConnell themselves received a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine last week, and President-elect Joe Biden received his too on Monday.
There are still a number of big things that didn’t make it into the final relief bill, including full aid to state and local governments wanted by the Democrats, and corporate liability protection that was Republicans’ top priority. Schumer spoke in front of the Senate on Sunday evening, admitting that states and cities would receive funding specifically for education, Covid-19 testing, and public transportation. “The agreement we have reached is far from perfect.”
Democratic leaders and President-elect Joe Biden have stated that Congress should provide additional momentum when Biden takes office.
“Starting in the New Year, Congress must work immediately on supporting our COVID-19 plan, helping families in trouble, and investing in jobs and economic recovery,” Biden said in a statement on Sunday. “There will be no time to waste.”
However, an additional federal incentive could well depend on two indecisive Senate races in Georgia to decide which party controls the Senate. Doing another deal may not be easy.
What the stimulus deal contains
While much is omitted from the business cycle agreement, it is expected to provide much-needed help on some fronts. Here’s what we know about the details so far.
Stimulus tests: There is a second round of stimulus checks, but these are smaller than the ones distributed earlier this year. These direct payments include $ 600 for people who earned an adjusted gross income of $ 75,000 per year or less in 2019 and $ 1,200 for couples who earned $ 150,000 or less. Individuals and couples with children who qualify for the Stimulus Checks will receive an additional $ 600 per child. The payments for people who earn a higher annual income than in the spring will be reduced gradually.
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: US $ 325 billion has been earmarked to help small businesses, including misappropriated funds the paycheck protection program, a forgivable loan program that business owners can apply for to cover labor and operating costs. These loans are aimed at companies whose sales have declined this year. For many, however, this help comes too late – according to a Fortune reportAlmost 100,000 small businesses closed for good 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, tenant attorneys reported that rental subsidies of at least $ 100 billion are required 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 relief supplies has increased dramatically during the pandemic Food banks across the country faced an overwhelming need in the past few months.
Paid sick leave: There are paid vacation tax credits for companies that provide voluntary paid vacation, a continuation of a policy set forth in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. However, companies are not obliged to offer such services. Previously, workers with coronavirus or those caring for children dealing with school closings were guaranteed paid leave.
The legislation contains a number of other provisions: The bill includes $ 82 billion to help reopen the schools. $ 45 billion for public transportation systems; $ 27 billion to help states advance Covid-19 testing; and $ 15 billion in small business loans specifically designed for theaters and small venues that have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. The bill also includes $ 15 billion in aid to airlines – which would be required to bring back employees on leave – according to Reuters.
It also includes language to ban surprise medical bills for emergency care, the result of months of bipartisan negotiations to end the practice, which is helping some patients receive large medical bills from providers outside the network.
Finally, the bill also includes new guidelines for the Federal Reserve after Republicans – led by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) – called for the Fed’s most recent emergency loan programs to be removed from a final version of the bill.
As Emily Stewart from Vox has stated that the Fed will be forced to cancel several CARES Act-funded emergency loan programs this spring and that they cannot be restarted without the approval of Congress. The unused part of the is also returned $ 454 billion Congress assigned it to the Treasury Department under the CARES Act The Fed had agreed 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. An additional deferral of federal student loan payments is also not included in the agreement. Michael Stratford from Politico reports.
How long will it be before people get help?
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke on CNBC Monday morning about an optimistic timetable for when Americans will see relief in the form of stimulus checks.
“The good news is that this is a very, very quick way to get money into the economy,” Mnuchin said. “Let me emphasize, people will see this money early next week.”
However, due to the timing of help from the CARES Act, it could be a few weeks before people see direct relief from the legislation.
At the beginning of this year, the first round of direct payments was deposited in people’s bank accounts in mid-April: “Within two weeks after the CARES law came into force in March more than 81 million payments According to the Government Accountability Office, a total of more than $ 147 billion has been paid out through electronic transfers to recipients’ bank accounts. ” CNBC recently reported.
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. For more information on what to expect with stimulus payments in the coming weeks, please see Vox’s statement here.
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. By the time much of that money goes to those who need it, the programs they are supposed to renew have expired for weeks.
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 businesses to close or slow down their businesses to prevent the disease from spreading.
Give the gift of understanding
In April, Vox launched an opportunity for readers to support our work with financial contributions – and we were blown away by the response. This year, the support of our founding staff has helped us develop projects that millions have relied on to understand a year of chaos and protect their families. The support of our readers helps us to rely less on advertising and to keep our resource-intensive work free for all who need it. We want to add 2,020 more founding members to our support base by the end of the year. Help us achieve our goal by contributing to Vox today from as little as $ 3.