New Pandemic Relief Law Agreement

The leaders of both parties in Congress have finally agreed to new pandemic relief: $300 per week unemployment benefits and $600 stimulus checks.

On Sunday evening, December 20, 2020, the U.S. Senate Republican and Democratic leaders announced that they finally agreed on a new pandemic relief package.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the following on the floor of the Senate:

More help is on the way. Moments ago, in consultation with our committees, the four leaders of the Senate and House finalized an agreement. It would be another major rescue package for the American people.

As of this writing (Sunday evening) the language of the bill has not yet been finalized. It has not passed either the Senate or House of Representative, or been signed into law. So the details are not fully nailed down. But this is what is now very likely to happen:

Extension of Unemployment Benefits

The new law would extend federal unemployment benefits up to $300 per week. This is half as much as the prior $600 weekly benefits from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act. Those expired back on July 31, 2020.  (Our blog post of April 6, 2020 covered the unemployment benefits under CARES.)

The new $300 weekly benefits could start as early as December 27. This date is currently up in the air but should be finalized in the next day or two. Very likely the benefit would last up to 11 weeks of unemployment.

A separate CARES Act provision gave unemployment benefits to self-employed workers, independent contractors, and gig workers. This was set to expire after December 31, 2020. The new law will very likely extend this for 11 weeks as well. (See this U.S. Dept. of Labor article about unemployment benefits under CARES.)

Stimulus Checks

There will almost certainly be stimulus checks of $600 per person. Very similar to the CARES Act’s $1,200 checks, these will be reduced for people earning more than $75,000 in 2019. There will again be a sliding scale, with those with incomes of more than $99,000 receiving nothing.

Unlike the CARES Act, which provided reduced amounts for children, both adults and children will receive $600. Adult dependents are not likely to qualify for these payments.

Eviction Moratorium

A nationwide moratorium on evictions is currently expiring on December 31, 2020. (Our blog post of September 9, 2020 is about this moratorium.) The new law is set to extend that by one month, to the end of January 31, 2020.

The pending law apparently has about $25 billion in funding for emergency renter assistance in the pending law. We don’t yet know how that is to be allocated.

Next…

At this writing Congress will likely vote on this new law early this week, with the expectation that the President will sign it before Christmas. This law has been haggled over for months, with numerous delays, so we’ll see in the next few days.

Assuming that this new pandemic relief agreement does become law, we’ll cover its details in our next few blog posts.


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