The U.S. Capitol Building following a rainstorm on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 4, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters
Congress’ deal on a $900 billion coronavirus relief plan includes more small business aid, another round of direct payments to Americans, an additional unemployment supplement and funding to streamline Covid vaccine distribution.
Lawmakers aimed to pass the package Monday, alongside a $1.4 trillion government funding proposal. The badly needed aid comes as millions of Americans struggle to pay for food and housing, and face the potential loss of unemployment benefits and eviction protections in the coming days.
Many economists and lawmakers say the measure will help but will not go nearly far enough to curb the damage households and small businesses have suffered during the pandemic.
Congressional leaders had not released the bill text by Monday morning. Comments from congressional leaders and summaries from their offices shed some light on the legislation’s major provisions.
- It would add a $300 per week federal unemployment insurance supplement through mid-March. The plan would also extend the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs, which expanded jobless benefits eligibility and allowed people to continue to receive insurance after their state assistance ran out, through mid-March.
- The bill would put $284 billion into Paycheck Protection Program loans, which can be forgiven, and allow hard-hit small businesses to draw a second round of funding. It would include $20 billion in grants for companies in low-income areas and money set aside for loans from community-based and minority-owned lenders.
- The package would send direct payments of $600 to most Americans — down from the $1,200 passed in March as part of the CARES Act. Families will also get $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 sum. The payments will phase out until they stop for individuals and couples who made $99,000 and $198,000, respectively. Mixed-status households, in which a member of the family does not have a Social Security number, will also receive payments, retroactive to the CARES Act.
- The bill would extend the federal eviction moratorium through Jan. 31. It would put $25 billion into a rental assistance fund, which state and local governments would allocate to people to use for past due and future rent or utilities payments.
- The plan would put more than $8 billion into distribution of the two FDA-approved Covid-19 vaccines. It would also set aside $20 billion to make sure Americans get the shot for free. It would direct 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 measure would put $13 billion into boosting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits by 15% and funding food banks, among other programs.
- The bill would put $45 billion into transportation, including at least $15 billion for airline payroll assistance, $14 billion for transit systems and $10 billion for state highways.
- The legislation would direct $82 billion into education, including more than $54 billion for public K-12 schools and nearly $23 billion for higher education. Schools require additional resources such as personal protective equipment to stay open safely.
- It puts $10 billion into child care assistance.
- The proposal would send $15 billion in aid to live event venues, movie theaters and cultural museums.
- The measure sets aside $7 billion to increase broadband access.
- It would phase out emergency Federal Reserve lending powers established by the CARES Act at the end of the year, and repurpose $429 billion in unused funds. A proposal backed by GOP Sen. Pat Toomey to prevent the Fed from setting up “similar” programs in the future temporarily tripped up the final push to craft a rescue package. The parties eventually settled on language that would not allow the Fed to set up identical lending provisions.
— NBC News contributed to this report