The United States Congress passed a massive year-end bill Monday night that includes a $900-billion coronavirus aid plan.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the measure with large majorities, although lawmakers had only a few hours to examine the more than 5,000-page bill. It approved 1.4 trillion dollars in spending to keep the U.S. government operating.
The legislation comes after weeks of negotiations. Congressional leaders from both parties debated how much government assistance should be provided in coronavirus aid and whether the aid should center on help to individuals or businesses.
The United States is experiencing a sharp and growing rise in COVID-19 infections. The country recorded more than 18 million confirmed cases as of Monday night. More than 319,000 Americans have died of the disease, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reports.
One of the main parts of the new bill provides direct payments of $600 to most people. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said millions of Americans could begin seeing the payments as soon as next week. Payments of $1,200 were included in a much larger coronavirus relief bill in March.
The new bill also includes $284 billion for the U.S. Paycheck Protection Program. The program is designed to help businesses keep workers employed during the economic pressure caused by the health crisis.
And the bill contains almost $300 a week in unemployment assistance for 11 weeks, $82 billion for local schools and universities, $25 billion in home cost assistance, $15 billion for theaters and $10 billion for child care.
The bill also provides $4 billion to help other countries with vaccination efforts for COVID-19.
“The American people can rest assured that more help is on the way, immediately,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican.
Democratic Party lawmakers had pushed for a much larger aid program, with the House passing a $3-trillion package in May and a $2-trillion version in October. But Republicans opposed that level of spending.
Democrats say the aid measure is just a first step of what will come after President-elect Joe Biden take office on January 20.
Biden wrote about the bill’s passage on Twitter. He praised the progress but said “our work is far from over."
"Starting in the new year, Congress will need to immediately get to work on support for our COVID-19 plan,” he wrote.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said anyone who considers the new aid as enough, in his words, “hasn’t heard the desperation in the voices of their constituents, has not looked into the eyes of the small business owner on the brink of ruin.”
Any proposals for additional spending will be highly dependent on two January 5 runoff elections for Senate seats. Both are in the state of Georgia. The results will decide which party controls the Senate.
The total $1.4-trillion spending package will keep the government operational through next September. It includes an extension of tax help for numerous businesses for at least the next year, $45 billion for transportation needs and $13 billion for a major expansion in food assistance.
I’m Caty Weaver.
VOA News reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
package - n. a collection of related items
desperation - n. a strong feeling of sadness, fear, and loss of hope
constituent- n. any one of the people who live and vote in an area : a member of a constituency
brink - n. a point that is very close to of something very bad or (less commonly) very good
runoff - n. an additional race, contest, or election that is held because an earlier one has not resulted in a winner