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Congress Set to Vote on $900B Covid Stimulus Package

Congressional lawmakers are planning to vote on Monday on a $900 billion coronavirus relief package that they agreed to Saturday night.

Lawmakers on Sunday were working to finalize legislation so they can vote on it before the holiday recess. Democrats and Republicans had been negotiating for months, and it wasn’t even clear if a package could be agreed to before the recess. Congressional leaders also agreed to a full-year budget, precluding the need for a government shutdown.

The deal is expected to include federal assistance in the form of payments of $600 to qualifying households, as well as a federal unemployment supplement of $300 per week that would run through March 14. The agreement helps an estimated 12 million Americans who would have lost their unemployment insurance had jobless benefits expired. The benefits were set to expire on Dec. 26. The planned legislation also includes $25 billion in rental assistance and adds $13 billion to SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and provides for an extension of a federal benefits program for gig workers. The new package is aimed at extending benefits that have lapsed or will shortly under the $2 trillion-plus CARES Act in March. It also includes funding to help with the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

Congressional lawmakers also agreed to $325 billion in relief to small businesses.

Retail has been among the hard hit sectors due to the coronavirus, or Covid-19, pandemic.

Over 44 retail and fashion companies have filed for insolvency or bankruptcy protection globally, with at least 22 in the U.S. Among the big names have been the liquidation of Pier 1 Imports and Lord & Taylor, which was America’s first department store chain. Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus Group, casual chain J. Crew Group  and men’s retailer Tailored Brands Inc. were among the lucky ones who were able to restructure their financial balance sheet and exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. All three are under new ownership, with their former lenders taking over the companies. The J.C. Penney operation was sold to its two largest landlords, Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management, while American retailer Brooks Brothers was sold to Sparc, a joint venture between Simon and brand management firm Authentic Brands Group.

Also among the bankuptcy filers were three mall operators, one in the U.K. and two in the U.S.

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“More help is on the way. Moments ago, in consultation with our committees, the four leaders of the Senate and House finalized an agreement. It would be another major rescue package for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor Sunday night.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that Democrats would begin work for more relief at the start of the New Year.

“Immediately, starting in the new year, Congress will need to get to work on support for our COVID-19 plan, for support to struggling families, and investments in jobs and economic recovery,” President-elect Joe Biden said in a statement.