US Congress approves $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package
Washington, Dec 22 (efe-epa).- The United States Congress has approved a $900 billion coronavirus bailout package to help battle the economic crisis due to the pandemic after months of stalled negotiations,
The Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday gave their overwhelming approval to the stimulus package for the world’s largest economy and boost American businesses that have been battered by the deadly virus gripping the globe.
The package needs ratification by outgoing President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has already announced that the benefits could reach the pockets of Americans next week.
The rescue plan, which came months after the previous ones expired, includes direct payments of up to $600 for all Americans with annual incomes below $75,000, jobless benefits of $300 per week, some $284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans, $25 billion in rental assistance and $82 billion for schools and colleges.
The stimulus package is included in a $1.4 trillion bill designed to finance the US administration until September 2021.
The agreement includes over $284 billion for first and second forgivable small loans.
The US Congress has not passed any stimulus measure since March when it approved a $2.2 trillion rescue plan, the largest in the US history so far.
That bailout, which many economists agree, saved the US economy from a much bigger blow, created a massive small business aid program, saved airlines, and provided unemployment benefits at a time when millions of jobs were lost.
However, most of the funds were exhausted when the pandemic struck again during late summer in the US, which is still grappling to control the outbreak of the virus that has taken more than 319,000 lives and infected 18 million people.
Democrats and Republicans have now chosen to reinstate the best-performing programs from the previous stimulus package, albeit in a smaller size.
For example, the new bailout has reduced direct payments to taxpayers by half – from $1,200 to $600 while couples earning less than $150,000 will get $1,200. An additional $600 will be given per child.
It also cuts the unemployment benefit in half from $600 to $300 per week.
The stimulus package also includes $325 billion for small businesses. The bulk of the aid, some $284 billion, will go to forgivable loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans have been trying since July to get more targeted, bipartisan relief into the hands of the American people.
“I’m glad for our country that we are finally moving ahead together,” McConnell wrote on Twitter.
“The American people can rest assured that more help is on the way, immediately.”
Since Democrats tried to pass a new bailout of more than $3 trillion in the summer that Republicans and the White House blocked, negotiations between the two parties have failed time and time again with presidential elections involved.
Democrats see the current deal as a minimum compromise.
Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who form the so-called “Squad” along with Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley, opposed the bailout as insufficient.