Congressional leaders reached a deal on roughly $900 billion spending package to bolster the U.S. economy amid the continued spread of the coronavirus, giving lawmakers a short timetable to review and pass what would be one of the biggest economic-rescue measures in the nation’s history.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer announced the accord Sunday. The legislative text was still being written, but the House was expected to vote on it Monday followed by the Senate.
The plan would provide direct payments of $600 to most Americans and $300-per-week in enhanced unemployment benefits through March, according to lawmakers and aides. Expiring programs for gig workers and the long-term unemployed also would continue.
There would be $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program that provides forgivable loans to small businesses. The package includes money for transportation — including airlines — vaccine distribution and education.
Negotiators couldn’t bridge partisan differences over a liability shield for companies and aid for state and local governments and left those out.
A last-minute dispute over the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending authority threatened to derail an agreement until a compromise late Saturday cleared the way for the broader deal.
The agreement came together after multiple rounds of negotiations over the past week among Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also took part in the talks.
The relief plan will be attached to a $1.4 trillion bill that would fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2021. The haggling over the relief package forced Congress to twice pass temporary funding for government operations.
The current stopgap expires at midnight Sunday and lawmakers plan to pass another one-day extension to give time for votes on Monday.
”At long last we have the bipartisan breakthrough,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement that legislation “delivers urgently needed funds to save the lives and livelihoods of the American people as the virus accelerates.”
The deal came about after a long standoff that followed passage in March of the largest in a series of pandemic relief packages, a $1.8 trillion mix of spending and tax breaks that represented the biggest such measure in U.S. history.
Since then, the economy has struggled to fully recover and another round of lockdowns is threatening to put millions of jobs at risk as deaths from the novel coronavirus rise above 300,000.