New stimulus checks could go out next week as Congress readies relief bill vote

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday said millions of Americans could begin seeing stimulus payments as soon as next week as the White House and Congress work to rush a $900 billion spending package into law.

The House and Senate are planning to vote on the measure later in the day, though legislative text for the package was still in development on Monday morning. Final passage in the Senate could be delayed into Monday evening. Lawmakers reached a deal on the bill Sunday.

The $600 stimulus checks are one part of the legislation, which includes $300 in weekly unemployment benefits for 11 weeks, aid for small businesses, the airline industry, money for vaccine distribution, and a range of other measures. And even though many lawmakers from both parties have said the bill would provide some relief to businesses and households hammered by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, disagreements had already sprung up about whether it would be enough.

President-elect Joe Biden said in a statement Sunday that “this action in the lame duck session is just the beginning. Our work is far from over.”

But Mnuchin said in a CNBC interview that the package was “fabulous” and should see the United States through the other side of the economic recovery.

Senate leaders announced the breakthrough agreement Sunday night after several weeks of negotiations. As of Monday morning, however, legislative text had not yet been released, raising the prospect lawmakers could vote on a massive agreement with almost no time to review it.

“This is a large bill and it has a little bit of everything for everybody,” Mnuchin said.

The legislation brokered by congressional leaders includes about $325 billion in business relief, including about $275 billion for another round of Paycheck Protection Program funding. It would also extend federal unemployment benefits of up to $300 per week, which could start as early as Dec. 27.

The legislation also addresses dozens of other needs, including $45 billion for transportation needs such as state transportation departments and Amtrak; $82 billion for schools; $20 billion for vaccine distribution; and $13 billion for a major expansion in food stamps.

Mnuchin also confirmed that the deal includes the business meals tax deduction that has proven controversial with Democrats.

Despite the breakthrough on the deal, market futures tumbled on Monday as European countries implemented travel bans in response to a virus mutation in Britain.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., also told CNBC on Monday that he opposed another round of stimulus payments, noting that many Americans have not lost their jobs during the pandemic but will still receive the government assistance. A bipartisan framework released earlier this month excluded another round of stimulus payments.

Mnuchin cited conversations with numerous business executives whose firms saw an immediate boost from the disbursal of the payments. “The direct payments get into the economy very quickly,” Mnuchin said.

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