Congress agrees on Covid relief bill with $600 stimulus checks

Congress is set to pass one of the largest stimulus packages in the nation’s history, which will send much-needed aid to struggling families and small businesses across the country as the nation continues to grapple with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The nearly $1 trillion Covid-19 relief bill will include a second stimulus check of up to $600 for many Americans, an extra $300 in enhanced unemployment insurance for 11 weeks, the continuation of key jobless programs and funding for food and rental assistance, among other provisions, lawmakers announced Sunday night.

The deal comes after months of tense negotiations between Congressional Republicans and Democrats and just days before an estimated 12 million people were set to be cut off from jobless aid altogether. Many lawmakers acknowledged that the bill is not be enough to help all of the Americans who have suffered this year.

“Our economy is in a deep, deep, deep hole,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the Senate floor Sunday night. “A lot more needs to be done.”

The aid, including the unemployment benefits and stimulus checks, could take weeks to reach the people who desperately need it. It’s also too little, too late for many who have foregone typical holiday celebrations that they cannot afford this year.

Congress is expected to vote on the bill on Monday. Lawmakers are also still debating a second stimulus bill that includes liability protections for businesses and funding for states and local governments.

Here are some of the biggest provisions included in the new relief bill:

Unemployment insurance

Small business loans

The bill also includes $248 billion for another round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses, $12 billion of which is earmarked for minority-owned businesses and $15 billion of which will go to live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions.

It also expands PPP eligibility to include nonprofits and local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters.

Stimulus checks

Rental relief

The bill provides $25 billion in rental relief, which can be used for future rent and utility payments as well as for any back rent owed or utility bills that have not been paid since the beginning of the pandemic. It also extends the nationwide eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021.

“It’s not enough, but it’s urgently and desperately needed,” says Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), noting that low-income renters currently owe an estimated $30 to $70 billion in back rent.

Yentel hopes President-elect Joe Biden will make more emergency rental assistance a priority when he takes office in January. The aid in the bill is “postponing, not preventing evictions,” says Yentel. “Rent is still due, and renters are still accruing more debt than they can possibly pay off in their lifetimes.”

Food assistance

What’s not included in the bill

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