Second stimulus check update: $600 payments and more in final deal. Here are the details.

Posted Dec 20, 2020

There’s a $600 government payment, 11 additional weeks of unemployment benefits and more help for small businesses in the new coronavirus stimulus bill that is expected to pass later Sunday or Monday.

The negotiations are done and congressional leaders of both parties in both houses have signed off on the contents, paving the way for the House and Senate to debate and approve the measure.

“More help is on the way,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced on the Senate floor. “It will be another major rescue package for the American people. If our citizens continue to battle the coronavirus this holiday season, they will not fight alone.”

The measure is expected to be added to the massive legislation funding the federal government through Sept. 30. Final passage is expected Monday, requiring another short-term spending bill to keep the government open past Sunday.

The $900 billion stimulus legislation is less than half of the $2 trillion bill approved by House Democrats in October, but more than the $500 billion that Senate Republicans failed twice to pass. More than half of the funds, $560 billion, previously was approved in the CARES Act but not spent.

And it will be the second biggest stimulus bill ever, second only to the $2 trillion CARES Act.

The price tag is about the amount of the compromise proposal offered by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives, including N.J. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., that jump-started negotiations earlier this month.

Gottheimer called the agreement “a Christmas miracle.”

“This bipartisan, bicameral agreement is an essential down payment that our country desperately needs,” he said.

Gov. Phil Murphy said that the final agreement fell far below the $3 trillion to $4 trillion that was really needed to respond to the pandemic.

“Is the stuff in this bill stuff that we’ll take? Yes,” he said Sunday on MSNBC. “But even those programs are not big enough. and the scope of this compromise is not nearly as big enough in its entirety.”

“This is not a normal, even somewhat normal, recession. This is a historical period, we need to meet this moment with strength and with passion and big numbers. and right now, none of that is happening.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the legislation was only the beginning and expected a bigger stimulus bill once President-elect Joe Biden took office.

“This bill is a good bill,” he said at a press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Sunday evening. “But it is not the end of the story. It is not the end of the job.”

President Donald Trump, who will have to sign the bill, earlier pushed Congress to act. “GET IT DONE,” he tweeted.

Here’s what’s in the final deal:

Direct payments. There would be $600 payments for adults and children, though not for adult dependents. The payments would begin phasing out at incomes exceeding $75,000 ($150,000 for couples filing jointly) up to $99,000 ($198,000 for couples). Couples where one spouse is not a citizen will be eligible for funding.

More than 9 in 10 New Jersey individuals and 80% of married couples qualified for some stimulus payment under the CARES Act. As was the case in the earlier round of checks, the payments do not reflect the higher cost of living in the Garden State.

Unemployment insurance. Pandemic unemployment insurance programs scheduled to expire at the end of the year would be extended 11 weeks into March. Those receiving unemployment insurance would get an extra $300 a week, but those payments would not be made retroactive. Contract and gig workers would continue to be eligible for unemployment insurance payments.

State and local assistance. While there is no new money, the end of the year deadline for states and localities to spend their previous allocations was extended to the end of 2021. New Jersey received $2.4 billion.

Small business aid. A $284 billion paycheck protection program would be revived for businesses with 300 or fewer employees that lost a percentage amount of revenue. There are targeted funds for bars and restaurants. There is assistance for for nonprofits and for local newspapers, and television and radio broadcasters.

There also is $20 billion for economic development loans for smaller businesses.

Rental assistance. States and localities would receive $25 billion to help cover tenants’ rents and utilities, including back payments. A moratorium on evictions would be extended through the end of January.

Live entertainment. Venues hosting live events, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions would receive $15 billion.

Transportation. The legislation includes $47 billion, which includes $18 billion for airlines, contractors and airports; $14 billion for public transportation agencies including NJ Transit; $10 billion for state highways, $2 billion for buses and ferries; and $1 billion for Amtrak.

Vaccines. Around $30 billion is set aside to help obtain and distribute the vaccine, some of it going to states. The states also will receive $22 billion for coronavirus testing, testing and mitigation efforts.

Education. Aid for schools and colleges would total $82 billion, including $54 billion for elementary and secondary schools, and $20 billion for colleges and universities.

Rental assistance. States and localities would receive $25 billion to help cover tenants’ rents and utilities, including back payments. A moratorium on evictions would be extended to Jan. 31.

Nutrition. The bill includes $13 billion to increase the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (better known as food stamps), child nutrition benefits, food banks and senior programs. There also is $13 billion for farmers and ranchers.

Child care. There is more than $10 billion for child care providers and other programs.

Broadband. With classroom learning taking place online due to the pandemic, the legislation includes $5 billion to make broadband more available for low-income families and expand it in rural areas.

Postal Service. The $10 billion loan included in the CARES Act would not have to be repaid.

“This bill provides the resources we need to crush the coronavirus pandemic,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-6th Dist.

The final hurdle was cleared Saturday evening when a compromise was reached on an effort led by U.S. Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., to limit Federal Reserve efforts to boost the economy during the current coronavirus-induced economic downturn.

Those programs were scheduled to end Dec. 31, but Democrats said Toomey’s proposal would have made it harder for the Fed to take other steps to help the economy during incoming President Joe Biden’s administration.

On a conference call with reporters on Sunday, Toomey expressed concern that the programs would be used as a back door way to help state and local governments after Senate Republicans successfully kept a $160 billion package out of the final bill after Democrats refused to protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

The compromise required those programs approved in the earlier CARES Act to end this year as planned, but allow the Fed to develop other ways to help the economy.

Congressional Republicans, including current Vice President Mike Pence when he was a Republican representative from Indiana, also had fought Federal Reserve efforts to help the economy recover from the Great Recession once President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who tried unsuccessfully to raise the stimulus payments to $1,200, as was in two House-passed bills that the Senate refused to take up, said he would support the $600 figure.

“The fact that we can spend so much on every other priority under the sun tells you where the, sadly where the priorities are in Congress,” Hawley told reporters at the Capitol, according to pool reports. “But I do want to see relief go to working families.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2020-12-21 03:41:08 -0800