Congress Passes $900 Billion COVID-19 Relief Bill, Sends to Trump

December 21, 2020 Updated: December 22, 2020

The House of Representatives and the Senate on Monday passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill following months of negotiations.

Congress also passed a $1.4 trillion annual federal spending package to keep the federal government funded for another year. Totaling $2.3 trillion, the year-end government funding package that includes the COVID-19 relief comes to 5,593 pages (pdf), by far the longest bill ever.

The measure passed the House along a 359-53 vote, and passed the Senate along a 91-7 vote. It now moves to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed. If the bill is signed, a government shutdown would be averted, because federal funding will expire at midnight.

The COVID-19 relief package includes a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans making up to $75,000 per year, and $1,200 to couples making up to $150,000, with payments phased out for higher incomes. An additional $600 payment is allotted per dependent child, similar to the last round of relief payments in the spring.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a key White House negotiator, said on CNBC Monday morning that the direct payments would begin arriving in bank accounts next week if the bill is passed.

The legislation would also provide enhanced unemployment insurance benefits of $300 per week. This is about half the supplemental federal unemployment benefit provided under the $1.8 billion CARES Act in March. The direct $600 stimulus payment is also half the March payment.

The sweeping bill includes $284 billion in the Paycheck Protection Program, to cover a second round of small-business loans and grants to especially hard-hit businesses. It would exclude publicly-traded companies from eligibility.

The bill also carves out $25 billion for rental assistance, and extends a ban on evictions that was due to expire by the end of January 2021.

Epoch Times Photo
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) walks back to her office on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 21, 2020. (Ken Cedeno/Reuters)
Epoch Times Photo
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (L) walks from his office to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 20, 2020. (Ken Cedeno/Reuters)

Other subsidies in the bill include about $82 billion for schools, colleges, and universities, $10 billion for child care, and $15 billion for theaters and other live venues.

State and local governments, which are struggling to pay for the distribution of newly approved COVID-19 vaccines, would receive $8.75 billion, with $300 million of that targeted at vaccinations in minority and high-risk populations.

“This deal is not everything I want—not by a long shot,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (R-Mass.). “The choice before us is simple. It’s about whether we help families or not. It’s about whether we help small businesses and restaurants or not. It’s about whether we boost [food stamp] benefits and strengthen anti-hunger programs or not. And whether we help those dealing with a job loss or not. To me, this is not a tough call.”

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) opposed the legislation, saying that he “cannot, in good conscience, vote for this legislation that spends billions of taxpayer dollars on pet projects that have nothing to do with COVID relief or keeping the government funded.”

He said that while Americans are struggling financially amid lockdowns during the pandemic, the $2.3 trillion COVID-omnibus bill includes “language to further Green New Deal policies, millions of dollars to build two new Smithsonian museums, and a provision regarding the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, just to name a mere fraction of the ridiculous provisions outlined in this bill.”

“I would have supported targeted relief to help small businesses and individuals who need it most, and a plan to distribute the vaccine to the most vulnerable, but this bill clearly misses the mark,” he wrote.

The Senate Historical Office said the previous record for the length of legislation was the 2,847-page tax reform bill of 1986—about one-half the size of the latest bill, which is likely to be the final major piece of legislation for the 116th Congress that expires on Jan. 3.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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