After months of going back and forth between parties, the U.S. Congress finally passed a stimulus package on Monday to help provide relief for individuals, organizations and businesses facing economic hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Line-by-line details of the $900 billion package, named the "Consolidated Appropriations Act," are featured in a 5,593-page document — which can be found on the house.gov website — that outlines the allocation of funds among the act's different divisions. This includes money to fund $600 economic impact stimulus checks to individuals, $300 weekly of supplemental unemployment benefits per individual, $25 billion in rental assistance and $325 billion total for small business relief, which includes $284 billion toward the Paycheck Protection Program.
The is the second stimulus package passed this year after the $2 trillion CARES ACT that was approved back in March that allocated $1,200 stimulus checks to individuals and an additional $500 for dependents.
Late Tuesday night, President Donald Trump put out a video statement, alluding to the possibility of vetoing the bill if economic impact payments were not raised to $2,000 per individual and $4,000 for couples.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) responded to the president's demands with a press release Wednesday morning.
"Yesterday, I said that Democrats would go to the Floor and ask for Unanimous Consent to bring up a standalone bill to increase the payments. To do so requires the agreement of the Republican Leader. This agreement is necessary in the House and in the Senate," she said in the written statement.
Pelosi said Congress planned to go in for a pro-forma session Thursday, Christmas Eve, at 9 a.m. Action on this standalone bill is pending House Republic Leader Kevin McCarthy's (CA-23) decision on whether or not to agree or reject the Unanimous Consent request.
However, House Republicans rejected the Unanimous Consent request during the pro-forma session. Congress will reconvene on Monday to conduct a recorded vote.
House Rep. Josh Harder (CA-10), who's district includes the city of Tracy, has lobbied for action in regards to a second COVID-19 emergency relief for months, documenting the stimulus deal journey, along with frustrations and triumphs to constituents through social media. For Harder, he says it's about time.
"I'd say first is we know this bill isn't enough. We know it was long overdue. I started work on trying to get a negotiated package during the summer. It's been a frustrating last six months. But people should think about this bill as a bridge to get people through the next couple of months," said Harder, saying that he would like to get started on working toward the next relief package ASAP.
According to Harder, the framework for the bill was loosely based on a compromise plan prepared by Congress' Problem Solvers Caucus, which was formed to find bipartisan solutions on countrywide issues. Harder is among the 25 Democrats in the 50-member group.
"As we were able to show good faith negotiating across the aisle, nobody got everything that they wanted. There's a lot of stuff that I think should have been included in this relief bill but ended up not getting added. But I hope that this effort, this bipartisan negotiation, is a template and a blueprint for all the other areas that we're going to need to work on next year," he said referring the dynamics of having an incoming Democratic presidents with a Democrat-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate.
Harder highlighted a new direction in the Payment Protection Program, which allows employers to apply for forgivable loans to keep staff on their payroll. The new PPP parameters target small businesses, with fewer than 300 employees, that have a revenue decline of 25% or more in their business.
Previous funds from this program saved over 70,000 jobs in District 10 of California according to data released by the federal Treasury Department's Small Business Administration.
"It's just been so unreasonable that we have been asking small businesses to operate at 25% or 50% or even 0% capacity for the last six or nine months without giving them that relief and so this is really targeted towards the businesses that have needed the most help," Harder said.
Part of the stimulus package also includes funding to help states purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines more efficiently, an effort Harder says is necessary to bring people back into the workforce.
As the number of COVID-19 cases spike and quarantine fatigue has hit many residents, Harder encourages people in the valley hold out just a little bit longer and continue practicing social distancing and other health practices keep healthcare capacity afloat until things can be set in place to break out of the pandemic cycle.
"There's a light at the end of the tunnel and that light is the vaccine. And the faster that we can accelerate vaccine distribution across the Valley, the better. But the trouble is, as we go in there, we got to make sure we don't get hit by the train," he said.
"Things are still pretty dire across the Central Valley, and so I do think it's right to be hopeful. It's right to be optimistic, but there is still a very important role that everybody needs to play. We have to make sure that we're continuing these public health interventions, especially when we have very little remaining healthcare capacity."
While the amount of funding is not what California Gov. Gavin Newsom had hoped for, he still considers the amount to be significant and timely.
"They are significant. They'll need to do more in the future but, nonetheless, they are significant," said Newsom during a press conference on Monday afternoon. “Let me close by reminding people that what comes from the federal government does not end the story. It is the beginning of support."
As it currently stands, California is estimated to receive about $50 billion of these funds, according to Newsom. Included in the estimates are $20 billion toward unemployment assistance, $17 billion in direct stimulus checks to California residents and $8.5 billion toward schools, community colleges and universities. However, relief does not include direct aid for state and local governments.
If things run smoothly in the next few days, residents can see new stimulus checks in the mail as early as next week.
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