WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are expected to vote Monday on a $900 billion coronavirus aid package that would provide assistance for American households and businesses.
The measure comes after weeks of negotiations during which Democratic and Republican leaders clashed over how much government assistance to provide, and whether the focus should be on items such as jobless benefits or keeping open the economy.
It also comes during a surge in COVID-19 infections, with the United States recording nearly 18 million confirmed cases — adding more than 200,000 cases per day — and with the country’s death toll standing at more than 317,000 people, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
House and Senate leaders announced Sunday the measure included $600 direct payments to most people, with the amount phasing out for those with incomes above $75,000 per year. A previous round of $1,200 stimulus payments was included in a much larger coronavirus relief bill in March.
The new bill also includes $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, an initiative meant to help businesses keep workers employed during a period in which the economic pressure of the pandemic may have forced added layoffs.
There is also $300 per week in unemployment benefits for 11 weeks, as well as $82 billion for local schools and universities, $25 billion in rental assistance, $15 billion for theaters and $10 billion for child care. There is also $4 billion to help other countries with vaccination efforts for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“There will be another major rescue package for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Sunday. “As our citizens continue battling the coronavirus this holiday season, they will not be fighting alone.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the relief bill is just a first step.
“It is not the end of the story, it is not the end of the job,” Schumer told reporters. “Anyone who thinks this bill is enough does not know what’s going on in America.”
President-elect Joe Biden expressed the same stance as he welcomed the announcement of the aid deal, saying in a statement the “work is far from over.”
“Immediately, starting in the new year, Congress will need to get to work on support for our COVID-19 plan, for support to struggling families, and investments in jobs and economic recovery. There will be no time to waste,” Biden said.
President Donald Trump did not immediately comment on the aid deal.
Deal on Fed Removes Obstacle to US COVID Relief
Voting could be as early as Sunday
Work on the bill was stalled by disagreements between Democrats and Republicans about key issues for both sides. The measure announced Sunday did not include the legal liability protections for businesses that Republicans sought, nor did it have extra aid for state and local governments that Democrats wanted.
The coronavirus aid bill is part of a wider $1.4 trillion spending package that would fund the U.S. government through September.
Lawmakers passed a series of stopgap funding bills in recent days to avoid a government shutdown as they negotiated the final details. The House and Senate both passed on Sunday the latest extension, lasting through Monday.