This bipartisan COVID-19 relief package is a good start to begin helping Americans who need it right now. However, it’s only the first step and members of Congress must keep fighting for more comprehensive support for our families and businesses who need more.
Read more about the COVID-19 relief package in this December 20th piece by Politico, posted below:
Breaking down the $900B stimulus package and $1.4T omnibus bill
December 20th, 2020
Congressional leaders on Monday unveiled the text of a $900 billion fiscal stimulus package and a $1.4 trillion government funding deal that will deliver critical pandemic aid to millions of Americans and pad federal agency budgets through next September.
The colossal year-end package — if passed in the coming hours as expected — will provide another round of direct payments, enhanced unemployment benefits and billions of dollars for struggling industries in what still amounts to a less generous package than the $3 trillion response mounted at the beginning of the pandemic. Unemployment benefits expire in mid-March, likely setting up another deadline for additional congressional action early next year.
The bipartisan, bicameral year-end package also includes a dozen annual appropriations bills that, if passed, would ward off a government funding fight at the onset of the Biden administration.
$166 billion in direct checks
Individuals making up to $75,000 a year will receive a payment of $600, while couples making up to $150,000 will receive $1,200, in addition to $600 per child. The deal also makes the stimulus checks more accessible to immigrant families. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday that the checks could go out as soon as next week.
$120 billion in extra unemployment help
Jobless workers will get an extra $300 per week in federal cash through March 14. The legislation also extends employment benefits to self-employed individuals, gig workers and those who’ve exhausted their state benefits.
$325 billion small business boost
Pandemic-ravaged small businesses would see a total of $325 billion, including $284 billion in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, $20 billion for businesses in low-income communities and $15 billion for struggling live venues, movie theaters and museums — a major priority for Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The small business aid is only expected to cover less than three months of payroll costs, however, while many employers don’t expect to resume normal operations for more than six months.
Finding common ground on the Fed
After lots of intense bickering over the weekend, lawmakers agreed on language that will prevent the Treasury secretary from restarting emergency lending programs created by the CARES Act, as well as from designing any new programs that look the same as the ones that are ending.
Totaling tax breaks
The legislation allows businesses to deduct expenses associated with their forgiven PPP loans, in addition to expanding the employee retention credit intended to prevent layoffs. It includes a two-year tax break for business meals — a priority for President Donald Trump — and rolls over a variety of temporary tax breaks known as “extenders,” some for multiple years. The package also extends a payroll tax subsidy for employers offering workers paid sick leave and boosts the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Border wall status quo
The government funding portion of the year-end package would maintain nearly $1.4 billion in cash for Trump’s southern border wall, in addition to $20 million for new border processing coordinators. The bill also includes $15 billion for Customs and Border Protection, nearly $8 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and $840 million in emergency cash to help ports of entry cover revenue losses during the pandemic. There’s no new funding for an increased number of border patrol agents or immigration enforcement personnel.
$45 billion in transportation aid
That includes $15 billion to help airlines maintain their payrolls, $14 billion for mass transit, $10 billion for state highways, $2 billion for airports and $1 billion for Amtrak.
An extension for state spending
State and local governments now have until Dec. 31, 2021 to spend aid provided by the CARES Act.
Food and farmer assistance
The year-end package includes $13 billion to bolster food stamp benefits by 15 percent, although it doesn’t expand SNAP eligibility. Farmers and ranchers will also see another $13 billion round of direct payments to help cover pandemic-induced losses.
‘Surprise billing’ deal
The omnibus includes an agreement to protect patients from receiving “surprise” medical bills after last-minute haggling — a major priority for retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). As POLITICO reported earlier this month, shielding insured patients from eye-popping medical bills for unexpected out-of-network and emergency care has been a bipartisan priority for lawmakers, but progress had been stalled for over a year.
Billions for vaccines, testing and tracing
The package includes $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines, nearly $9 billion for vaccine distribution and about $22 billion to help states with testing, tracing and Covid-19 mitigation programs. The legislation also includes $5 million for testing in the Capitol Building. The National Strategic Stockpile would receive more than $3 billion.
Funding for funeral expenses
About $2 billion will be set aside for FEMA to distribute to states in order to help families with coronavirus-related funeral expenses through the end of this month, waiving a 25 percent state match requirement.
Restoring Medicaid for the Marshallese
Tens of thousands of Marshall Islanders will be allowed to sign up for Medicaid, with the year-end agreement revising a drafting mistake in the 1996 welfare reform bill that barred the islanders from the program. The problem was detailed in a series of POLITICO stories this year.
Rental aid and an eviction ban
Of the $25 billion in federal rental assistance, $800 million is set aside for Native American housing entities. A federal eviction ban has been extended through the end of January.
Infusion for schools and child care
Included in the $82 billion total for colleges and universities is more than $4 billion for a governors’ relief fund, more than $54 billion for public K-12 schools and nearly $23 billion for a higher education fund. Separately, the child care sector will receive about $10 billion in emergency cash.
Higher education compromise
The legislation includes a bipartisan agreement to forgive nearly $1.3 billion in federal loans to historically Black colleges and universities, deliver Pell grants to incarcerated students after a 26-year ban and simplify financial aid forms — the last of those three has been a long-time priority for the retiring Alexander. The deal would also repeal a 1998 law that prohibits students convicted of drug offenses from receiving federal financial aid.
Major anti-busing action
Lawmakers eliminated a last remaining vestige of the incendiary anti-busing fights of the 1970s, including language that nixes a prohibition on the use of federal funds for transportation costs to carry out school desegregation efforts.
Pay boost for troops
The omnibus portion of the year-end package includes a 3 percent military pay raise. It also preserves a 1 percent pay raise for federal civilian employees next year.
Cash for another Virginia-class sub
The fiscal 2021 funding bill for the Pentagon includes $2.3 billion for a second Virginia-class attack submarine, a major priority for lawmakers who’ve agitated for the construction of two attack subs per year.
A nod to new museums
The legislation authorizes a Smithsonian Women’s History Museum and the National Museum of the American Latino on or near the National Mall after Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) blocked bipartisan legislation earlier this month that would establish the museums.
Keeping contractor relief
The package continues a CARES Act program that allows contractors to keep employees on the payroll even if federal facilities close.
Restricting access to e-cigarettes
Incoming House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) secured a win with the inclusion of legislation that requires in-person age verification when online purchases of e-cigarette and vaping products are delivered.
A variety of reauthorizations
The government funding piece includes a compromise version of an annual intelligence authorization bill and ensures that a major water infrastructure package will hitch a ride to passage. It also includes technical corrections to the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement.
A boon for broadband
The agreement invests $7 billion to increase expand broadband access for students, families and unemployed workers, including $300 million for rural broadband and $250 million for telehealth.
Personnel office stays independent
The legislation blocks the Trump administration’s plan to merge most of the functions of the Office of Personnel Management into the General Services Administration, a proposal decried by unions representing federal workers.