Congress approves relief package with stimulus checks, bill moves to President Trump

Stimulus check
Posted at 7:35 AM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 00:06:50-05

Both chambers of Congress voted on Monday on a long-awaited COVID-19 relief package. A deal was reached among Congressional leaders Sunday evening, who worked through the weekend to smooth over differences, after months of tense negotiations.

The vote passed the House by a 359-53 margin. Several hours later, the measure was approved by the US Senate by a 91-7 margin. The bill now goes to President Donald Trump for his approval.

The bill included $300-a-week in supplemental jobless benefits, direct payments of $600 for individuals, more than $300 billion in small business loans and more than $80 billion for schools, as well as billions for help with vaccine distribution.

The $600 checks only half of the $1,200 payments distributed under the federal CARES Act in the spring. People who made less than $75,000 in 2019 are eligible for the full $600, with the payments tapering off for those who made up to $100,000, according to a summary of the legislation circulated by lawmakers and published by The Washington Post. Parents will also get $600 per dependent child, an increase from the $500 given under the CARES Act. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC that Americans could begin seeing the payments in their bank accounts as soon as next week.

The relief bill is not expected to have money for state and local government aid, something Democrats had been pushing for as municipalities experience sharp declines in tax revenues.

However, the measure would extend the deadline for using CARES Act funding from earlier this year. The deadline to use that funding without losing it had been the end of the year.

The pandemic relief package is connected to a larger $1.4 trillion spending package that must get passed by Congress to keep the government running and fund it through September 30, 2021.

Click here to see the full text of the bill.

Congress passed a two-day government funding bill Friday evening to push the shutdown deadline to Sunday night at midnight. The House then approved a one-day extension of government funding Sunday night, which Trump signed, according to the Washington Post, to allow the COVID-19 relief package to be finalized so both measures can be voted on together.

The possibility of a relief bill deal happened earlier in the day Sunday, after late-night conversations Saturday over a key sticking point about the role of the Federal Reserve.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey had pushed a provision late last week to pull back to the role of the central bank’s emergency lending authority, after it was given some abilities with the CARES ACT earlier this year. He wanted to rescind some of the unused funds from the emergency loan program, as well as stop some of the changes to the Fed approved in the CARES Act.

Democrats said the provision would tie the hands of President-elect Biden’s administration and limit options for aid in 2021. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer worked with Toomey late into the night Saturday to work out a compromise.

Trump has not been involved in recent talks about a relief package, and it is not clear how he will respond to the latest deal.