Congress Approves $900 Billion COVID-19 Relief Package

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Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief package on Monday night, which will deliver much-needed economic aid to individuals and businesses across the country.

The bill, which was passed by the Senate with a 91-7 vote after being approved by the House with a vote of 359-53, includes a $1.4 trillion full-year spending bill that will fund the government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. It will now be sent to President Donald Trump to be signed into law, with his approval expected in the coming days.

The bill establishes 11 additional weeks of compensation for unemployed Americans, temporarily adding $300 per week to the amount received through unemployment programs. It will also issue a one-time direct payment of $600 to Americans making less than $75,000 per year, including dependents. A new round of subsidies for businesses, restaurants and theaters is also included, as well as additional funds for schools, healthcare providers and renters.

The package also includes a $15 billion aid package in line with the Save Our Stages Act, which will provide grants to live venues and independent movie theaters. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, one of the act’s biggest advocates, told Variety in an interview why the initiative has been so successful.

“We had red and blue states, people from country music to rap, from Pitbull to Lady Gaga, and it made a difference, because sometimes people get caught up in infighting and other things,” Klobuchar said. “…We had each others’ backs and explained it to members — and the fact that we had 57 co-sponsors in the Senate out of 100 was extraordinary; we had over 200 House members on the bill, and we always made sure that it was bipartisan.”

Negotiations for the second stimulus bill extended through the past weekend, after lawmakers failed to secure the long-awaited deal on Dec. 18. The White House announced that evening that President Donald Trump had signed the bill for agencies to operate until Sunday night, ratcheting up pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to finalize an agreement, which they eventually reached Sunday night.

A second stimulus check has had wide bipartisan support ever since a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that passed on March 27. Last week, Trump called for “more money than they’re talking about” in stimulus checks, as large as $1,200 or $2,000 per person, but aides reportedly convinced him that making such requests would jeopardize the stimulus bill, according to The Washington Post.

The music industry hailed the bill’s passage with the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), Artist Rights Alliance (ARA), Music Artists Coalition (MAC), Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), Recording Academy, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), SAG-AFTRA, and Songwriters of North America (SONA) issued a join statement which read, in part:

“This legislation is a much-needed lifeline for so many in the music industry who have faced loss and uncertainty for far too long through no fault of their own. We are very grateful for the extension of vital CARES Act benefits including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and the inclusion of the Save Our Stages Act, which will make billions of dollars in grants available to venues and live entertainment workers who have been unable to do their jobs for months. We are also thrilled by the inclusion of a dedicated $100 weekly benefit for mixed earners. Simply put, these relief provisions will save lives and livelihoods, and they are a substantial step on the road to recovery.”