Covid vaccines and $600 payments: key provisions in the US stimulus bill

Donald Trump signed the new Covid-19 stimulus package into law on Sunday night, suddenly giving into pressure from Congress after calling the legislation a “disgrace” days earlier.

The $900bn emergency relief bill includes funds to help small businesses, health providers and schools, as well as individuals facing unemployment, eviction and food insecurity.

Here is a look at a few of the key provisions in the more than 5,000-page package:

Individual aid

Most Americans can expect a $600 stimulus check from the government, half the amount distributed to individuals in the spring. The stimulus checks will be made available to adults with annual incomes up to $75,000, with smaller payments available to those who make more. There will also be $600 available per child. This round, families with mixed-immigration status will also qualify for the funds, after US citizens in such families were excluded from collecting the checks in the spring.

Trump said he wanted to give Americans $2,000 stimulus checks, a move favored by Democrats. But Republican lawmakers are not expected to support it.

Unemployment benefits will also include an extra $300 per week for at least 10 weeks. That is half the amount the government provided from March to August.

Covid-19 vaccine and testing

There is $69bn included in the bill to aid Covid-19 vaccine distribution, contact tracing and testing. This includes $9bn to healthcare providers and $4.5bn to mental health services. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week that more than a million people in the US had received the first dose of the vaccine – 10 days after Covid-19 vaccine administration began in the country.

Small business aid

The package extends the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provided roughly $525bn in aid to more than five million businesses after it was enacted in the spring. Loans of up to $2m will be available to small, hard-hit businesses and $15bn of the funding is dedicated to live venues such as movie theaters and museums.

PPP, which ended in August, was criticized for its complexity and loopholes and the $284bn extension attempts to address those issues. Congress members said they attempted to better target the funds after Black-owned businesses reported difficulties accessing the loans. Businesses have until 31 March to apply for the loans, but it is not clear when the application process will open.

School funding

Educational institutions will get $82bn, with $54bn for public schools, which provide free education to children in kindergarten through high school. This is roughly four times more than what Congress provided to public schools in its spring economic relief package.

State governments are facing budget deficits because of falling personal income tax and sales tax revenue, leaving public schools vulnerable. The promised funding still falls short of requests by public school groups, but president-elect Joe Biden has promised to direct more help to schools.

The rest of the money will be directed to colleges and universities ($23bn), an education emergency relief fund ($4bn) and Native American schools ($1bn).

Rental assistance

State and local governments will be able to distribute funds to people who may be facing eviction under a $25bn first-of-its-kind rental assistance program. The assistance can be used for rent, back rent, utilities and other related expenses.

The bill also extends the federal eviction moratorium by a month. The moratorium is limited and has allowed evictions to continue in certain circumstances.

Broadband infrastructure

At a time when millions of Americans are working from home, attending school and seeing their doctors online, Congress is providing $7bn to expand high-speed internet access. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimated that 21 million Americans lack high-speed internet access but other studies have estimated the number at close to 42 million.

About half of the money will be used for a $50 per month broadband benefit to help cover internet bills for low-income families. Funds will also be used to help with broadband issues for communities near historically Black colleges and universities, the federal government’s telehealth program and rural broadband.


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