- Top congressional leaders clinched a stimulus deal after months of on-again, off-again negotiations.
- The agreement is expected to contain $600 stimulus checks and $300 federal weekly unemployment benefits.
- The deal could pave the way for a quick series of votes on Sunday afternoon only hours before the government funding deadline expires.
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Congressional leaders on Sunday struck a long-awaited deal on a $900 billion federal rescue package, clearing final policy hurdles and paving the way for passage amid an especially dark stretch of the pandemic.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the announcement from the Senate floor on Sunday afternoon.
"The four leaders of the Senate and House finalized an agreement," the Kentucky Republican said. "It will be another major rescue package for the American people."
He said the package would total around $900 billion.
Negotiations kicked off earlier this week in a series of back-to-back meetings between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, McConnell, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The group signaled it was making steady progress in the last few days.
The relief package is expected to contain:
- $600 stimulus checks for individuals
- $300 weekly federal unemployment insurance for 11 weeks
- $300 billion in funds for a revival of the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses
The announcement of a deal could lead to a rapid-fire series of votes in the House and Senate on Sunday, only hours before the deadline for government funding expires at 11:59pm. Lawmakers will have a very slim margin for error unless they pass a stopgap funding bill to keep federal agencies financed for another day or several.
Congressional leaders set up a swift timetable. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, told rank-and-file lawmakers to stand by on Sunday for House votes on "government funding and further coronavirus relief legislation." They're also attempting to pass a $1.4 trillion spending bill to fund the government into next year.
Senior Republicans and Democrats want to merge both pieces of legislation, meaning that lawmakers could have only hours to review a broad tax-and-spending package costing over $2 trillion. However, some top Republicans including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas have cast doubt the Senate can move that fast.
The agreement comes as the economic recovery is showing signs of slowing down with no new federal aid in nine months. States are enacting new restrictions to suppress the rapid spread of the virus. There's been a steady uptick in the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits for the past three weeks, and job growth is in danger of fizzling out. The economy has regained just over half of the 22 million jobs lost in March and April.
But virus cases and deaths are reaching new highs. The pandemic has continued devastating the lives of Americans, with many small businesses are on the brink of financial ruin. A new study from the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame indicated 7.8 million people had fallen into poverty since late July.
Half of all small businesses in the country may have to close for good in the next year, according to a survey from the US Chamber of Commerce.
Congress is running up against the expiration of multiple federal benefit programs set up in the spring. Nearly 14 million people are threatened with the loss of all their unemployment assistance if some federal measures are not renewed, per Labor Department data.
A moratorium on evictions also expires December 31, putting millions of Americans at risk of losing their homes.