Ending a months-long deadlock and intense negotiations, lawmakers from the House and Senate are set to vote late Monday on a nearly $900 billion Covid-19 relief package paired with a $1.4 trillion measure to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
House GOP explained the delay, noting that House Democrats, in a concerted effort to deny a win for President Trump before the election, held up aid to small businesses and workers and delayed funding for vaccine procurement and distribution.
The final COVID Relief package is a net of roughly $325 billion after rescinding $429 billion in Federal Reserve 13(3) authority provided by the CARES Act and repurposing unused PPP funds. It would authorize a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit for the next 10 weeks and $600 direct payments to most Americans, with $600 payments included for dependents. It includes a variety of school funding, vaccine, and other public health-related measures. The bill also includes over $35 billion for green energy initiatives, funding to foreign countries, and a number of social welfare programs backed by Democrats.
- $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans and the expansion of its eligibility for 501(c)(6) nonprofits
- Second loan applications for businesses with “severe” revenue reductions
- $20 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program
- $45 billion to support transportation services, including $2 billion for airports, $1 billion for Amtrak, and $16 billion for additional airline employee and contractor payroll support
- A $15 billion assistance program for movie theaters, live music venues, and museums that have endured “significant” revenue loss
- $9 billion for community development financial institutions and minority deposit institutions
- $25 billion for direct rental assistance and eviction moratorium extension
- $82 billion in education funding for schools and colleges, including $10 billion for child care assistance and aid to help classrooms reopen safely
- $7 billion to reinforce broadband access to help the population connect remotely during the pandemic
- $20 billion to buy vaccines and make them available at no charge to “anyone who needs it,” and $8 billion for vaccine distribution
- $20 billion for coronavirus testing efforts
- An end to surprise medical billing
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will likely stay and vote tonight on the massive relief omnibus package, saying, “What the country needs is exactly what we are going to pass later tonight.”
— New York Post (@nypost) December 21, 2020
Not included in the current package is liability shield protection, a plan that McConnell supports along with the Trump Administration and Senate Republicans that would restrict COVID-19 related lawsuits. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin has called for “robust” protections “for businesses, schools, and universities.” In an interview with Fox News on Monday, McConnell noted that if they work on another relief bill in early 2021, he will “insist” liability protections against coronavirus lawsuits are included. Industry groups say that without immunity from liability, they’ll face excessive litigation.
Mnuchin said Monday that the federal government will deposit the stimulus payments into bank accounts next week, emphasizing that people will quickly see the money. He added that he supported a more targeted approach that focused on boosting industries hit by the pandemic, noting that unemployment has come way down, and the relief is now much more focused.
In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, it is important to look at the Covid-19 “stimulus bill” in its entirety because it goes way beyond addressing the economic consequences of the lockdown. It is a massive federal spending package that is on the table every year. The rest of the enormous bill focuses on many other aspects unrelated to the pandemic, including funding foreign countries. Bill Gates helped get $3.36 billion added to the package to help vaccinate the world’s poor, saying stimulus negotiations would be the “best opportunity” to get the funding approved.
After the bill is processed by the House Rules Committee, which met at 2:45 ET on Monday, it will move to the House floor before final action in the Senate. With the government on the brink of another shutdown at midnight, there will be no ability to amend the legislation, and lawmakers will be left to a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.