What is in the $900 Billion Covid-19 Stimulus Bill - December 29, 2020

Last week, Congress passed a $900 billion Covid-relief and a $1.4 trillion government-funding package that provides pandemic aid and funds federal agencies through September 2021.

It’s a bill that runs over 5,000 pages.


Zeroing in on Covid relief, the measure will provide another round of direct payments, enhanced unemployment benefits, education funding, and aid to sectors still reeling from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Key components—

  • $325 billion for small businesses
  • $166 billion in direct checks
  • $120 billion in unemployment benefits
  • $82 billion for schools
  • $69 billion for vaccines, testing, and tracing
  • $45 billion for transportation
  • $25 billion for rental assistance and more (Source: Wall Street Journal)


The Paycheck Protection Program has been renewed with changes. Existing borrowers may apply for a loan as long as they have 300 or fewer employees and can demonstrate they had a 25% drop in sales this year versus the same quarter in 2019.

First-time borrowers will be subject to the program’s original eligibility rules, which allowed for loans up to 500 employees and no requirement to show a loss in revenue.

Borrowers are required to spend at least 60% of the funds on payroll to receive full forgiveness. The additional 40% may be used on eligible expenses.

The bill includes $15 billion to cover airline salaries through the end of March, allowing tens of thousands of airline employees to return to work, at least for a few months. It also includes $15 billion for independent movie theaters, live entertainment venues, and cultural institutions.

Direct payments

Direct economic relief via stimulus checks of $600 will be provided for individuals making up to $75,000 per year. Couples earnings up to $150,000 will receive $1,200 checks, with an extra $600 for dependent children that are under 17 years old. As with the CARES Act, payments are phased about above the income limits.

Jobless aid

Workers are eligible for an additional $300 per week in federal unemployment benefits, down from $600 in the CARES Act. The self-employed and freelancers are included. The bill also provides extended benefits, up to 50 weeks. Most states provide standard benefits of 26 weeks.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, NCSL National Conference of State Legislatures Covid-19 Economic Relief Bill

Trump objects

Following the bill’s passage, President Trump said the direct payments are not enough and insisted $2,000 per person be provided. It’s unclear whether he’ll veto the bill. If he does, Congress could attempt to override, as the act was passed overwhelmingly. He could also choose not to sign the bill and let it die, which is called a pocket veto.

You see, a president has 10 days to review a bill. If he doesn’t sign it, it becomes law. If Congress adjourns during the 10-day period and it remains unsigned, the bill dies. Next year, the new Congress would need to take up the measure or make changes.

Another option, Congress may also pass a separate bill that provides for additional direct payments. Thus far, market reaction to the president’s objections has been muted.

This has simply been a high-level overview of key provisions in the stimulus package.

While few analysts expect another downturn in the economy, growth has slowed amid the spike in Covid cases, and most believe new support is needed. The debate, however, centers around how much help Washington should provide.