WASHINGTON â€” The $900 billion stimulus bill that President Trump finally signed into law on Sunday evening goes well beyond providing the $600 checks that became a huge sticking point in getting the legislation across the finish line.
The relief package casts a wide net with a variety of measures aimed at addressing the needs of millions of Americans, including those who have lost their jobs, as well as small businesses, nursing homes, colleges, universities and K-12 schools.
The package extends some provisions of the original stimulus package that was passed in the spring, while adding new measures to help working families who have continued to suffer amid the pandemic.
Among the most anticipated components of the legislation is the direct payment, with $600 going to individual adults with an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 a year based on 2019 earnings. Heads of households who earn up to $112,500 and a couple (or someone whose spouse died in 2020) who make up to $150,000 a year would get twice that amount.
Eligible families with dependent children would receive an additional $600 per child.
In a change from the last round, payments will not be denied to citizens married to someone without a social security number, allowing some spouses of undocumented immigrants to claim the benefit this time around.
On Tuesday night, President Trump threatened to veto the bill because he said the payments were too low. He is advocating payments of $2,000. House Democrats planned to bring up an amendment to the bill on Thursday, an aide who was familiar with the proposal said. It is not clear how the House and Senate will act.
With millions of Americans still unemployed, Congress acted to extend multiple programs to help those out of work, albeit at less generous levels than in the spring.
The agreement would revive enhanced federal jobless benefits for 11 weeks, providing a lifeline for hard-hit workers until March 14. The new benefit, up to $300 per week, is half the amount provided by the original stimulus bill in the spring.
The legislation also extends Pandemic Unemployment Assistance â€” a program aimed at a broad set of freelancers and independent contractors â€” for the same period, providing an additional $100 per week.
School budgets have been severely crippled by the pandemic and left some of the most vulnerable students in dire academic and financial straits. The bill provides $82 billion for education, including about $54 billion for K-12 schools and $23 billion for colleges and universities.
Business & Economy
Dec. 23, 2020, 8:59 a.m. ET
While the package provides far more money for K-12 schools than the first stimulus bill in March, the funds still fall short of what both sectors say they need to blunt the effect of the pandemic. Many school districts that transitioned to remote learning this year were forced to make expensive adjustments to accommodate students while often shedding staff to balance their budgets. Colleges and universities are also facing financial constraints amid rising expenses and falling revenue.
â€œThe money provided in this bill will provide some limited relief, which is welcome news to struggling students and institutions. But it is not going to be nearly enough in the long run or even the medium term,â€ Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, said in a statement.
Funding for broadband infrastructure
The legislation includes $7 billion for expanding access to high-speed internet connections, nearly half of which will go toward helping cover the cost of monthly internet bills by providing up to $50 per month to low-income families.
The deal also sets aside $300 million for building out infrastructure in underserved rural areas and $1 billion in grants for tribal broadband programs.
Targeted aid for small businesses
The agreement sets aside $285 billion for additional loans to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program, renewing the program created under the initial stimulus legislation.
The latest version includes stricter terms that appear intended to correct some of the unpopular elements of the original program. It caps loans at $2 million and makes them available only to borrowers with fewer than 300 employees that experienced at least a 25 percent drop in sales from a year earlier in at least one quarter. The agreement also sets aside $12 billion specifically for minority-owned businesses. And publicly traded companies will be ineligible to apply this time around.
Funding for vaccines and nursing homes
The legislation sets aside nearly $70 billion for a range of public health measures, including $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines, $8 billion for vaccine distribution and an additional $20 billion to help states continue their test-and-trace programs.
The bill also allows a federal program that insures mortgages for nursing homes to dole out emergency loans aimed at helping hard-hit elder care centers.
Help for child care
The bill provides $10 billion for the child care industry, with those funds intended to help providers struggling with reduced enrollment or closures stay open and continue paying their staffs. The funds are also supposed to help families struggling with tuition payments.
Support for climate measures
In an unusual rebuke of the Trump administrationâ€™s climate policy, the deal includes new legislation to regulate hydrofluorocarbons, the powerful greenhouse gases common in air-conditioners and refrigerators.
It also allocates $35 billion to fund wind, solar and other clean energy projects.
A ban on surprise medical bills
The package will also help millions of Americans avoid unexpected â€” and often exorbitant â€” medical bills that can result from visits to hospitals.
The bill makes it illegal for hospitals to charge patients for services like emergency treatment by out-of-network doctors or transport in air ambulances, which patients often have no say about.
The compromise would protect tenants struggling with rent by extending a moratorium on evictions for another month, through Jan. 31. The Department of Housing and Urban Development separately issued a similar moratorium on Monday that protects homeowners against foreclosures on mortgages backed by the Federal Home Administration. It runs until Feb. 28.
The bill also provides $25 billion in rental assistance.
Expanding one of the most reliable channels of aid, the agreement increases monthly food stamp benefits â€” known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP â€” by 15 percent for six months, beginning on Jan. 1.
The overall legislation provides $13 billion for increased nutrition assistance, $400 million of which will support food banks and food pantries. An additional $175 million is earmarked for nutrition programs under the Older Americans Act, such as Meals on Wheels.