President Trump on Sunday night signed a $900 billion stimulus bill into law, avoiding a government shutdown after he demanded changes to the sprawling package and held up the legislation’s enactment.
The funding comes at a critical time for the recovery as the coronavirus pandemic is overwhelming the nation’s health-care system.
Congress approved the relief package one week ago. But because of Trump’s surprise insistence that lawmakers reopen negotiations, the legislation was not enacted before 14 million Americans lost unemployment aid the day after Christmas.
Here’s what’s in the bill and what’s out.
In: Stimulus checks, jobless benefits, aid for businesses, schools and child care; money for vaccine distribution
- The legislation includes $600 stimulus checks per person, including adults and children. That means a family of four would receive $2,400, up to a certain income threshold.
- The size of the payment decreases for people who earned more than $75,000 in the 2019 tax year. The check disappears altogether for those who earned more than $99,000.
- The size of the checks, or their existence at all, had been a point of contention over weeks of negotiations. Trump ultimately put the entire bill in jeopardy after posting a video Tuesday night pushing for $2,000 checks and demanding changes before signing the bill into law. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) have also pushed for larger checks. Some previous proposals didn’t include checks at all.
- Congress will extend unemployment benefits of up to $300 per week. Because Trump did not sign the legislation last week, the benefit that could have kicked in as early as Dec. 27 has now been delayed for scores of Americans. The extension runs at least through March 14.
- The bill also extends Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — which targets part-time and gig workers who did not qualify for state unemployment insurance benefits — for 11 weeks. But the new legislation also requires applicants to provide documentation proving employment or self-employment within 21 days of applying for the benefits. Those extending their benefits before Jan. 31 have 90 days to submit the documentation.
- About 20.6 million people are still on some form of unemployment aid, although officials say that number is inflated by duplicate claims and issues tied to backlogs in state unemployment systems. Weekly jobless claims have been back on the rise in recent weeks as families headed into the holiday season.
- The Cares Act provided $600 in enhanced weekly unemployment benefits. Those benefits expired at the end of July, affecting nearly 30 million workers.
- Trump’s inaction last week meant another benefits cliff affected about 14 million Americans, including those on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, the unemployment insurance extension available for people who have exhausted regular benefits after what is usually about six months.
- Over the summer, Trump approved an additional $300 in emergency jobless benefits. That money quickly ran dry.
Relief for businesses
- The bill includes more than $284 billion for first and second forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans, expanded PPP eligibility for nonprofit organizations and news outlets, and modifications to the program to serve small businesses, nonprofit organizations and independent restaurants.
- The language ensures that churches and faith-based organizations are eligible for PPP loans, according to a summary circulated by the office of House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).
- Businesses that received PPP loans and had them forgiven will be allowed to deduct the costs covered by those loans on their federal tax returns. Although the issue had been a point of contention, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said the costs would be deductible under the final agreement.
- The package provides $15 billion for the entertainment industry, including independent movie theaters, entertainment venues, music clubs and cultural institutions. The money marks the largest public rescue of the arts and entertainment industry in U.S. history and gave some reassurance to “Save Our Stages” efforts begun during the pandemic.
- The deal includes $20 billion for targeted grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program.
- The package also includes a tax break for corporate meal expenses urged by the White House and denounced by Democrats. Trump promoted the tax break, dubbed the “three-martini lunch” deduction by opponents, as a way to revive the restaurant industry.
- Lawmakers said they reserved some of the PPP funding for “very small” businesses, as well as lending through community-based lenders and minority depository institutions.
Emergency rental assistance and eviction moratoriums
- The agreement extends until Jan. 31 a moratorium on evictions that was slated to expire at the end of the year. The incoming Biden administration can extend the deadline further.
- The bill includes $25 billion in emergency assistance to renters.
Money for vaccine distribution
- The bill includes $20 billion for the purchase of coronavirus vaccines “that will make the vaccine available at no charge for anyone who needs it,” according to a summary circulated by Scalise’s office. It also provides $8 billion for vaccine distribution and includes $20 billion to assist states with coronavirus testing.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that billions were “reserved specifically for combating the disparities facing communities of color, and to support our heroic health care workers and providers.”
- Colleges and schools will receive $82 billion, including $22.7 billion earmarked for colleges and universities and $54.3 billion for elementary and secondary education. Tuition revenue has shrunk, as has enrollment, and colleges are spending more than anticipated on coronavirus testing and financial aid.
- Lawmakers also struck a deal on $10 billion for child-care assistance.
- The House GOP summary specified $45 billion for transportation, including $16 billion for another round of airline employee and contractor payroll support; $14 billion for transit; $10 billion for highways; $2 billion for intercity buses; $2 billion for airports; and $1 billion for Amtrak.
- Tens of thousands of workers who were furloughed from the aviation industry breathed a sigh of relief. The stimulus funding will be used to extend the Payroll Support Program, which provided money to keep flight attendants, reservations agents and pilots employed. Airlines and unions saw more than 30,000 of their colleagues furloughed when the program expired at the end of September.
- Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) tweeted that the bill secured more than $800 million in relief for public transit in the Washington region. The money will offer a life raft for Metro services and significantly reduce the transportation agency’s need to cut weekend rail service, lay off one-third of its workforce, close stations and cut Metrobus service in half.
- The package includes legislation to end surprise billing for emergency and scheduled care; provides a tax credit to support employers offering paid sick leave; and $7 billion to increase access to broadband.
- Lawmakers also agreed on $26 billion for nutrition assistance and agriculture and rural programs. Of that pot, $13 billion provides nutrition assistance for food-insecure Americans. The other $13 billion goes to agricultural assistance and programs. The fishing industry will get $300 million.
- The bill also includes $1.4 billion in new funding for Trump’s border wall with Mexico and new border security technology, Scalise said.
Out: Aid for state and local governments; corporate liability protections
Aid to state and local governments
- The bill lacks new money for state and local governments. Democrats had initially pushed for $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments. Mayors and governors have been sounding alarms over budget shortfalls and the hard choices they may be forced to make without help from Washington. States that rely heavily on the tourism or energy industries are among those that have been hit hardest and are warning of tax increases, public-sector layoffs or spending cuts to public programs.
- Still, negotiators are extending the deadline for states and cities to use unspent money approved for them by the Cares Act, giving governments until year’s end before the money must be returned.
- One of the most fought-over issues between Republicans and Democrats revolved around whether companies can be sued by workers over coronavirus outbreaks. Democrats wanted protections for workers, while Republicans warned against a slate of potential lawsuits.
- For weeks, lawmakers from both parties attempted to reach a compromise on the “liability shield” so infighting didn’t hold up a broader economic relief bill.
Unemployment and stimulus reductions
- The bill reduced the amount in weekly jobless benefits from the $600 that unemployed Americans received over the spring and summer.
- The package does not include hazard pay for essential workers.
- The bill does not extend stimulus checks to adult dependents.