Breaking down the $900B stimulus package and $1.4T omnibus bill
Congressional leaders on Sunday night unveiled the highlights of a $900 billion fiscal stimulus package and a $1.4 trillion government funding deal that will deliver critical pandemic aid to millions of Americans and pad federal agency budgets through next September.
If passed by both chambers on Monday as expected, the colossal year-end package will provide another round of direct payments, enhanced unemployment benefits and billions of dollars for struggling industries in what still amounts to a less generous package than the $3 trillion CARES Act mounted at the beginning of the pandemic. Unemployment benefits expire in mid-March, likely setting up another deadline for additional congressional action early next year.
The bipartisan, bicameral year-end package also includes a dozen annual appropriations bills that, if passed, would ward off a government funding fight at the onset of the Biden administration.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s inside the massive year-end compromise, according to Democratic and Republican summaries obtained by POLITICO:
$166 billion in direct checks
Individuals making up to $75,000 a year will receive a payment of $600, while couples making up to $150,000 will receive $1,200, in addition to $600 per child. The deal also makes the stimulus checks more accessible to immigrant families.
$120 billion in extra unemployment help
Jobless workers will get an extra $300 per week in federal cash through March 14. The legislation also extends employment benefits to self-employed individuals, gig workers and those who’ve exhausted their state benefits.
$325 billion small business boost
Pandemic-ravaged small businesses would see a total of $325 billion, including $284 billion in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, $20 billion for businesses in low-income communities and $15 billion for struggling live venues, movie theaters and museums — a major priority for Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Totaling tax breaks
The legislation allows businesses to deduct expenses associated with their forgiven PPP loans, in addition to expanding the employee retention credit intended to prevent layoffs. It includes a two-year tax break for business meals — a priority for President Donald Trump — and rolls over a variety of temporary tax breaks known as “extenders,” some for multiple years. The package also extends a payroll tax subsidy for employers offering workers paid sick leave and boosts the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Border wall status quo
The government funding portion of the year-end package would maintain nearly $1.4 billion in cash for Trump’s southern border wall, in addition to $20 million for new border processing coordinators.
$45 billion in transportation aid
That includes $15 billion to help airlines maintain their payrolls, $14 billion for mass transit, $10 billion for state highways, $2 billion for airports and $1 billion for Amtrak.
Food and farmer assistance
The year-end package includes $13 billion to bolster food stamp benefits by 15 percent, although it doesn’t expand SNAP eligibility. Farmers and ranchers will also see another $13 billion round of direct payments to help cover pandemic-induced losses.
‘Surprise billing’ deal
The omnibus includes an agreement to protect patients from receiving “surprise” medical bills after last-minute haggling — a major priority for retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). As POLITICO reported earlier this month, shielding insured patients from eye-popping medical bills for unexpected out-of-network and emergency care has been a bipartisan priority for lawmakers, but progress had been stalled for over a year.
$69 billion for vaccines, testing and tracing
The package includes $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines, nearly $9 billion for vaccine distribution and about $22 billion to help states with testing, tracing and Covid-19 mitigation programs.
Restoring Medicaid for the Marshallese
Tens of thousands of Marshall Islanders will be allowed to sign up for Medicaid, with the year-end agreement revising a drafting mistake in the 1996 welfare reform bill that barred the islanders from the program. The problem was detailed in a series of POLITICO stories this year.
Rental aid and an eviction ban
Of the $25 billion in federal rental assistance, $800 million is set aside for Native American housing entities. A federal eviction ban has been extended through the end of January.
Infusion for schools and child care
Included in the $82 billion total for colleges and universities is more than $4 billion for a governors’ relief fund, more than $54 billion for public K-12 schools and nearly $23 billion for a higher education fund. Separately, the child care sector will receive about $10 billion in emergency cash.
Higher education compromise
The legislation includes a bipartisan agreement to forgive nearly $1.3 billion in federal loans to historically Black colleges and universities, deliver Pell grants to incarcerated students after a 26-year ban and simplify financial aid forms — the last of those three has been a long-time priority for the retiring Alexander.
Pay boost for troops
The omnibus portion of the year-end package includes a 3 percent military pay raise.
Keeping contractor relief
The package continues a CARES Act program that allows contractors to keep employees on the payroll even if federal facilities close.
A variety of reauthorizations
The government funding piece includes a compromise version of an annual intelligence authorization bill and ensures that a major water infrastructure package will hitch a ride to passage. It also includes technical corrections to the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement.
A boon for broadband
The agreement invests $7 billion to increase expand broadband access for students, families and unemployed workers, including $300 million for rural broadband and $250 million for telehealth.
Dan Diamond, Michael Stratford, Stephanie Beasley and Brian Faler contributed to this report.