Congress passes facilitation and authorities funding regulation
House Spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) returns after the house opens after receiving a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) aid package on December 21, 2020 on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, the previous evening had agreed.
Ken Cedeno | Reuters
Congress passed a mammoth coronavirus aid and government spending package on Monday evening to provide lengthy relief in the fight against a one-time health and economic crisis in a century.
Both chambers easily agreed to more than $ 2 trillion in legislation dragging late into the night. Congress leaders have allocated $ 900 billion in pandemic aid for a $ 1.4 trillion effort to fund the government through September 30th.
The House approved the package with 359-53 votes. The Senate then passed it by a margin of 92-6.
At the same time, Congress passed a seven-day emergency law to keep the government open during the time necessary for the year-round legislation to reach President Donald Trump’s desk.
The bill would send the help Americans needed for the first time since spring – though it will be too late for families struggling to eat and stay in their homes or small businesses that have already had to shut their doors permanently becomes. The package includes, among other things, an increase in unemployment benefits, more small business loans, an additional $ 600 in direct payment, and funding to streamline the critical distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.
Trump is expected to sign it in the coming days, weeks before he leaves office.
When Congress rushed to approve one of the largest bailout plans in American history, lawmakers had only a few hours to process the 5,000-page piece of legislation. They wanted to break two key deadlines: phasing out pandemic-era unemployment programs that would see 12 million people lose benefits the day after Christmas and ending a federal eviction moratorium that could leave tens of millions of people vulnerable to losing their homes at the end of the month.
Lawmakers, especially Democrats, likely won’t wait long to seek more help. On Monday, Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate Minority, DN.Y., called it “a good bill” but said it could “not be the end of the story”.
Key provisions of the legislation include adding an unemployment benefit of $ 300 per week through mid-March and expanding programs that allow freelancers and gig workers to be eligible for benefits. It sends payments of $ 600 to individuals earning up to $ 75,000 and couples filing together and earning up to $ 150,000. The bill adds another $ 600 for each child.
The move provides for $ 284 billion in small business loans under the paycheck protection program. It invests more than $ 8 billion in vaccine distribution and $ 20 billion in ensuring Americans get free shots. The bill also provides at least $ 20 billion more for Covid-19 testing and contact tracing.
The bill extends the federal eviction moratorium through January 31 and funds rental subsidies of $ 25 billion. US $ 13 billion is being poured into food aid to increase the maximum benefit of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by 15%. The bill also provides $ 82 billion for education and $ 45 billion for transportation.
The package includes $ 15 billion in wage support for U.S. airlines affected by the pandemic. Because of the additional funding, airlines will have to recall more than 32,000 workers they took on leave this fall and keep employees on payroll through March. The new aid round is on top of the $ 25 billion received under the CARES bill last March.
Earlier Monday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Called the bill a “historic bailout” and said Americans had waited “long enough” for additional help.
The passage of the bill follows months in which lawmakers stopped providing aid amid a public health crisis that killed more than 310,000 people and an economic collapse that plunged millions into poverty. After lawmakers passed the $ 2 trillion CARES bill in March, the Democrats passed a $ 3 trillion relief bill in May in the House.
Republicans questioned the need for more federal aid for several months. Then, in July, McConnell began sponsoring a roughly $ 500 billion plan.
Democrats later passed another more than $ 2 trillion package in October while the party blocked $ 500 billion proposals in the Senate. House Spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Repeatedly cited a fundamental disagreement between the parties about how bad the crisis was and what role the federal government should play in it.
McConnell accused the Democrats of doing all or nothing.
A final attempt by Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to reach an agreement before the November 3 elections failed. Then the negotiations of a bipartisan Senate and a house group on an agreement in the last few weeks helped to resume discussions among the Congress leaders.
While most of Congress has welcomed the recent bill as at least a first step in helping the country through the crisis, economists and Democrats have said the country will need more relief. President-elect Joe Biden and his allies in Congress have insisted that as soon as the new president takes office on January 20, they will press for more aid – including new aid to state and local governments.
“We are taking this bill forward today as the first step. … We are ready for the next step,” wrote Pelosi to the House Democrats on Monday.
– CNBC’s Leslie Josephs contributed to this report
– Update: This story has been updated to reflect the bill that the Senate passed by 92-6 votes. The wrong number of votes was originally announced in the Senate.
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