Finally, on Sunday, members of the U.S. Congress announced a $900 billion economic relief package greatly needed by millions of Americans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Four days before Christmas, the House and Senate reached a compromise and forwarded the bill to President Trump for his signature. Months of intense negotiations between Democrats and Republicans juxtaposed the need to provide emergency support for millions of Americans that lost jobs and business owners forced to shut their doors, with divisions over how much they were willing to spend.
With the haranguing hopefully behind them, Congress’ COVID-19 relief package will provide individuals earning up to $75,000 a year a direct payment of $600 by New Year’s Eve, according to lawmakers. The jobless will receive $300 per week in unemployment benefits, along with an overall total of $25 billion in rental assistance for families facing evictions and an additional $13 billion for individuals receiving SNAP assistance. There will also be expanded eligibility for PPP loans to aid small businesses and nonprofits and live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions, and $10 billion to help childcare centers reopen safely.
The package will also help pay for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and make them available at no cost. Increased access to broadband internet will be provided, especially to families with students and unemployed workers impacted by the pandemic, and aid for education, transportation and an array of additional programs and services.
It will take a lot to get the economy back on track and get Americans back to a sense of normalcy. How long the suffering will last is anyone’s guess. Not even Congress can agree on how much more it will cost to ease the pain. While many have criticized lawmakers for taking too long to come up with a bill that offers a little too late, this assistance is right on time for millions of Americans who desperately need it. Will more aid be coming? We hope so, and encourage the next Congress and president to assess the need and address it in a much less political and humanitarian manner.