WASHINGTON | Congress votes on Monday a plan to support households and businesses of some $ 900 billion deemed essential to put back on track the world’s largest economy depressed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s an emergency and survival program,” Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Monday.
Aid is incomplete and the Biden administration will have to “fill in the gaps” in January, he added.
However, “we should not underestimate the importance of this package” of measures, he noted, “the second most important in the history” of the United States.
After months of blockage, Democrats and Republicans announced on Sunday that they had reached an agreement in principle on a package of measures including, in particular, checks to the most vulnerable families, aid to small businesses and schools, additional unemployment benefits of $ 300 per week or an envelope for the equitable distribution of vaccines against COVID-19.
US parliamentarians must imperatively finalize this agreement and approve it on Monday when the specter of a government shutdown, is not excluded.
Indeed, Congress has decided to extend by 24 hours, until Monday midnight, the short-term law allowing the financing of federal administrations. Parliamentarians must therefore also find a consensus on the new finance law.
Checks from next week
Even before the vote on emergency aid measures for the economy, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin assured that checks for $ 600 per adult and per child to help families in difficulty would be sent at the start of the next week.
He also welcomed this aid which is released “just in time for the holidays” at the end of the year.
“It’s a very, very quick way to inject money into the economy,” further commented Donald Trump’s minister.
The objective of direct aid is in fact to support household consumption and therefore growth. For the most disadvantaged households, they make it possible to pay rents.
“We can end the year on a rare optimistic note,” said Chuck Schumer as the pandemic continues to rage in the country and the number of unemployed has started to rise again.
The world’s largest economy fell into a deep recession in the spring, the worst since that of the 1930s, due to the shutdown of activity to stem the new coronavirus which has caused massive unemployment.
The sustained economic recovery in the summer brought a wave of optimism before the pandemic started again, putting a stop to job creation and activity in the fall.
Lawmakers only have a few hours to examine the hundreds of pages of text included in a large body of nearly 5,600 pages.
After months of deadlock and debate as the economy continued to deteriorate, parliamentarians on both sides finally seemed ready to approve this text and submit it to President Donald Trump for signature.
“This is a first step, and we will have to do more,” reacted Monday Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, noting in particular the need for more aid to buy vaccines.
However, this plan, which also includes housing assistance, will prevent millions of people who will lose their assistance on Boxing Day from falling into poverty.
The first plan, amounting to a gigantic $ 2.2 trillion, had been voted urgently at the end of March, during the first wave of the pandemic.
It included exceptional unemployment benefits of $ 600 per week and the sending of checks for $ 1,200 per adult.
Since the summer, Democrats and Republicans have been at an impasse, opposing the overall amount of the new emergency plan: the former demanded a plan equivalent to that of the spring when the latter wanted to limit it to 1 trillion dollars maximums.
The new aid package also targets small businesses at risk of going bankrupt.
It should also include some $ 16 billion in aid to save tens of thousands of jobs in airlines and their subcontractors.
“There was broad support from both parties to provide aid to companies,” commented Steven Mnuchin Monday, stressing the importance of this industry for economic recovery.
The main measures of the second plan to support the economy
The US Congress must give its approval Monday to a new plan to support families and businesses hard hit by the pandemic.
Here are the main measures of the aid package totaling nearly $ 900 billion, which is to take over from the gigantic plan of $ 2,200 billion adopted as a matter of urgency at the end of March.
Subject to income, checks will be sent to families next week: $ 600 per adult and per child. The amounts decrease for people with incomes over $ 75,000 and $ 150,000 for couples.
In the spring, they were a maximum of $ 1,200 per adult and $ 500 per child.
The unemployed will receive additional benefits of 300 dollars per week for 11 weeks, against 600 dollars per week for four months recorded in the previous plan.
The deal further extends emergency aid programs through mid-March, while extending eviction protections for millions of tenants through January 31.
In total, 286 billion are allocated for checks and unemployment benefits.
In addition, it provides food assistance of 13 billion dollars. According to Democrats, up to 17 million children are currently food insecure.
The parliamentarians wanted to provide help to small businesses that are struggling to get through the crisis and risk going bankrupt.
The plan thus provides for an envelope of some 280 billion in aid to grant them loans.
The SME aid program, known as “PPP” for Paycheck Protection Program, aims to provide support in particular to restaurants and cinemas most affected by the restrictive measures to contain the coronavirus.
Schools and nurseries
An important component concerns assistance to nurseries and schools, many of which are still closed, which prevents parents from finding a job or working full time.
The agreement provides $ 82 billion in funding for colleges and schools, including support for repairing and replacing ventilation systems to mitigate transmission of the virus, and for reorganizing classrooms to maintain a physical distancing between students.
In addition, $ 10 billion will be spent on child care.
Fight against the coronavirus
Almost $ 70 billion will be for testing, case tracing, etc.