Q What are the main objectives of the package?
A A combination of tax cuts and spending incentives is aimed at putting money back in the pockets of consumers and businesses and creating millions of jobs. It also looks to accomplish some long-term goals, such as making the country more energy efficient and improving the nation's crumbling roads and bridges. Overall, the package breaks down to nearly two-thirds spending initiatives and just over one-third tax cuts.
Q Does the bill include federal aid to the states?
A Yes. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the moderate Republican who helped broker the deal, said the spending includes about $90 billion in increased federal matches to states to help pay for Medicaid, along with a $54 billion "fiscal stabilization" fund that states could use to build and repair schools and improve facilities at institutions of higher learning.
Q What are some of the other main focuses of the bill?
A Here are some highlights:
Education: The package has about $11.5 billion to support special education and $10 billion to help low-income students.
Energy: The package includes funds to modernize the electrical grid -- in part by incorporating renewable energy resources -- and to make federal buildings more energy efficient and help low-income households weatherize their homes.
Health: The plan includes subsidies to allow people who are laid off to purchase health insurance through the federal COBRA plan. There is also money to support hospitals seeking to modernize health information technology.
Q There's about $150 billion for all infrastructure projects. How will infrastructure spending affect jobs?
A The Federal Highway Administration has estimated that every $1 billion that the federal government spends on infrastructure projects translates to 35,000 jobs. That translates into more than 5 million jobs, based on the highway administration's assumptions. However, Senate leaders said the total stimulus package will sustain about 3.5 million jobs.
Q How long would it take for highway projects to begin?
A Lawmakers say most of the projects could be up and running within 90 days, although it could take somewhat more time in such northern states as Minnesota with longer winters.
Q Do economists feel the deal will actually stimulate the economy?
A Many leading economists have concluded that the stimulus alone may be insufficient to bring a quick turnaround. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, called for a larger package of spending and tax breaks and predicted that unemployment could top 9 percent next year, up from 7.6 percent, even if an $800 billion package is enacted. Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman also contends that $800 billion will fall short of filling the gap left by projected reductions in consumer and business spending. President Obama has acknowledged that the stimulus measures are only "one leg of the stool" needed to stabilize the economy. Spending initiatives and tax cuts, he said, must be combined with the ongoing massive effort to restore confidence and integrity to financial markets, get credit flowing again and right the collapsed housing market.