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Congress passes $900B COVID-19 bill, including stimulus payments

Dec. 21 (UPI) — Congress on Monday approved a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill and a government funding measure in a deal reached over the weekend. The House voted to approve the two long-awaited bills on Monday evening, followed by the Senate near midnight. It will now go to President Donald Trump, who has said…


Dec. 21 (UPI) — Congress on Monday approved a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill and a government financing measure in a bargain reached over the weekend.

The House voted to approve both long-awaited bills on Monday evening, followed by the Senate near midnight.

It will now head to President Donald Trump, who’s said he’ll sign it.

The bundle contains direct stimulus payments for individuals of $600 to $700. Additionally, it includes enhanced federal unemployment benefits of $300 a week, $5 330 billion for small business loans, more compared to 80 billion for schools and several billion dollars to pay the expenses of dispersing COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC Monday the first stimulus payments must be sent out next week.

“This is a very, very fast way of getting money into the economy,” he explained. “Let me emphasize: People are going to see this money at the beginning of next week.”

“People go out and spend this money, and that helps small business and that helps getting more people back to work.”

“While this bill is far from perfect — nor is it the bill that we would pass if Democrats had a majority in the Senate — it is a strong shot in the arm to help American families weather the storm,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday.

“And this is just the first step; this is an emergency. We need a second bill to continue dealing with the emergency and to start stimulating our economy so we get back to where we were.”

“President Trump has pushed hard for months to send Americans badly needed financial relief,” White House spokesman Ben Williamson said Sunday. “We look forward to Congress sending a bill to his desk imminently for signature.”

The arrangement also expands eligibility under the Paycheck Protection Program for both nonprofits and neighborhood newspapers, television and radio broadcasters, along with”key modifications” to help independent restaurants.

Also included is $15 billion for live performance venues, independent film theaters and cultural institutions.

Democrats declared they had secured $25 billion in rental assistance for households and an expansion of their flooding moratorium, as well as $13 billion in improved food stamp and child nutrition benefits”to help relieve the historic hunger crisis that has left up to 17 million children food insecure.”

The bill will not not comprise a couple of important items sought by each party — help for state and local governments asked by Democrats and a liability defense to safeguard businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits sought by Republicans.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell announced Sunday the lawmakers had come to an arrangement to a brand new COVID-19 aid package and an accompanying $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill to avert a national shutdown. The spending bill would finance the federal government until October.

Congress had embraced a postsecondary short-term financing extension on Friday to prevent a shutdown. A one-day spending measure was then reached to cover Monday and prevent a shutdown that would have begun at midnight Sunday.

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