Congress Approves $900 Billion COVID-19 Relief Package

Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief package on Monday night, delivering much-needed economic aid to individuals and businesses across the country.

The bill, which was passed by the Senate with a 91-7 vote after being approved by the House with a vote of 359-53, includes a $1.4 trillion full-year spending bill that will fund the government through next September. It will now be sent to President Donald Trump to be signed into law, with his approval expected in the coming days.

The bill establishes 11 additional weeks of compensation for unemployed Americans, temporarily adding $300 per week to the amount they are receiving through their state’s unemployment program. It will also issue a one-time direct payment of $600 to Americans making less than $75,000 per year, including dependents. A new round of subsidies for businesses, restaurants and theaters is also included, as well as additional funds for schools, healthcare providers and renters.

The package also includes a $15 billion aid package shepherded by the Save Our Stages Act, which will provide grants to live venues and independent movie theaters. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, one of the act’s biggest advocates, told Variety in an interview why the initiative has been so successful.

“We had red and blue states, people from country music to rap, from Pitbull to Lady Gaga, and it made a difference, because sometimes people get caught up in infighting and other things,” Klobuchar said. “…We had each others’ backs and explained it to members — and the fact that we had 57 co-sponsors in the Senate out of 100 was extraordinary; we had over 200 House members on the bill, and we always made sure that it was bipartisan.”

Negotiations for the second stimulus bill extended through the past weekend, after lawmakers failed to secure the long-awaited deal on Dec. 18. The White House announced that evening that President Donald Trump had signed the bill for agencies to operate until Sunday night, ratcheting up pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to finalize an agreement, which they eventually reached.

A second stimulus check has had wide bipartisan support ever since a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that passed on March 27. Last week, Trump called for “more money than they’re talking about” in stimulus checks, as large as $1,200 or $2,000 per person, but aides reportedly convinced him that making such requests would jeopardize the stimulus bill, The Washington Post reported.

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