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We finally have a deal.
On a whirlwind Sunday, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced that lead Republicans and Democrats reached a deal for a $900 billion stimulus package. The relief package will send most Americans a $600 stimulus check. And the bill provides $300 weekly enhanced unemployment payments to most jobless Americans.
The $900 billion stimulus package is scaled back from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March, but it is on par with the $787 billion stimulus package signed into law in 2009 by President Barack Obama.
The deal, which was struck on Sunday and still needs to be passed by the Senate and House, would also include funds for small business loans, vaccines, schools, and $25 billion in rental assistance (as well as an extension of the eviction moratorium). But even with funding to keep the government running expected to be renewed in a one-day stop gap vote in Congress Sunday night (with a seven-day extension expected to be taken up Monday), it leaves a tight timeline for lawmakers to review and pass the bill.
The deal marks the resolution of a drawn out, many-months-long debate in Congress over new relief amid the pandemic. “Make no mistake about it: This agreement is far from perfect, but it will deliver emergency relief to a nation in the throes of a genuine emergency,” Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday.
How much will stimulus checks be worth?
The direct payments would be worth as much as $600 for individuals and each child dependent, and will phase-out for higher incomes. A spokesperson for Sen. Schumer confirmed the phase-out would be similar to the spring stimulus package: The CARES Act stimulus checks decreased for 2019 adjusted gross income—federally taxable income—above $75,000 per individual or $150,000 per qualified couple. Those checks completely phased out for individuals earning above $99,000, and joint filers with no children at $198,000.
The news capped off a frantic week as both parties rushed to make a deal before a slew of pandemic benefits expired this month—including some unemployment benefits and eviction moratoriums.
What notably isn’t included in the deal is fresh funding for state and local aid, a key Democratic wish, and COVID-19 lawsuit protection for businesses, a big Republican ask. Both provisions weren’t in the most recent iteration of a $748 billion bipartisan bill either, and leaders like McConnell recently proposed dropping the two sticking points from a deal in order to get it done quickly.
Unemployment assistance extended
The extension of pandemic unemployment provisions is welcome news to the more than 19 million Americans currently receiving jobless benefits. Around 13 million of those current recipients were set to lose their benefits the week of Dec. 26 when Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) are set to expire. The package would extend both PUA and PEUC, providing $300 weekly enhanced benefits up to 11 weeks. PUA expands unemployment benefits to gig workers and self-employed Americans, and PEUC provides 13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits to qualified individuals. However, given how late the deal was reached, it’s likely there may be lags in getting benefits to recipients because of the need to reprogram states’ systems.
The deal comes as economists worry the country’s economic recovery could be at risk. The rebound that started off strong in the summer, with 4.8 million jobs added in June alone, has slowed. Only 245,000 jobs were added in November. At that pace, it would take until late 2023 for employment to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels.
A spokesperson for McConnell could not be reached for comment.