The Slatest

Congress Reaches Agreement on Second COVID-19 Relief Bill

Mitch McConnell, wearing a mask.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) heads to the floor of the Senate from his office on December 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Congressional leaders have reached an agreement on a second COVID-19 relief bill, ABC News reports. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who resisted the idea of additional relief for months upon months, announced the news on the Senate floor Sunday, saying he could “finally report what our nation has needed to hear for a very long time.”

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The $900 billion dollar package includes an additional $300 a week in unemployment insurance, $600 relief checks for individuals, $25 billion in aid for renters, an eviction moratorium, aid for small businesses, schools, and hospitals, and money for vaccine distribution. A bipartisan effort to increase the relief checks to $1200 was blocked by Republican Senator Ron Johnson. To get the bill across the finish line, Republicans had to give up a COVID-19 liability shield McConnell wanted, which would have prevented employees from having any recourse against their employers for putting them in unsafe conditions where they contracted COVID-19. (Some employers have gone far beyond ordinary negligence: At Tyson Foods, managers not only kept their plants open during an outbreak, but set up a betting pool over which of their employees would catch the deadly disease.) Democrats, for their part, had to give up a package of aid for state and local governments they had wanted. The final sticking point in negotiations, an effort by Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania to shut down some of the emergency lending programs the Federal Reserve set up in response to the pandemic, was resolved with a compromise late Saturday night.

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So how will the public respond to this relief package, so much less generous than the support other governments are giving their citizens, grudgingly offered many months after our government’s own failure to take the pandemic seriously sent the economy into freefall? Early responses have not been positive:

The House will vote on the proposed relief bill on Monday, and has passed a 24-hour continuing resolution to continue funding the government in the meantime.

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