After months of bitter partisan gridlock, Congress reached an agreement Sunday night on a $900 billion stimulus package designed to aid ailing Americans and businesses in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The deal is approximately half the size of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package the government passed in March at the start of the pandemic. Both chambers of Congress approved the package, and final votes (and President Trump’s signature) are expected to crystallize the legislations into law as early as today, the New York Times reports.
The stimulus package will provide $600 payments to millions of American adults who earn up to $75,000, and also revive supplemental federal unemployment benefits, adding $300 a week to unemployment checks for a period of 11 weeks.
It will also provide more than $284 billion to businesses, and bring back the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Small Business Administration’s loan program designed to incentivize small businesses to keep employees on the payroll. So-called PPP loans are forgiven by the government when business owners demonstrate they’ve used the loan to fund paychecks.
When the loans were introduced as part of the first coronavirus stimulus package, the payouts mitigated the nation’s unemployment claims to some extent (though unemployment still initially spiked). And though many small business owners had trouble with the loan approval process (which had a rocky rollout and was ill-defined at the start), the program proved popular with independent retailers, including jewelers across the U.S.
But keeping employees on the payroll becomes a moot exercise if consumers don’t feel safe enough to shop brick-and-mortars. Thus, the new stimulus package appropriates billions of dollars for COVID-19 testing, tracing, and vaccine distribution.
President-elect Joe Biden said in a prepared statement last night, “I am heartened to see members of Congress heed that message, reach across the aisle, and work together. But this action in the lame-duck session is just the beginning. Our work is far from over.”
(Image courtesy of the Farm Credit Administration)
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