New stimulus package versus CARES Act: What's different this time?

Here's how the new bipartisan stimulus bill compares to March's sweeping COVID-19 relief package.

Dale Smith Former Associate Writer
Dale Smith is a former Associate Writer on the How-To team at CNET.
Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
Expertise Personal Finance: Social Security and taxes
Dale Smith
Katie Teague

What's different about the new $900 billion stimulus package and what's the same?

Angela Lang/CNET

After weeks of back and forth, Congress has approved a new $900 billion stimulus package to follow up the CARES Act from March, which included a $1,200 stimulus check, $600 in weekly federal unemployment insurance and a raft of other benefits. However, the new stimulus bill comes in at less than half of the budget, reducing many of the benefits of the original CARES Act. 

For example, a second stimulus check would provide a fraction of the amount for qualified Americans (a $600 maximum per adult, going to fewer households). And the weekly federal unemployment benefit is cut in half at $300 extra per week, for far fewer weeks. The same goes for eviction protections and other programs.

The $900 billion stimulus bill is seen as a short-term relief package until early 2021, where President-elect Joe Biden and his administration are expected to introduce yet another stimulus package to address some of what the $900 billion bill leaves out. 

While we wait for President Donald Trump to sign it into law, let's dig into the key aspects of each proposal, showing how they're similar, and exploring all the differences. This story has been updated with new information.

Read moreCalculate your second stimulus check total now

$908 billion stimulus bill vs. CARES Act vs. Heroes Act

New stimulus bill (Dec. 2020)

CARES Act (March 2020)

Revised Heroes Act (Oct. 2020)
Total cost of stimulus package $900 billion$2.2 trillion$2.2 trillion
Stimulus check maximum payment amount $600 to single filers earning under $75k per year, $1,200 for joint filers under $150k. Reduced $5 per $100 of income above limits.$1,200 to single filers earning under $75k per year, $2,400 for joint filers under $150k. Reduced $5 per $100 of income above limits.Same as CARES.
Stimulus money allocation for child dependents $600 for all dependents 16 and under. College students 24 and under are not eligible.$500 for all dependents 16 and under. College students 24 and under are not eligible.$500 for all dependents, no age limit.
Weekly federal unemployment insurance $300 per week in addition to state benefits.$600 per week in addition to state benefits.Same as CARES.
How long enhanced unemployment lasts Expires March 14 (11 weeks).Expired July 31 (16 weeks).Until Jan. 31, 2021, with a transition period extending until March 31, 2020. Allocates $925 million to help states process claims.
Paycheck Protection Program $325 billion total, including $284 billion in PPP loans, $20 billion for businesses in low-income communities and $15 billion for struggling live venues, movie theaters and museums.Allocated $659 billion total in forgivable loans for small businesses, who must use 75% on payroll to be eligible for forgiveness. $130 billion remains, but expires Aug. 8.Allocates over $30 billion, additional. Allows second loans to small businesses with fewer than 200 employees that have experienced a 25% reduction in quarterly revenue. Excludes publicly traded firms from eligibility for second loans. Puts limits on businesses with more than one physical location. Streamlines forgiveness process.
Employee tax credit Renews tax credit from CARES.Tax credit on 50% of up to $10,000 in wages.Enhances tax credit established in CARES Act.
Eviction ban Extends CDC's eviction moratorium until Jan. 31, 2021 and allocates $25 for rent relief.Bans late fees until July 25 and evictions until Aug. 24 on properties backed by federal mortgage programs (Fannie Mae, etc.) or that receive federal funds (HUD, etc.)$59.1 billion allocated for rent relief and other housing services. (Eviction moratorium already established by CDC order.)
School reopenings $82 billion, including $4 billion for a governors' relief fund, over $54 billion for public K-12 and nearly $23 billion for higher education. Plus, an additional $10 billion for non-school child care.Does not address.$182 billion for K-12, $39 billion for higher education, $57 billion for childcare.
Coronavirus testing, tracing and treatment $69 billion total: $20 billion to purchase vaccines, almost $9 billion to distribute vaccines and about $22 billion for testing, tracing and other COVID-19 programs.Does not address.$75 billion.
Watch this: Next stimulus checks: What to expect