December 22, 2020

Congress Passes First Major COVID-19 Relief Since April

We've updated this article as of December 28, 2020. 

After months of negotiating and political stalemate, Congress passed an additional COVID-19 relief package, HR 133, on December 21. Ultimately, Congress was able to end the highly publicized gridlock by combining the relief package with the larger bill to fund the federal government, averting a government shutdown. President Trump signed the bill into law on December 27.

First COVID Relief Since April

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Washington has taken several steps to provide relief to Americans, help small businesses and support public health efforts to fight the virus. Congress first passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on March 6. The relatively modest bill focused on public health funding and included $8.3 billion in federal support. As the COVID-19 pandemic quickly worsened, Congress passed in quick succession the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the $2.2 trillion CARES Act before the end of March. These laws focused on paid leave, unemployment insurance, and financial aid to health providers, businesses, and individuals. The CARES Act included the very popular Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses impacted by local shutdown orders, as well as a provider relief fund at the Department of Health and Human Services to support the nation’s health care providers. On April 24, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act was signed into law to infuse an additional $484 billion into these popular programs.

Negotiations Through Summer and Fall

Throughout the summer and fall, Congress continued to hear from local and state governments, businesses, health care providers, and individuals that more aid was needed. However, the Democrat-controlled House and Republican-led Senate were unable to reach an agreement on what policies and programs to prioritize until now. In May, the House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion package, the HEROES Act, which was followed in July by the Senate introducing a counter-proposal in an attempt to lay down a marker and begin negotiations on an eventual bipartisan, bicameral package. For months, policymakers have been unable to land on a compromise that balances the priorities of each of these proposals. The political impasse in Washington left American families and businesses without additional relief for months. In early December, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, not including members of congressional leadership, introduced a $908 billion COVID relief compromise in an attempt to break the logjam and get negotiations back on track before the end of the year. This action helped restart negotiations, which ended in the development of a 5,593-page bill over the weekend.

A 5,593-Page Bill

Negotiations in recent weeks have occurred against the backdrop of a looming deadline for Congress to fund the government. Initially, federal appropriations were set to run out on Friday, December 11, but Congress has acted with a series of stop-gap funding bills in recent weeks to avoid a government shutdown and simultaneously buy themselves more time to pass a longer-term funding bill and COVID relief. The result of this was the creation and passage of the massive bill Monday night, which includes a $1.4 trillion omnibus to fund the government through September 30, 2021, $900 billion in COVID-specific relief, and countless policy riders and bills from nearly every committee in Congress.

Below, the Faegre Drinker team has included relevant links from congressional leaders and committees to bill text, statements and summaries of these provisions. We will continue to update this resource as additional summaries become available in the coming days.

The massive bill includes, among others, the following COVID relief provisions:

  • $600 direct stimulus payments
  • An additional $300 a week in increased unemployment benefits
  • An extension of the current ban on evictions and foreclosures
  • $325 billion to help small businesses
  • $13 billion for additional food assistance programs
  • $82 billion for schools
  • $10 billion for child care programs
  • $69 billion for vaccine distribution

Quick Resources

Appropriations Committee

Senate Finance Committee

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

House Committee on Energy and Commerce

House Ways and Means Committee

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee

Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

House Agriculture Committee

House Education and Labor Committee

House Committee on Financial Services

House Committee on Foreign Affairs

House Judiciary Committee

House Natural Resources Committee

House Committee on Small Business

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