COVID-19 Stimulus Bill Agreement Reached by Lawmakers

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Congress members have reached an agreement for a COVID-19 stimulus package. The $900 billion relief package is part of a larger bill that will also fund the government for the next 12 months, as CNBC reported on Dec. 20, 2020.

Both the House and Senate leaders announced they have finally reached the long-awaited COVID-19  stimulus assistance desperately needed. Partisan divisions were named the culprit for the months-long delays.

One disagreement that lingered for weeks was corporate liability protections; it did not make the final bill. Stimulus aid for state and local governments was also excluded.

The package includes stimulus checks, jobless benefits, emergency rental assistance, eviction moratoriums, money for vaccine distribution, and school funding.

  • Individuals earning less than $75,000 in the 2019 tax year will receive $600 stimulus checks. Those earning between $75,000 and 99,000 are still entitled to a check, but it will be reduced.
  • As early as December 27, the unemployed can claim up to $300 a week in benefits. The unemployment fund is set to run through March 14, 2021. The contract and gig workers’ unemployment program will be extended.
  • Emergency renters’ assistance is included in the bill. They allocated $25 billion but have not revealed how the money will be distributed.
  • The eviction moratorium, scheduled to end on Dec. 31, 2020, is extended through the end of January 2021.
  • Thirteen billion dollars will be distributed to farmers and ranchers in need of assistance.
  • The bill allocates $7 billion for the expansion of broadband services to underserved areas.
  • Vaccine funding is three-fold; testing, distribution, and availability. States will receive $20 billion for COVID-19 testing, $8 billion for distribution, and $20 billion to purchase vaccines and make them available to people at no charge.
  • Schools K-12 and colleges are slated to receive $82 billion to help cover “HVAC repair and replacement to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections and reopen classrooms.” An additional $10 billion is allocated to assist childcare providers who have been hit hard by the pandemic.

StimulusIn a statement, Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) added that billions of dollars in stimulus funds would be “reserved specifically for combating the disparities facing communities of color and to support our heroic health care workers and providers.”

Twenty-two billion dollars “for health-related expenses of the state, local, tribal, and territorial governments.” The stimulus package also allocates $27 billion for highways, transit agencies, airports, and Amtrak.

SNAP, EBT, and Food Bank Stimulus

The stimulus deal provides a 15 percent increase for six months in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP/food stamps). If a person normally receives $195 a month, they would see an additional $29 (rounded down).

While the SNAP eligibility requirements would not be expanded, the Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) will increase eligibility for the program. Currently, the program provides money to low-income families whose children qualify for free or reduced-price meals while attending school.

With the new stimulus package, children under 6 from low-income households will be included in the P-EBT program. They will consider them enrolled in child care, thereby eligible for assistance.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program will receive $400 million to be distributed to food banks and pantries. Since the onslaught of the pandemic, food insecurity has driven people to seek help from pantries for the first time.

Meal on Wheels and other nutrition services for seniors will be the recipients of $175 million in stimulus funds. Another $13 million is allocated for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program — serving over 700,000 older adults monthly.

Stimulus Relief for Businesses, Restaurants, Theaters, and Cultural Institutions

The stimulus package includes at least $280 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. The bill expanded eligibility for independent restaurants, nonprofit organizations, news outlets, and small businesses.

Twelve billion dollars are reserved for minority and “very small” businesses. Fifteen billion dollars is set aside for independent movie theaters, cultural organizations, and live venues.

Congress will assist with PPP loans “through community-based lenders and minority depository institutions.” The bill allows a business that obtained a PPP loan that was forgiven to deduct the expenses covered by the loan on their federal tax returns.

Twenty billion dollars is set aside for grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. An EIDL is used by businesses to cover the continuation of health care benefits, rent, utilities, and fixed debt payments, etc.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the stimulus bill on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

CNBC: Congress agrees to $900 billion Covid stimulus deal after months of failed negotiations; by Emma Newburger and Jacob Pramuk
ABC: Lawmakers reach COVID-19 relief deal; by Mariam Khan
The Washington Post: Here’s what’s in the new $900 billion stimulus package; by Rachel Siegal, Jeff Stein, and Mike DeBonis
CNN: Here’s what’s in the second stimulus package; by Katie Lobosco and Tami Luhby

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of frankieleon’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Alexander Brelsfoard’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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