What’s in the new pandemic relief bill?

A group of people walk down a hallway.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, heads to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill on December 29, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
Tasos Katopodis | Getty Images

At the beginning of the pandemic the federal government sent nearly every American a check for $1,200 as part of the CARES Act. Now, a second stimulus bill has been approved

The slimmed-down package provides $600 direct payments for Americans earning up to $75,000 and revives a weekly jobless payment — this time of $300 — through March 14. It also provides new funds for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and loans for small businesses through a continuation of the Paycheck Protection Program. 

Before signing it into law on Sunday, President Trump called for larger direct payments to individuals, sowing chaos among Republicans who had originally backed smaller checks. On Monday, the House voted to increase payments to $2,000, but Republican leaders in the Senate blocked an effort to vote on the bill on Tuesday. 

Is the $900 billion package enough? Will the benefits last long enough? And, will money go to those who need it most or to individuals and businesses who don’t need a lifeline?

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MPR News host Kerri Miller spoke with a political scientist and an economist about what’s in the new stimulus bill and the politics of getting it passed.


  • Tracy Gordon is a senior fellow with the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

  • Julian Zelizer is an author and professor of political history at Princeton University.

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