Congressional leaders reached an agreement on a $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief package on Sunday. Another round of pandemic assistance that includes direct payouts of $600 stimulus checks to Americans and a $300 per week unemployment extension bonus for the next 10 weeks.
Similar to the CARES Act, the $600 payments will go out to anyone who made less than $75,000 in 2019 or couples who made less than $150,000. A prorated amount will be determined for individuals who made between $75,000 and $100,000, and individuals who made $100,000+ are not eligible for a payment. A slight change with dependent payouts for this round of checks. Those individuals who received $500 per child back in the spring, will now receive $600 per dependent. Payments are expected to come in the next two weeks during the heart of the holiday season.
The COVID relief deal also includes $25 billion for rental assistance and extends the eviction moratorium until Jan. 31. Democrats are hopeful President-elect Biden will be able to extend the moratorium once he takes office in a month. It will also give more than $30 billion to support Coronavirus vaccine efforts, and $27 billion that will go towards COVID-19 testing sites and state healthcare programs.
Other programs that will see a boost include $82 billion for education funding, $45 billion for public transit systems and $13 billion for SNAP benefits. An additional $16 billion worth of relief for small business owners including help for minority-owned businesses, along with a $15 billion lifeline for theater operators and small venue owners through the Save our Stages Act.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said in a speech on the Senate floor on Sunday that “We have surmounted the final largest hurdle and an ending is in sight.” He went on to encourage his colleagues by saying, “Let’s get the job done together for the sake of the American people.”
A similar message from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who tweeted out, “More help is on the way.”
However, a different tone from some Democrats who saw the bipartisan agreement in a different light, especially after Congressional leaders waited months to pass a relief bill as millions of Americans have struggled.
“Let’s not forget that this is the same Mitch McConnell who has been holding up relief for 8 months while millions fall into poverty,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) tweeted in response to McConnell’s remarks on the deal.
Lawmakers worked through the weekend to pass key provisions of the package before Christmas, with funding for several of programs set to expire on Dec. 31.