US Senate Leaders Compromise On Fed Lending Powers In COVID Aid Deal

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The new U.S. government coronavirus relief package will contain $600 direct checks, $300 unemployment benefits per week and aid for small businesses, schools and vaccination plans, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

The deal was reached Sunday (Dec. 20) after months of false starts and negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the White House. The details were finalized after a disagreement was settled surrounding the Federal Reserve‘s emergency lending powers earlier in the weekend, WSJ reported.

On Sunday evening, the House was planning to vote on a 24-hour extension of government funding, and the relief package and broader spending bill were set for Monday (Dec. 21) votes, according to WSJ.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the issues still holding up the bill had been settled.

“At long last we have the bipartisan breakthrough the country has needed,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, WSJ reported. “Now we need to promptly finalize text, avoid any last-minute obstacles and cooperate to move this legislation through both chambers.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill is “far from perfect” but it would “deliver emergency relief to a nation in the throes of a genuine emergency,” WSJ reported.

Unemployment benefits will have $300 added for 11 weeks. Two other unemployment benefits, which broaden the pool of people eligible for unemployment, will be extended as well before phasing out in the spring.

The checks will send $600 to both adults and children, and the amount will decrease for individuals who make $75,000 or more per year or $150,000 for couples, WSJ reported.

Mixed-status households, where some members have Social Security numbers and others do not, will be eligible for partial payments, according to WSJ, and dependents won’t qualify over the age of 16, just like in the initial March stimulus. The bill puts $325 billion toward small businesses, including $280 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Theater and small venue owners will be eligible for grants. There will also be support for airlines.

The fight for another stimulus bill has been ongoing for most of the pandemic after the initial CARES Act in March. Other bills were proposed but failed to gain traction due to concerns from both parties about what should or should not be included. Democrats argued over the course of the pandemic that there needed to be a wide range of sweeping benefits, while Republicans often voiced support for narrower, more targeted support.

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