WASHINGTON – Congress leaders affected deal on Sunday on a $ 900 billion stimulus package that would provide out-of-pocket payments and unemployment aid to struggling Americans and much-needed funds for small businesses, hospitals, schools and vaccine distribution, overcoming months of deadlock on a measure intended to stimulate the economy in the grip of the pandemic.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, announced the deal Sunday night in the Senate, saying, “We can finally report what our nation has needed to hear for a very long time: More help is on its way.” “
The deal, reached after a new wave of talks, broke a partisan block that had persisted since the summer, came hours before the federal government was ready to run out of funds, and it was not yet clear when the House and the Senate would release it. President Trump. Once drafted, it was to be merged with a catch-all spending measure that would keep the government funded for the remainder of the fiscal year, creating a $ 2.3 trillion monster whose passage will be the last act. major of Congress before the adjournment of the year.
The deal is expected to provide $ 600 in stimulus payments to U.S. adults and children, and boost additional federal unemployment benefits to $ 300 per week – half the level of assistance provided by the $ 2.2 trillion stimulus bill. dollars passed in March, as the devastating health and economy of the coronavirus pandemic impact had only just emerged.
It would extend two federal unemployment programs that expanded and extended regular benefits, and would have expired next week without Congressional action. The deal will most likely provide rental and food assistance, as well as billions of dollars for schools and small businesses, reviving the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal loan program that expired this year. .
The two most thorny political obstacles that stood in its way for months were notably absent from the final compromise. In order to strike a deal just before Christmas and allow Congress to adjourn, Republicans agreed to drop a broad coronavirus liability shield and Democrats agreed to omit a direct stream of aid to states and governments. local governments.
While the deal marked a triumphant moment in talks that had long been stalled, it was much smaller than the one Democrats had long insisted on, and nearly twice the size of what Republicans had said they were. could never accept in the days leading up to the November election. Democrats had refused for months to reduce their demands for a multibillion-dollar package, citing the devastating toll of the virus, and Republicans opposed another large infusion of federal aid, pointing to the growing deficit.
In a nod to Conservative concerns about the overall price of a package, the legislation is expected to reuse nearly $ 500 billion previously allocated under previous stimulus packages, Mr McConnell said.
But in the end, the crucial breakthrough came on Saturday just before midnight, when Republicans scrapped efforts to ban the Federal Reserve from establishing certain emergency loan programs to help stabilize the economy going forward. .
Pennsylvania Republican Senator Patrick J. Toomey launched a last-minute effort to stop the Fed and the Treasury Department from implementing a loan program similar to the one created this year that helped keep credit going to municipalities, businesses and mediums. corporate borrowers in times of crisis. After a wave of talks between him and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, the agreed alternative would only ban programs that were more or less faithful to those newly employed in 2020.
At nearly $ 1 trillion, the package was one of the largest federal relief measures in American history. Still, the resulting compromise was well short of what most economists said was needed to shake the shaky economy, and would leave President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who pushed for the compromise, to face the task of researching yet another major economic economy. first aid kit when he takes up his post in January.
The relief plan will be associated with a $ 1.4 trillion government spending bill. Included are 12 annual appropriation bills to fund each federal ministry and social safety net programs, as well as an array of complementary legislative legislators attached to ensure their priorities could be passed before Congress adjourns for the year.
Mr McConnell said the two parties were still finalizing the text at dinner time in Washington, and he did not indicate when they would formally introduce a bill or put it to a vote.
“I hope we can do this as quickly as possible,” said McConnell.
This is a developing story. Please come back for updates.