Behind the Scenes: The Latest Coronavirus Relief Bill

After days of uncertainty before the Christmas holiday, President Trump finally relented and agreed to sign the latest coronavirus relief proposal on December 27, despite his indications on December 22 that he would not sign the bill. He had cited a desire to increase relief payments from $600 up to $2,000 for qualified Americans, in addition to eliminating some foreign aid provisions.

A longer delay in signing the bill would have been catastrophic for many Americans, ending unemployment benefits for more than 10 million people, potentially causing a government shutdown, delaying vaccine distribution, and ultimately holding up the very stimulus checks he was fighting to increase. When other Republicans in Congress refused to go along with the increased amount, President Trump eventually relented and agreed to sign the bill after all.

What Is Included

The large-scale legislation combines government funding through September 2021 with nearly $900 billion in COVID-19 relief funds passed on December 21 with large majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Many individual benefits are included in the bill, such as $600 direct payments for adults and children making below $75,000 (those making between $75,000 and $99,000 will get less, and those over $99,000 will get no benefit), extending enhanced unemployment benefits for workers, adding $13 billion for SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and earmarking $25 billion for rental assistance along with extending the eviction moratorium until January 31.

In addition to a large amount of individual assistance, the bill provides more than $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program loans and extended eligibility to include TV and radio stations, local newspapers, and nonprofits. Child care centers will also receive some aid to safely re-open, and transportation-related assistance will also be provided. Schools, universities, and farmers are to receive aid as well, and the bill will provide for expanded access to broadband Internet.

Vaccine Access

In addition to aid for individuals and businesses, the relief bill will provide funding to assist with vaccine distribution. Nearly $68 billion will help with the purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and to allow individual states to continue with testing. Around $20 billion of that funding is earmarked to make the vaccine available for free for anyone in need.

Hope for Struggling Americans

Though the delay in President Trump signing the bill has cost millions of Americans nearly a full week of unemployment benefits, it is a relief for the nation that it is finally signed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already attempted an increase in the direct payment amounts, as President Trump demanded, and though Republicans blocked that attempt, it is still possible that Congress will try again.