Hundreds of dollars in direct payments may start going to American households as soon as next week after Congress overwhelmingly passed a $900 billion stimulus package sending billions of dollars to individuals and businesses grappling with the economic and health toll of the coronavirus pandemic.
The long-sought relief package was part of a $2.3 trillion catchall package that included $1.4 trillion to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. It included the extension of routine tax provisions, a tax deduction for corporate meals, the establishment of two Smithsonian museums, a ban on surprise medical bills and a restoration of Pell grants for incarcerated students, among hundreds of other measures.
Though the $900 billion stimulus package is half the size of the $2.2 trillion stimulus law passed in March that provided the core of its legislative provisions, it remains one of the largest relief packages in modern American history. It will revive a supplemental unemployment benefit for millions of unemployed Americans at $300 a week for 11 weeks and provide for another round of $600 direct payments to adults and children.
“I expect we’ll get the money out by the beginning of next week — $2,400 for a family of four — so much needed relief just in time for the holidays,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on CNBC. “I think this will take us through the recovery.”
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who received a coronavirus vaccine on Monday with television cameras rolling, has insisted that this bill is only the beginning, and that more relief, especially to state and local governments, will be coming after his inauguration next month.
Lawmakers hustled on Monday to pass the bill, nearly 5,600 pages long, less than 24 hours after its completion and before virtually anyone had read it. At one point, aides struggled simply to put the measure online because of a corrupted computer file.
The legislative text is likely to be one of the longest ever, and it became available only a few hours before both chambers approved the bill. In the Senate, the bill passed 92 to 6. It will now go to President Trump for his signature.
Another dose of relief is finally on the way for the millions of Americans facing financial distress because of the pandemic.
Congress on Monday night passed an economic relief package that would provide a round of $600 stimulus payments to most Americans and partly restore the enhanced federal unemployment benefit, offering $300 for 11 weeks. The agreement also contains provisions related to student loans, rental assistance and medical bills.
How quickly the money reaches your pocket will depend on several factors, though. The New York Times’s Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber have compiled a list of answers to your questions about pandemic relief, including:
Will I receive another stimulus payment?
When can I expect to receive my check?
How does the aid package affect unemployment insurance?
What about relief for housing bills like rent and mortgages?
The pandemic aid bill contains $285 billion for additional loans under the Paycheck Protection Program — the government’s small-business program created under the CARES Act — through March 31, while doing away with the restriction that left more than $100 billion unspent over the summer. The New York Times’s Stacy Cowley reports on what we know based on outlines of the bill circulating among congressional officials on Monday:
The new relief bill offers a second cash infusion for those who meet stricter terms: Borrowers with fewer than 300 employees that had a 25 percent drop in sales from a year earlier in at least one quarter could qualify for an additional loan of up to $2 million.
Hotels and food-service businesses are eligible for bigger loans this time, up to 3.5 times their average monthly payroll. Other borrowers would again be limited to 2.5 times their payroll.
Publicly traded companies are ineligible for the new loans, eliminating a provision that provoked a public outcry as deep-pocketed restaurant chains, software companies and drug makers, among others, collected taxpayer-funded loans.
The new bill expands the list of expenses that a loan could be used to pay, which previously were limited mostly to payroll, rent and utilities. Businesses could now use the money to buy supplies from their vendors, buy protective equipment for their staff or fix property damage “due to public disturbances,” according to a House Small Business Committee summary.
The plan would allow business owners who received loans in the program, which are tax-free, to claim deductions for expenses they paid for with loan proceeds.
The bill would also allocate $50 million to the Small Business Administration for audits and other efforts to address fraud in the program, which was a significant problem in the first round of funding.
The bill includes other aid measures that are not specifically part of the Paycheck Protection Program but could nonetheless help many small businesses. Those include a $15 billion grant fund for closed theaters, museums, zoos and live event venues, and $12 billion for Community Development Financial Institutions, which make loans and grants to people and communities that are often unable to get traditional banks to do business with them.
A month after BuzzFeed announced that it would buy HuffPost, Group Nine Media, the owner of TheDodo, NowThis, Thrillist, Seeker and PopSugar, sent a strong signal that it plans to get bigger.
The company, led by the chief executive, Ben Lerer, formed a special purpose acquisition company, according to an S.E.C. filing on Monday. In the filing, Group Nine said it planned to merge with similar companies but did not cite any agreements with specific partners.
“We initially intend to focus our search on target businesses in the digital media and adjacent industries, including the social media, e-commerce, events, and digital publishing and marketing sectors,” the company said in the filing.
“Our objective,” it added, “is to create a scalable digital media platform.”
Group Nine got its start in 2016, when the companies behind Thrillist, NowThis and TheDodo joined with Seeker, a digital network belonging to Discovery Communications. Discovery kicked in $100 million to help to new company get going, and Mr. Lerer, the former head of Thrillist, became its leader.
Group Nine expanded last year when it acquired PopSugar, a website with a shopping platform, a cosmetics line and a festival business, from the husband-and-wife duo Brian and Lisa Sugar. That deal came as part of a wave of consolidation in the digital media business, after Vox Media’s purchase of New York Media, the company behind New York magazine, and Vice Media’s acquisition of Refinery29.
After the BuzzFeed-HuffPost merger and Group Nine’s federal filing, digital media companies seem likely to continue the trend of joining forces in an industry that is not the wide-open field it used to be. Google and Facebook have grabbed ad revenue away from publishers, while Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Twitch have monopolized the time and attention of would-be readers. And many legacy media outlets have become web savvy, hiring digital journalists, audience specialists and engineers away from popular sites, while also figuring out ways to persuade their customers to spring for expensive subscriptions.
With the formation of a special purpose acquisition company, a popular financial tool that effectively allows privately held companies to go public without an initial public offering of stock, Group Nine moved closer to making more deals. A Group Nine spokeswoman declined to comment.