Home / Articles / What’s in the $900 billion coronavirus relief package?

On December 21, Congress voted to approve a $900 billion coronavirus relief package, right before the holiday recess. It came as the nation continued to report near-record numbers of new coronavirus cases each day and recent job numbers showed stalled economic recovery throughout much of the US.

President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on December 27.

The US averaged more than 200,000 new daily COVID-19 cases in the weeks leading up to December 21.

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Packaged inside of a 5,593-page spending bill, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act extends some provisions that were first introduced in the $2 trillion CARES Act. The CARES Act, passed in March, provided economic aid to individuals and businesses during the first surge of the virus. Some of its provisions were set to expire on December 31.

The latest coronavirus relief measure costs roughly the same amount as the $840 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the largest stimulus measure passed in response to the Great Recession.

Stimulus checks for individuals and families

The CARES Act provided a $1,200 stimulus check to qualifying Americans. Depending on income and tax filing status, Americans were eligible for a one-time payment of up to $1,200 per person, plus an additional $500 per child. According to a USAFacts analysis, families in the middle class, or the middle 20% of income earners, were expected to earn around $1,958 from the relief check.

The latest stimulus package calls for another round of direct payments to Americans, this time in the form of $600 payments to people making $75,000 or less per year. Each child claimed as a dependent will add $600 to the final check, so a family of four making less than $150,000 per year can expect around $2,400 in relief.

Unemployment insurance

The CARES Act also included several provisions related to unemployment insurance. Specifically, it offered an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits for qualifying jobless people. Just before the provision expired in July, USAFacts analyzed where unemployment benefits stretch the furthest based on state benefit levels and the additional $600 in federal aid.

The CARES Act also created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, a temporary federal program that offers insurance benefits for workers not covered by state-administered unemployment insurance programs, such as the self-employed and gig workers. The CARES Act also extended unemployment benefits for up to 13 additional weeks through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program.

The latest deal restores the federal unemployment insurance boost at half of its initial rate, now providing $300 per week in additional support for jobless workers. It also extends both PUA and PEUC, which were set to expire on December 31.

Small business support

The CARES Act also created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Housed under the Small Business Administration (SBA), this program aimed to keep employees on small business payrolls, which were defined as those with fewer than 500 employees. Between April and August, the program dispensed over $525 billion in funding through 5.2 million loans.

The new relief package allocates $284 billion for a third round of PPP funding, following the initial rounds of $349 billion and $310 billion in funds passed by Congress in March and April. Though a smaller sum than either of the first two rounds, $284 billion is almost 10 times the value of all small business loans issued through the SBA in 2019.

The package also adds $20 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program — another program offered through the SBA to keep businesses afloat during the pandemic — as well as $15 billion for funding live performance venues and an $5.5 billion for additional lending and debt relief for small businesses.

Vaccine distribution, rental assistance, and more

While stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, and PPP funds are some of the top budget items in the new coronavirus relief deal, numerous other provisions are contained in the $900 billion package:

  • Education ($82 billion): Of the $82 billion in funding for the nation’s education system, $54 billion will go toward K-12 schools to address student learning loss and improve facilities, while $23 billion will assist colleges and universities. The funds may help schools to resume in-person learning, as both teachers and students have faced remote learning challenges during the pandemic.
  • Healthcare and vaccines ($63 billion): Around $23 billion will go toward the purchase of vaccines and other medical supplies, $22 billion is set aside for states to expand testing capacity and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and $9 billion will support vaccine distribution. Another $4 billion will support healthcare providers and provide for additional clinical research. Finally, $4 billion is earmarked for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — this at a time when many Americans face mental health challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.
  • Transportation ($45 billion): Roughly $45 billion will be spent on the transportation sector, including $15 billion for airline payroll support and $14 billion for public transit. In the first six months of 2020, US airlines experienced a net loss of $14.9 billion while transit usage also plummeted.
  • Emergency rental assistance ($25 billion): The legislation authorizes $25 billion in emergency rental assistance and extends an eviction moratorium, first enacted by the CDC, through January 31, 2021. In the first quarter of 2020, roughly one-third of homes were rented, with renters tending to be younger and of lower income than the homeowning population. According to survey data collected by the Census Bureau between November 25 and December 7, roughly 30% of renters in the US had slight or no confidence in being able to pay next month’s rent.

Additional federal dollars will go toward nutritional assistance programs and agricultural relief, as well as added funding for childcare providers and programs that expand broadband internet access.

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Text of H.R. 133: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021
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