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Washington (CNN)Congress is on the verge of passing a far-reaching $900 billion Covid relief package that promises to accelerate vaccine distribution and deliver much-needed aid to small businesses hit hard by the pandemic, Americans who have lost their jobs during the economic upheaval and health care workers on the front lines of the crisis.
According to a summary from House and Senate Democratic leaders, the legislation will include direct payments of up to $600 per adult, enhanced jobless benefits of $300 per week, roughly $284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans, $25 billion in rental assistance, an extension of the eviction moratorium and $82 billion for schools and colleges.
Hill leaders announced Sunday evening that they had reached a deal after months of bitter partisan stalemate and days of contentious negotiations that created uncertainty over whether an agreement could be reached at all or if talks would collapse.
“We can finally report what our nation has needed to hear for a very long time: More help is on the way,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday night announcing the deal.
Legislative text for the package still has yet to be released, but the House and Senate are expected to pass the rescue package, which was negotiated on a bipartisan basis, along with a massive $1.4 trillion government spending bill to fund federal agencies for the new fiscal year.
The House is planning to move first and is expected to vote later Monday on the pandemic relief deal. Then it will be up to the Senate to take it up.
A quick vote can be scheduled if all 100 senators agree, but if any member objects the process could drag out longer and the exact timing for final passage of the legislation by Congress is not yet clear. The White House has said, however, that President Donald Trump will sign the pandemic relief legislation once it is approved and reaches his desk.
A deal was reached only after both parties relinquished some of their key demands along the way to make it happen.
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Faced with Republican opposition, Democrats were forced to abandon a push for roughly $160 billion in aid to cash-strapped states and cities, while Republicans dropped a demand for liability protections after Democrats signaled that was a red line.
Democrats are already signaling that they want to see more relief passed in the next session of Congress after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
“I consider this a first step and again, more needs to be done,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a news conference Sunday evening.
“That will be happening under the Biden-Harris administration,” she said.
What’s in the relief package
Here are key provisions that will be included as part of the agreement, according to releases sent out Sunday evening by members of Democratic and GOP leadership:
- Direct payment checks of up to $600 per adult and child
- Aid for struggling small businesses, including more than $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans and $15 billion “in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions”
- $300 per week for enhanced unemployment insurance benefits
- $20 billion to buy vaccines and make “the vaccine available at no charge for anyone who needs it” and $8 billion for vaccine distribution
- $20 billion for coronavirus testing efforts
- $25 billion for rental assistance and an eviction moratorium extension
- $82 billion for education providers like schools and colleges, including aid to help reopen classrooms safely and $10 billion for child care assistance
- The deal will rescind “$429 billion in unused funds provided by the CARES Act for the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facilities”
- $13 billion in increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and child nutrition benefits
- $7 billion to bolster broadband access to help Americans connect remotely during the pandemic
- $45 billion to support transportation services, including $2 billion for airports, $1 billion for Amtrak and $16 billion for “another round of airline employee and contractor payroll support”
- A tax credit “to support employers offering paid sick leave”
How votes will take place
Before votes can take place in the House and Senate, a number of procedural steps still need to happen.
The House Rules Committee will have to consider the package once legislative text is unveiled. Then, they will have to schedule House floor debate and set up a vote in the chamber.
The Senate operates under a different set of procedural requirements and needs consent from all 100 members to schedule a quick vote. It’s not yet clear if any member might object and slow down the process.
If an agreement for a quick vote isn’t reached, McConnell will need to take additional procedural steps to tee up a vote, a process that could take several days.
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As he left the Capitol Sunday evening, McConnell indicated that he hopes there will be consent to move the Covid relief package through the Senate quickly on Monday.
Asked if he has a sense of when senators will be voting on the deal Monday, McConnell said, “I’ve heard the House will send it over tomorrow afternoon, so you might want to check with them,” adding, “you can do anything quickly by consent.”
McConnell replied: “I would hope so” when asked if he believes there will be consent.
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