After months of intense talks, US lawmakers have sealed a deal on a $900 billion Covid-19 economic relief package, finally delivering long-overdue help to businesses and individuals.
The package, expected to draw votes in Congress on Monday, would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.
The money is set to accompany a bigger, $1.4tn spending bill to fund government operations over the next nine months.
Many Covid-19 relief programmes were set to expire at the end of the month. About 12 million Americans were at risk of losing access to unemployment benefits.
It came together late on Sunday after months of battling and posturing, but the negotiating dynamic changed in Republicans’ favor after the election and as the end of the congressional session neared.
President-elect Joe Biden was eager for a deal to deliver long-awaited help to suffering people and a boost to the economy, even though it was less than half the size that Democrats wanted this fall.
Biden praised the bipartisan spirit that produced the measure, which he called “just the beginning.”
“This is a model for the challenging work ahead for our nation,” Biden said in a statement.
House leaders informed lawmakers that they would vote on the legislation on Monday, and the Senate was likely to vote on Monday, too. Lawmakers were eager to leave Washington and close out a tumultuous year.
“There will be another major rescue package for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in announcing the agreement for the relief bill.
“It is packed with targeted policies to help struggling Americans who have already waited too long.”
Democrats acknowledged it wasn’t as robust a relief package as they initially sought – or, they say, the country needs.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed more to come once President-elect Joe Biden takes office.