Key elements of new US stimulus package

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Congress was due to vote Monday (Dec 21) on a US$900 billion (S$1.2 trillion) plan to support families and businesses hit by the pandemic.

Here are the main provisions included in the bipartisan legislation:

Help for families

The measure calls for payments of US$600 for each taxpaying adult and dependent child, subject to income limits.

The amount declines for individuals earning more than US$75,000 or couples making more than US$150,000. Individuals earning US$99,000 or more will not receive anything.

The payments in this round will go not only to American citizens but families with mixed immigration status, including legal residents and those in the country illegally but who pay taxes.

In addition to the direct payments, the new package provides an extra US$300 a week in unemployment benefits through mid-March.

Millions of jobless workers were due to lose these benefits before the end of the year.

The new Bill slashes the benefits granted in the US$2.2 trillion CARES Act approved in March, which provided US$1,200 direct payments for adults and US$500 for each child, as well as US$600 a week in extra jobless payments for four months.

The direct payments and jobless benefits will cost some US$286 billion.

Food aid

The legislation includes US$13 billion in funding for food stamps which go to families meeting certain income requirements. According to Democrats, up to 17 million children are currently food insecure.

Eviction moratorium

The deal includes US$25 billion in rental assistance to families struggling to pay for housing due to the pandemic.

It also extends an eviction moratorium through Jan 31, protecting millions of tenants at risk.

Small businesses loans

Small businesses struggling to stay alive amid the pandemic shutdowns and restrictions will receive another round of US$284 billion in aid under the Paycheck Protection Programme (PPP), which provides loans that are forgiven if they are used to pay wages and rent.

Restaurants and entertainment venues have been especially hard hit and economists warned of a wave of bankruptcies without more support.

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Schools and childcare

Some US$82 billion will go to help schools and universities reopen safely – a key concern since many working parents have been forced to reduce their hours or stop working in order to take care of children.

The funding will help repair and replace ventilation systems to mitigate transmission of the virus, and for reorganisation of classrooms to allow for safe distances between students.

In addition, US$10 billion will be deployed to help families pay for childcare.

Fight against the coronavirus

Almost US$70 billion was set aside to purchase and distribute vaccines, and of that about US$22 billion will be sent to states for Covid-19 testing and contact tracing.

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