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$900 billion coronavirus relief bill passes with big support from Nebraska, Iowa members

$900 billion coronavirus relief bill passes with big support from Nebraska, Iowa members


Every member of the Nebraska and Iowa congressional delegations voted to approve the coronavirus relief measure, except one.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, did not vote.

The House approved the $900 billion relief package on a 359-53 vote Monday evening. The Senate approved the bill 92-6.

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said she was glad Congress came together to send relief to people who need it. She pointed to parts of the bill that help schools, hospitals and small businesses.

“While it took too long to respond and provide this latest assistance, it is important we were finally able to pass this bill,” she said. “It proves we can still work together for the American people.”

One of the bill’s highlights is a stimulus check of up to $600 for most Americans. The bill also provides families up to $600 per child. Individuals earning $75,000 a year or less, as well as couples earning $150,000 or less, are eligible for the full checks. Individuals earning more than $87,000 won’t receive checks.

The measure also extended the moratorium on evictions through January and added $25 billion in rent and mortgage assistance.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., criticized as “broken” and “crummy” the process Congress used to decide how it would spend money in the bill. He praised the decision to spend money on vaccine distribution and helping small businesses keep making payroll but criticized the design of direct payments, saying they didn’t target people in need.

“This cash-cannon approach puts credit-seeking politicians ahead of targeted problem-solving,” he said. “I voted for this imperfect bill during an emergency — but ... we’ve got a long way to go toward restoring some fiscal sanity.”

Midlands members of Congress, including Reps. Don Bacon, R-Neb., and Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, said they were pleased to get at least some relief out the door.

Bacon, who represents the Omaha area, emphasized help for local businesses, including live entertainment venues “hurt by lockdowns and other restrictions.” He has said a proposal by his Problem Solvers Caucus helped refocus relief talks.

Axne, who represents southwest Iowa, touted the direct payments, rental assistance and help for Iowa’s biofuels industry.

Some Republicans highlighted how much of the bill’s spending was brought forward from unspent funds in previous relief bills. About $325 billion of the $900 billion total was new spending, Bacon said.

Some congressional Democrats, as well as outgoing Republican President Donald Trump, said they wanted the new relief bill to provide more in direct payments.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., who represents much of eastern Nebraska, discussed the importance of additional unemployment benefits. Congress is funding an extra $300 a week for 11 weeks starting late this month.

Like each of the other members from Nebraska and western Iowa, Fortenberry supported continued funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers loans to small businesses hurt by COVID-19.

“While we have made great progress in fighting through the pandemic, with large-scale vaccine distribution already in progress, many Americans are still hurting badly, necessitating additional federal support,” he said.

Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., who represents the sprawling, largely rural 3rd Congressional District, said the relief bill took a “conservative approach to keeping workers employed.”

He said he was pleased that it included his work to help rural health care clinics., saying Congress needed to “empower local health care providers to meet the needs of local citizens, both rural and urban.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he was glad that the bill would help people needing unemployment benefits while also making sure that states do a better job of ensuring that the people receiving those benefits are obtaining them legally.

“The pandemic is still far from over,” he said. “But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Our best staff images from December 2020

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