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Bill Passed by Congress Provides More Than COVID Relief

The U.S. Capitol is seen at night after negotiators sealed a deal for COVID relief, Dec. 20, 2020, in Washington.

The U.S. Congress has approved a $2.3 trillion catchall bill that includes $900 billion in COVID-19 aid and $1.4 trillion to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2021.

The measure, which President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law, provides billions of dollars to American households and businesses that have been hard hit by the country’s coronavirus crisis.

But the $2.3 billion bill also funds hundreds of initiatives unrelated to the virus, including a tax cut for corporate meals, a prohibition on surprise medical bills and the restoration of need-based grants for incarcerated college students.

Here are some of the highlights of the omnibus bill:

Omnibus appropriations

Twelve spending bills folded into the $1.4 trillion measure funds government agency operating budgets through September 30, 2021; provides a $12.5 billion increase over existing budget limits for domestic initiatives; cuts Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention and removal expenses by $431 million.

Provides sustained defense spending and funding for energy provisions; upholds bans on federal funding of abortion; provides a final $1.4 billion installment for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.


  • Surprise medical billing: Protects patients from large surprise medical bills after getting treatment from out-of-network insurance providers.
  • Community health centers: Extends funding for community health centers by three years; extends an assortment of expiring health care policies, including reimbursement rates for various health care providers.
  • Tax extenders: Business meals will be 100% deductible through 2022; out-of-pocket health care costs would be deductible after reaching 7.5% of income; extends favorable tax treatment for legal entities of offshore subsidiaries of U.S. corporations that pass income onto the owners and investors.
  • Tax breaks: Extends a number of expiring tax breaks, including lower taxes on renewable energy sources, people making charitable contributions, and distillers and craft brewers.
  • Water projects: Funds $10 billion for 46 Army Corps of Engineers flood control, environmental and coastal protection projects.
  • Clean energy: Enhances clean energy research and development and other programs; provides efficiency incentives and tax credits; phases out hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which are harmful to the earth’s ozone layer.
  • Education: Forgives about $1.3 billion in federal loans to historically Black colleges and universities and simplifies college financial aid forms; increases the maximum Pell Grant for low-income college students by $150 to $6,495; offers Pell Grants to incarcerated undergraduate college students.
  • Aircraft safety: Strengthens the Federal Aviation Administration’s aircraft certification process after the scandal involving Boeing 737 MAX crashes; authorizing nearly $275 million over the next five years to address human factors such as automation in the cockpit and international pilot training.
  • Pipeline safety: Reauthorizes operating grants and safety standards for oil and gas pipelines.
  • Intelligence programs: Reauthorizes intelligence programs for the next fiscal year.
  • New museums: Establishes the Smithsonian Institute’s Women’s History Museum and the National Museum of the American Latino on the National Mall in Washington.