President Donald Trump has signed a $900 billion coronavirus relief package that includes $600 direct payments to families and individuals, as well as an additional $600 per child.
The president, who has spent most of his time since losing the Nov. 3 election pushing false conspiracy theories about his loss to President-elect Joe Biden and golfing, had held up the deal struck in Congress last week by insisting that Americans receive $2,000 payouts instead, but backpedaled Sunday and signed the legislation, which had been the topic for several months of bipartisan bickering.
Trump railed against the stimulus bill, part of a $2.3 trillion spending package to fund the government through September, because it called for ridding all military bases the names of Confederate generals and other figures who fought against equality, as well as for the amount provided for foreign aid.
As for Trump’s push to increase the monetary amount of stimulus checks, the Democrat-controlled House on Monday approved an increase to $2,000 for most Americans by a largely party-line vote. But most Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate have bristled at adding to the national debt by increasing the payments, setting up a potential showdown between the outgoing president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Trump’s delay came close to forcing a government shutdown and stymied much-needed relief payments to struggling families.
With two vital Senate runoff elections upcoming in Georgia, Trump’s sudden interest in boosting direct payments to $2,000 likely was a political play to assist the GOP in those races.
Republicans need to win just one of the two seats to retain control of the Senate, while Democrats need to claim victories in both races to end Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell’s divisive reign as majority leader of the chamber.
Republican and Democratic negotiators reached a new $900 billion stimulus deal on Dec. 20, and both chambers of Congress passed it the following day.
The $2.3 trillion bill included $900 billion for the latest coronavirus relief package, which allots $600 stimulus checks for single people making less than $75,000 and couples making less than $150,000 — far smaller than the first round of checks issued in the spring, when individuals and couples received up to $1,200 and $2,400, respectively.
The bill also provides $300 in enhancements of weekly unemployment benefits – down from $600 in the CARES Act. It reopens the small business loan program, provides aid for schools and childcare, extends eviction protection, and offers nutrition assistance aid.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will be extended with another $284 billion of forgivable loans.
Reportedly, some of the funding will be set aside for small businesses through lenders such as Minority Depository Institutions, following criticisms that the first round of PPP loans overlooked many minority- and women-owned businesses.
According to a bill summary, the PPP will also expand eligibility for nonprofits and local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters. Another $20 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loans will be set aside for businesses in low-income communities.
In comparison, $15 billion will be directed toward live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions.
“The stimulus package is inadequate, but a necessary compromise. It just underscores the importance of [the Georgia Senate races] to get another package in early 2021,” former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) noted on his podcast.
Following the stimulus agreement’s announcement, many on social media were quick to point out what other countries have done for struggling citizens.
France agreed to provide $7,575 per month in direct payments to its citizens, while German residents receive $7,326 monthly during the pandemic. Demark ($3,288 per month), the United Kingdom ($3,084), Australia ($1,993), Ireland ($1,793), and Canada ($1,433) also provide its citizens with monthly stimulus payouts.
The $600 stimulus check the new bill provides for U.S. residents is a one-time payout.
“Did you know that a first-term congressman earns $174,000?” tweeted opinion writer Ed Neller. “That means they earn over $3,000 per week. And they decided $600 is sufficient to live on for months. See the problem here? Anyone? Anyone?”