The U.S. Capitol building after a rainstorm on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 4, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters
Congressional agreement on a $ 900 billion plan to fight coronavirus includes more aid to small businesses, another round of direct payments to Americans, an additional unemployment benefit, and funding to streamline the distribution of Covid vaccines.
Legislators wanted to pass the package on Monday along with a government funding proposal of $ 1.4 trillion. Much-needed help comes when millions of Americans struggle to pay for food and housing and face the potential loss of unemployment benefits and evacuation protection in the days to come.
Many economists and lawmakers say the measure will help, but it won’t go far enough to contain the damage households and small businesses have suffered during the pandemic.
The leaders of Congress had not published the text by Monday morning. Comments from Congress leaders and summaries from their offices shed light on key provisions of the legislation.
- A weekly unemployment insurance surcharge of $ 300 per week would be added by mid-March. The plan would also extend the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs, which expand unemployment benefits and allow people to continue receiving insurance until mid-March after their government support expires.
- The bill would put $ 284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans that are available, which would allow hard-hit small businesses to get a second round of funding. It would include $ 20 billion in grants for businesses in low-income areas and money for loans from community and minority lenders.
- The package would send direct payments of $ 600 to most Americans – up from $ 1,200 that was passed under the CARES bill in March. Families also receive $ 600 per child. Individuals who earned up to $ 75,000 per year and couples who made up to $ 150,000 in 2019 will receive the full amount. Payments will expire until ceased for individuals and couples who have earned $ 99,000 and $ 198,000, respectively. Mixed status households where a family member does not have a social security number will also receive payments retrospectively under the CARES Act.
- The law would extend the federal eviction moratorium to January 31. It would put $ 25 billion into a rental assistance fund that states and municipalities would make available to people for use in past due and future rent or utility payments.
- The plan would allocate more than $ 8 billion to distribute the two FDA-approved Covid-19 vaccines. It would also set aside $ 20 billion to make sure Americans got the shot for free. It would send at least $ 20 billion to states for testing and contact tracing efforts.
- During the worst hunger crisis the U.S. has seen in years, the move would raise $ 13 billion to boost Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits by 15%, including funding food banks.
- The bill would allocate $ 45 billion for transportation, including at least $ 15 billion for airline payroll assistance, $ 14 billion for transit systems, and $ 10 billion for state highways.
- The legislation would pour $ 82 billion into education, including more than $ 54 billion for K-12 public schools and nearly $ 23 billion for higher education. Schools need additional resources like personal protective equipment to stay open safely.
- This will spend $ 10 billion on childcare.
- The proposal would send $ 15 billion to live venues, cinemas, and cultural museums.
- The move provides $ 7 billion to improve broadband access.
- It would expire the Federal Reserve’s end-of-year emergency powers established by the CARES Act and recycle $ 429 billion in unused funds. A proposal, backed by GOP Senator Pat Toomey, to prevent the Fed from setting up “similar” programs in the future temporarily sparked the last attempt to create a bailout. The parties eventually chose a language that would not allow the Fed to issue identical loan regulations.
– NBC News contributed to this report