Congress plans to pass on Monday a bipartisan $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill after intense negotiations over its final details. Leaders of both parties are lauding the agreement, claiming victory for provisions they were able to get in — and keep out. The measure includes up to a $600 relief check for many Americans as well as an assortment of aid for small businesses and money to purchase and distribute vaccines.
The pandemic relief is being passed as part of a bill to fund the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2021.
- $600 direct payment checks for every adult and child earning up to $75,000. Individuals earning between $75,000 and $99,000 would get smaller checks, and the benefit cuts out entirely for individuals earning over $99,000.
- Unemployment benefits: Lawmakers agreed to extend enhanced unemployment benefits for jobless workers, who will receive up to $300 per week through mid-March. Self-employed people and gig workers will also receive extended assistance.
- Rental assistance: The measure includes $25 billion to help families pay their rent, and it extends the eviction moratorium now in effect until Jan. 31.
- SNAP assistance: Democrats say the measure includes an additional $13 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
- PPP loans: The agreement includes some $284 billion for Paycheck Protection Program loans. Democrats say they expanded eligibility for the loans to include nonprofits and local newspapers, along with TV and radio stations. Also, $15 billion would be reserved for live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions, which have been struggling due to pandemic-forced closures.
- Child care centers: According to a Republican summary of the plan, the measure includes $10 billion for child care centers to help providers safely reopen.
- The agreement includes some $68 billion to purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines and help states conduct testing. According to the Republican summary, $20 billion of that funding will make the vaccine available at no cost for anybody needing it.
- The measure contains $7 billion to increase access to broadband Internet, including a new Emergency Broadband Benefit that Democrats say will help millions of students’ families and unemployed workers afford the broadband they need during the pandemic.
Lawmakers also agreed to provide $45 billion in transportation-related assistance, including:
- $16 billion for airlines to pay the salaries of workers and contractors.
- $14 billion for mass transit agencies.
- $10 billion for highways.
- $1 billion for Amtrak.
- The measure contains $82 billion in funding for schools and universities to assist with reopening, including, according to a Republican summary, $2.75 billion for private K-12 education.
- There is some $13 billion in the measure for farmers and agriculture, including money under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program for growers and livestock, dairy and poultry producers.
- The measure also includes a provision ending surprise medical billing.Republicans say patients would be required to receive a “true and honest cost estimate” three days before any scheduled procedure and that billing disputes would be subject to arbitration.
- Lawmakers also included a provision sought by President Trump, making the cost of meals a deductible business expense.