Trump Signs $900 Billion Pandemic Aid Package into Law

President Trump on Sunday night signed the latest Covid-19 relief bill into law, unleashing hundreds of billions in aid for individuals and small businesses.

The $900 billion bill re-opens the Paycheck Protection Program, expands the eligible expenses for forgiveness, allows a second draw for those businesses that have already received a loan, restores deductibility of PPP forgiven expenses, targets loans for the smallest of businesses, and provides a simplified forgiveness process for loans under $150,000. He also signed the $1.4 trillion spending bill, which would keep the federal government funded through September. The deadline for passage was December 28, as Congress had approved funding only through that date.

Both measures faced a potential veto threat from President Trump, who has already vetoed a $740.5 billion defense bill. Lawmakers were poised to attempt to override the veto. They needed two-thirds of both chambers to do so, which they have, but overriding a veto would be seen as potentially politically unpopular for Republicans. 

“I am signing this bill to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP, return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more,” said Trump in a statement on December 27. He also renewed his calls for bigger checks to individuals, which was the key issue he raised last week after calling the package and its attendant spending bill, a “disgrace.”

“I have told Congress that I want far less wasteful spending and more money going to the American people in the form of $2,000 checks per adult and $600 per child,” he said in the statement.

The statement went on to suggest that both the House and the Senate would vote on increasing the economic impact payments. Currently, the House is set to vote on boosting checks to individuals to $2,000 from $600 on December 28. The House, which is led by Democrats, who favor higher payouts to individuals, already attempted to vote on increasing aid to $2,000. On December 24, members failed to pass the meaure by unanimous consent. It isn’t clear when the Senate might vote on the matter. 

The president’s move to sign the relief bill comes amid reports of a staggering loss of life and increasing concerns that renewed restrictions would cause more businesses to falter. Recent data compiled by Johns Hopkins University show that more than 332,000 Americans have died as a result of the coronavirus. Meanwhile about 4 million–mostly small–U.S. businesses will have closed permanently by the end of this year, says Ray Greenhill, president and founder of Oxxford Information Technology, an information services firm in Hagaman, N.Y., which tracks about 32 million businesses. Through the third quarter, roughly 3.4 million small businesses had closed this year.

This relief bill doesn’t bring those businesses back, but it does potentially help keep those now on the edge from crumbling. Using the $138 billion left over from the Paycheck Protection Program under the Cares Act, thanks to this law, small businesses will have more than $325 billion in new aid.

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