Stimulus update: Agreement on $900B COVID-19 relief package reached with leaner $600 direct payments

Agreement on $900B COVID-19 relief package reached with leaner $600 direct payments

WASHINGTON — UPDATE: The text of the 5,593-page COVID-19 relief package and omnibus spending bill was released Monday afternoon after a delay due to technical issues. Lawmakers are preparing for a late night as the House debate on the bill is expected to get underway this afternoon, with votes to follow, before the bill moves to the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced late Sunday that lawmakers have finalized an economic relief package valued at roughly $900 billion, multiple media outlets reported.

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“More help is on the way. Moments ago, in consultation with our committees, the four leaders of the Senate and House finalized an agreement for another major rescue package for the American people,” McConnell said, according to The Washington Post.

Barring any “last-minute obstacles,” McConnell said lawmakers need only “promptly finalize text,” the Post reported.

According to The New York Times, the slimmed down stimulus package still provides direct payments and jobless aid to individuals, as well as funds for small businesses, hospitals, schools and vaccine distribution.

The agreement, reached following a months-long stalemate, came only hours before the federal government was set to run out of funds, the Post reported.

Per the agreement, individuals will receive $600 each, or half the amount paid out from the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted in March. A major difference in this second round, however, is that each person in the household receives $600, regardless of age, as opposed to parents receiving $500 per child during the first round.

The agreement revives supplemental federal unemployment benefits at $300 per week, also half the amount distributed during the first relief wave, the Times reported.

According to CNN, the compromise will also provide:

• Aid for struggling small businesses, including more than $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans and $15 billion “in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions”;

• $25 billion for rental assistance and an eviction moratorium extension;

• $82 billion for education providers like schools and colleges, including aid to help reopen classrooms safely;

• $10 billion to help with child care assistance;

• $13 billion in increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and child nutrition benefits;

• $7 billion to bolster broadband access to help Americans connect remotely during the pandemic;

• Funding totaling in the billions of dollars to support coronavirus vaccine distribution, testing and contract tracing efforts and health care workers; and

• A tax credit “to support employers offering paid sick leave.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released the following joint statement: “We are going to crush the virus and put money in the pockets of the American people.”

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Democrats on a caucus call that the House will vote on Monday on the final COVID-19 relief package along with the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill for a new fiscal year, CNN reported.

In exchange for reaching the agreement in time to adjourn for Christmas, Democrats agreed to omit a direct stream of aid to state and local governments, and Republicans agreed to drop a sweeping coronavirus liability shield, the Times reported.

In addition, McConnell told the outlet that the legislation is expected to repurpose nearly $500 billion previously allocated under prior packages.

McConnell did not indicate when the legislation would be formally introduced or brought up for a vote.

“I’m hopeful we can do this as promptly as possible,” he said.

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