The $900 billion stimulus bill passed by Congress this week is meant to address the needs of millions of Americans who have weathered the effects of the coronavirus pandemic for months, even as many federal programs to provide aid ran thin or expired.
Among the most anticipated components of the legislation is the direct payment, with $600 going to individual adults with an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 a year based on 2019 earnings. Heads of households who earn up to $112,500 and a couple (or someone whose spouse died in 2020) who make up to $150,000 a year would get twice that amount.
Eligible families with dependent children would receive an additional $600 per child.
In a change from the last round, payments will not be denied to citizens married to someone without a social security number, allowing some spouses of undocumented immigrants to claim the benefit this time around.
On Tuesday night, President Trump threatened to veto the bill because he said the payments were too low. He is advocating payments of $2,000. House Democrats planned to bring up an amendment to the bill on Thursday, an aide who was familiar with the proposal said. It is not clear how the House and Senate will act.
With as many as 12 million Americans facing the prospect of losing federal unemployment assistance on Dec. 26, Congress acted to extend multiple programs, albeit at less generous levels than in the spring.
The agreement would revive enhanced federal jobless benefits for 11 weeks, providing a lifeline for hard-hit workers until March 14. The new benefit, up to $300 per week, is half the amount provided by the CARES Act in the spring.
The legislation also extends Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — a program aimed at a broad set of freelancers and independent contractors — for the same period, providing an additional $100 per week.
Targeted aid for small businesses
The agreement sets aside $285 billion for additional loans to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program, renewing the program created under the CARES Act.
The latest version includes stricter terms that appear intended to correct some of the unpopular elements of the original program. It caps loans at $2 million and makes them available only to borrowers with fewer than 300 employees that experienced at least a 25 percent drop in sales from a year earlier in at least one quarter. The agreement also sets aside $12 billion specifically for minority-owned businesses. And publicly traded companies will be ineligible to apply this time around.
Funding for vaccines and nursing homes
The legislation sets aside nearly $70 billion for a range of public health measures, including $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines, $8 billion for vaccine distribution and an additional $20 billion to help states continue their test-and-trace programs.
The bill also allows a federal program that insures mortgages for nursing homes to dole out emergency loans aimed at helping hard-hit elder care centers.
Support for climate measures
In an unusual rebuke of the Trump administration’s climate policy, the deal includes new legislation to regulate hydrofluorocarbons, the powerful greenhouse gases common in air-conditioners and refrigerators.
It also allocates $35 billion to fund wind, solar and other clean energy projects.
A ban on surprise medical bills
The bill will make it illegal for hospitals to charge patients for services like emergency treatment by out-of-network doctors or transport in air ambulances, which patients often have no say about.
The compromise would protect tenants struggling with rent by extending a moratorium on evictions for another month, through Jan. 31. The Department of Housing and Urban Development separately issued a similar moratorium on Monday that protects homeowners against foreclosures on mortgages backed by the Federal Home Administration. It runs until Feb. 28.
The bill also provides $25 billion in rental assistance.
Expanding one of the most reliable channels of aid, the agreement increases monthly food stamp benefits — formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — by 15 percent for six months, beginning on Jan. 1.
Funding for broadband infrastructure
The legislation includes $7 billion for expanding access to high-speed internet connections, nearly half of which will go toward helping cover the cost of monthly internet bills by providing up to $50 per month to low-income families.
The deal also sets aside $300 million for building out infrastructure in underserved rural areas and $1 billion in grants for tribal broadband programs.