U.S. Congress has reached a deal on an economic stimulus package worth almost $900 billion. The bill includes additional relief for small businesses along with direct payment to American families who are currently suffering from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Next to the $2.2 trillion “Cares Act” in March of this year, the deal reached on Sunday is the second-largest economic relief package in U.S. history. The agreement breaks months of deadlock at a time when any signs of economic recovery in the country have shown signs of faltering.
Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Republican Senate Majority leader, spoke late Sunday night at the conclusion of negotiations. McConnell said he could finally report on something that has been needed by the country for some time. He went on to say, “More help is on the way.”
The deal was hammered out between Democrat Nancy Pelosi, House speaker, and Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate. It came a matter of hours before current funding was scheduled to expire, which would have led to a government shutdown just days before Christmas.
The deal, according to McConnell, includes policies that are targeted to help struggling Americans who have waited far too long. The deal includes a $284.5 billion extension to the PPP, Paycheck Protection Program, along with additional money to aid with the distribution of approved COVID-19 vaccines.
Renew and Extend Federal Unemployment Benefits
McConnell also said the new stimulus package would renew and extend federal unemployment benefits for the thousands, perhaps millions, of people who have lost their source of income due to the pandemic.
The previously enacted “Cares Act” included payment up to $1,200 for each American adult who was subjected to a means test. The recently enacted package will provide up to $600 per individual, $1,200 for a married couple, and an additional $600 for each dependent child.
Although unemployment insurance is administered by state governments, the federal government also will top-up benefits by $300 per week through the middle of March 2021.
Over and above that mentioned, the deal includes $23 billion for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs. This program was known in the past as “food stamps.” An additional $25 billion is available to renters, and an additional $80 billion is being made available to schools and universities to allow them to conduct lessons in-person.
The current COVID-19 relief package has been tied to a spending bill designed to fund the federal government. On Sunday, Congress was set to pass an interim measure that would extend the current government funding through the end of Monday, December 21. This measure will provide lawmakers with time to review the stimulus bill prior to calling for a vote.
Lawmakers Insisted a Deal was Close
Leaders of Congress insisted a deal was close all last week. However, the negotiations somewhat were derailed when the Republic Senator from Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey, sought to insert language into the proposed bill preventing the Federal Reserve from reviving emergency credit facilities which are due to expire the last day of December.
After considerable discussion and negotiation, a bipartisan agreement was reached.
The deal still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives which is controlled by the Democrats, and the Senate which is Republican-controlled. Once approved, the bill will be sent for the signature of President Trump.
President-Elect Biden is quoted saying the passing of additional economic stimuli will be a top priority for him and his administration. Both Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer said that Sunday’s agreement was an important step and they look forward to meeting the needs of the American people under the incoming administration.
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