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Highlights of new COVID relief deal: Congress to vote on $300 jobless benefit, $600 direct payment and more PPP

The pending measure has no direct payments for the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois and other cash-starved local governments.

Pelosi And Schumer Speak To Press On COVID-19 Stimulus And Omnibus Spending Bills
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) listens as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks Sunday on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate finally came to an agreement on the coronavirus relief bill, and a vote could come as soon as Monday.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — House and Senate leaders on Sunday reached a deal on a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package with $600 stimulus checks and $300-a-week jobless benefits — but no direct payments to the city of Chicago or state of Illinois to help meet payrolls.

The lack of an agreement to help cash-starved local governments — not a surprise at this point — means Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker have tough choices ahead when it comes to taxes and layoffs.

After months of negotiations, Congress is expected to approve the measure this week.

If signed into law, this $900 billion measure will be the second largest stimulus in the nation’s history, according to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The emergency $2.2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — known as the CARES Act — signed into law on March 27 was the biggest.

Deal highlights:

Direct payments: The CARES Act included $1,200 payments for people who met income requirements. The new, pending package sends $600 cash to each eligible person, and if the rules are the same as in the CARES Act, that could mean a top payment of $2,400 for a family of four.

Jobless benefits: There will be $300 per week extra for people getting unemployment insurance through March 14, 2021. The CARES Act provided for a $600 weekly supplemental payments for several months.

“For the 20 million people who would lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, help is on the way,” Schumer said at a Sunday night briefing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Vaccines: According to a legislative summary provided by Schumer and Pelosi, there are “billions” of dollars to provide free vaccines “to as many Americans as possible as soon as possible.” There is also money for more testing and tracing and “billions reserved specifically for combating the disparities facing communities of color.”

According to a summary authored by the House Republican Whip, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the deal includes $20 billion for purchase of vaccines and $8 billion for vaccine distribution. While states are getting no direct cash to help with regular operating costs, there will be $20 billion to assist states with testing costs.

PPP loans: There is $284 billion for more Paycheck Protection Program loans. The PPP was created in the CARES Act to give business and nonprofit employers a financial lifeline. The PPP loans, if used according to the rules, do not have to be repaid. The rules will be revised to make more nonprofits eligible as well as “local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters.”

According to the Scalise summary, the deal “gives businesses experiencing severe revenue reductions an opportunity to apply for a second draw PPP loan.”

Other loans: Money will be set aside so small financial institutions serving low-income and minority communities — hardest hit by the pandemic — will have funds to make more loans.

Live shows, movie theaters, museums, other cultural institutions: The deal includes $15 billion in funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions with “significant” lost revenue.

Rental assistance: The measure has $25 billion in rental help. There will be an extension of the federal eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021.

Schools: The agreement has $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools, including money to make classrooms safer from COVID-19 transmissions with improved ventilation systems.

Child care: There is $10 billion for child care assistance for parents and for child care providers.

Transportation: There is $45 billion in transportation related spending including, according to the Scalise analysis: $16 billion for another round of airline employee and contractor payroll support; $14 billion for transit; $10 billion for highways; $2 billion for intercity buses; $2 billion for airports; and $1 billion for Amtrak.

Cities and states: Lightfoot and Pritzker and other mayors and governors — Republicans and Democrats — have been pleading with Congress to send more help to make up for lost revenues and high demands on government services as a result of COVID-19. The argument, rejected by Republicans, was that if PPP loans could be used to keep paychecks flowing to private sector workers, the same assistance should be provided to those employed by state and local governments.

Local governments got money under the CARES Act to pay for costs associated with fighting the pandemic. Cities and states lost a bid to apply any unused CARES Act money to make up for lost revenues. What cities and states did get was an extra year to spend the CARES Act money.