• The Star Staff

Gov’t to announce soon how it will distribute latest stimulus aid

By The Star Staff

Puerto Rico Labor and Human Resources Secretary Carlos Rivera said Monday that he is paying close attention to the most recent federal COVID-19 stimulus package and will be announcing details regarding the distribution of the aid as soon as it becomes law.

“It has been mentioned that there will be $300 a week in additional unemployment benefits for 11 weeks,” Rivera said.

Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea did not respond to requests for comment.

The aid is expected to come days before a Dec. 26 deadline for obtaining an extension to unemployment benefits.

U.S. lawmakers reportedly have reached a deal on a nearly $900 billion economic stimulus package that includes more relief for small businesses and direct payments to American families suffering in the coronavirus pandemic.

The deal — the second-largest economic relief bill in U.S. history after the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March — breaks months of deadlock at a time when the U.S. economic recovery has shown signs of faltering.

“We can finally report what our nation has needed to hear for a very long time. More help is on the way,” Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, said on Sunday evening.

The deal with Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, and Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, came just hours before funding was due to expire, risking a government shutdown days before Christmas.

The deal includes a $284.5 billion extension of the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and more money to aid distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the use of Moderna’s vaccine, making it the second, after the Pfizer vaccine, to be approved for use in the U.S.

The Senate majority leader also said the package would “renew and extend” federal unemployment benefits for the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in the pandemic, and include “another round of direct impact payments.” The CARES Act had included means-tested payments of up to $1,200 per American adult, although the latest package will provide checks of up to $600 per individual, $1,200 per married couple and $600 per dependent child. The federal government will top-up unemployment insurance, which is administered by state governments, by $300 per week through mid-March. The deal also includes $13 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, and $25 billion in federal support for renters, among other provisions, such as more than $80 billion in funding to help schools and universities conduct classes in person during the pandemic. The package allocates $2 billion for small U.S. telecommunications companies to strip Huawei and ZTE equipment from their networks.

At press time, the stimulus package was being discussed on the House floor.

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