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Stimulus update: Here’s the latest on second checks and unemployment as Congress returns

Congress is back in session as an ominous spending bill looms. What could that mean for more COVID relief?

Stimulus update: Here’s the latest on second checks and unemployment as Congress returns
[Photo: iStock]
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After a Thanksgiving break during which many Americans stayed at home due to an alarming spike in COVID-19 infections, Congressional lawmakers are back this week for the final legislative days of the year. Even as the pandemic continues to spiral out of control, Democrats and Republicans have yet to agree on a stimulus and relief package that millions of people so desperately need—and have needed for months. Here’s the latest update as we head into December:

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The latest stimulus proposal

As first reported by the Washington Post, a group of Senators made up of both Democrats and Republicans are preparing to propose a stimulus package today. At roughly $908 billion, this one is more than the $500 billion “targeted” package that Republicans had proposed earlier, but less than the $2 trillion package that Democrats have been insisting on. In other words: a compromise.

What’s in the new package?

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia tweeted out the details, referring to the plan as a “framework.” Among other things, it would include $288 billion for small businesses, $180 billion for additional unemployment insurance (reportedly $300 a week), $160 billion for state and local governments, and $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution. Noticeably absent are direct payments to Americans in the form of stimulus checks.

In an interview with CNBC, Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia said the country needs an “interim package” until President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. When that happens, much will depend on who controls the Senate after the Georgia runoffs.

So this new plan will be top priority, right?

Unfortunately, lawmakers have to deal with the urgent matter of passing a new spending bill to keep the government open. The deadline for that is December 11.

What next?

Americans are in dire need of relief as many more benefits that were authorized in March as part of the CARES Act are due to expire at the end of this month. We’ll keep you posted with updates.

This story is developing and has been updated . . . 

About the author

Christopher Zara is a senior staff news editor for Fast Company and obsessed with media, technology, business, culture, and theater. Before coming to FastCo News, he was a deputy editor at International Business Times, a theater critic for Newsweek, and managing editor of Show Business magazine

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