Finally. After months of on-again, off-again negotiations, Congress has passed a new COVID-19 relief bill.
The $900 billion bill, which passed late Monday by a vote of 359-53 in the House of Representatives and 92-6 in the Senate, now needs to be signed by the president. Lawmakers had scrambled to get a deal done before a number of provisions were set to expire next week, leaving millions without unemployment benefits or protection from eviction.
Here are the highlights:
- Adults earning $75,000 or less will get one-time stimulus checks of $600, plus an additional $600 per qualifying child. Higher earners will get $5 less for every $100 of additional income. (It was not immediately clear if the per-child payment would phase out or not.) People could get their money as soon as the beginning of next week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told MSNBC in an interview Monday.
- People on regular state-administered unemployment insurance will receive a federal supplement of $300 a week through March 14. This reinstates a benefit provided earlier this year under the CARES Act, but at half the rate.
- Two pandemic unemployment programs established by the CARES Act will continue through March 14 (or April 5 for someone who is already on one by March 14 and hasn’t exhausted their benefits.) The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program allows self-employed people and gig workers to collect unemployment when they wouldn’t otherwise be eligible. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program awards unemployment benefits beyond the typical 26 weeks. The extension period had been an extra 13 weeks under the CARES Act, but the new bill revised that to 24 weeks.
- A nationwide moratorium on renter evictions will be extended one month, to Jan. 31, and state and local governments will receive $25 billion to support emergency rental assistance programs that have been exhausting their funds.
- Notably absent from the bill is an additional reprieve for those with federal student loans. An earlier proposal would have extended forbearance to April 1 from Jan. 31.
Among other provisions of the relief bill:
- $73 billion for the development, manufacture, and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as testing, tracing, and other virus-related public health initiatives.
- $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, a forgivable loan program for small businesses. Democrats said the bill included key modifications and expanded eligibility that would better assist the smallest businesses, nonprofits, and independent restaurants, among others.
- $82 billion to support education through the Education Stabilization Fund and $54 billion to help elementary and high schools upgrade HVAC systems and address learning loss among students during remote learning.
- $15 billion for the Small Business Administration to make grants for eligible operators of live venues, museums, and movie theaters that demonstrate loss of business.
- $14 billion in operating relief for transit systems, $10 billion to help state and local transportation departments make up for lost toll revenue, and $15 billion to make grants to airline workers.
The COVID-19 relief is part of a spending package that includes the 2021 appropriations bill and numerous other bills. Among those is the No Surprises Act, which puts an end to surprise medical billing involving unsuspecting patients getting large bills from out-of-network providers.