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Pandemic relief finally on the way as Congress passes $900B Covid aid bill

President-elect Joe Biden considers invoking wartime production law to boost vaccine production.
Image: U.S. Capitol Senate Voting on Coronavirus package in Washington
The 5,600-page coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress late Monday now heads to President Donald Trump's desk. He is expected to sign it in the coming days. Ken Cedeno / Reuters

Good morning, NBC News readers.

After months of painstaking negotiations, Congress finally passed a substantial Covid-19 relief bill.

Here is what we're watching this Tuesday morning.

Congress passes $900 billion Covid relief bill, Trump expected to sign

Congress overwhelmingly voted Monday to pass a massive Covid-19 relief package and government funding bill, its second effort this year to bring much-needed aid to Americans struggling during the pandemic.

The legislation easily passed in the House — 359 to 53 — before breezing through the Senate shortly before midnight in a 92-6 vote. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill in the coming days

The agreement includes stimulus checks of $600 per person for individuals earning up to $75,000 per year and married couples who earn up to $150,000, with $600 more for each dependent under 18 living in the same household.

It will also extend unemployment benefits to $300 a week, provide over $284 billion more in loans for businesses struggling to pay rent and workers, $69 billion for testing and vaccine distribution and $82 billion for colleges and schools.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Monday that some stimulus checks will go out "by the beginning of next week." Here's what you can expect.

After months of negotiations over the bill, here's what each side of the political aisle won and lost in the deal.

Biden aides weigh boosting vaccine supply with wartime production law

President-elect Joe Biden's coronavirus advisory team consulted scientists and supply chain experts about whether he should invoke a wartime production law to help produce and administer more Covid-19 vaccines, two advisers familiar with discussions said.

Trump has already invoked the Defense Production Act to speed the production of medical supplies and components to test for the coronavirus, and he has raised the possibility of using the law again for vaccines.

Biden's team has explored using it soon after he takes office next month to try to meet the goal of mass vaccination by summer, the advisers said.

The president-elect received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Monday in Wilmington, Delaware.

"I'm doing this to demonstrate that people should be prepared, when it's available, to take the vaccine," Biden said seconds after he received the shot. "There's nothing to worry about."

He also praised Trump for his administration's efforts in helping accelerate the process of bringing Covid-19 vaccines to Americans.

"I think the administration deserves some credit getting this off the ground with Operation Warp Speed," Biden said.

"This gives us great hope," he said.

But distributing the vaccine across the country has not been without its hiccups. Take an inside look at the chaotic first days of the Herculean effort to vaccinate America.

Follow our live blog for all the latest Covid-19 developments.

2020: The Year in Pictures

The new decade brought the challenge of a century: A deadly and unflinching global pandemic that has radically upended our lives.

See images from the last twelve months that capture the pain, grief, rage, resilience, loneliness and hope that defined a watershed year.

New York
Bittersweet reunion: A woman hugs her grandmother through a plastic drop cloth in Wantagh, N.Y., on May 24. Al Bello / Getty Images

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One fun thing

Earthlings were treated to a once-in-lifetime illusion on Monday as the solar system's two biggest planets appeared to meet in a celestial alignment that astronomers call the "Great Conjunction."

The rare light spectacle resulted from a near convergence of the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn that happened to coincide with Monday's winter solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year.

For those able to observe the alignment in clear skies, the two frozen-gas spheres appeared closer and more vibrant — almost as a single point of light — than at any time in 800 years.

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Thanks, Petra