President Donald Trump signed on Sunday evening a $900 billion pandemic relief bill into law that includes enhanced unemployment benefits and direct cash payments. The measure is the second-largest federal stimulus package after the $2 trillion CARES Act that Congress approved in March.
Lawmakers passed the bill last Monday, just in time to get something done before the end of December, when several aid programs in the CARES Act were set to expire, including key pandemic jobless assistance measures and eviction protections.
Here’s some of the major points:
The package sends direct stimulus payments of $600 to individuals, half the amount provided in the first round of checks, which went out in the spring. Eligible families will receive an additional $600 per child — which is $100 more than Congress gave families in the first round of relief last spring. Eligible children are 16 and under on the 2019 Tax Return. If a child was born in 2020, they are not eligible since they are not documented in the 2019 Tax Return.
The payments start phasing out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000, and those making more than $99,000 will not receive anything. The income thresholds are doubled for couples. The amounts will be based on 2019 incomes. Those who filed their 2019 tax returns will receive their money automatically, as well as Social Security recipients and those who uploaded their bank account information using the IRS’s online portal to receive their first payments.
Undocumented immigrants who do not have Social Security numbers remain ineligible for the payments. But in a change from the first round, their spouses and children are now eligible as long as they have Social Security numbers.
Eligible Unemployed will receive a $300 weekly federal enhancement in benefits through March 14. The amount is half of the earlier federal boost, which ran out at the end of July. Also, the package extends by 11 weeks two other pandemic unemployment programs that were created in the CARES Act in March and were set to expire at year’s end.
- The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program: initially expanded jobless benefits to gig workers, freelancers, independent contractors, the self-employed and certain people affected by the coronavirus for up to 39 weeks.
- The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program: provided an additional 13 weeks of payments to those who exhaust their regular state benefits.
Both programs will now close to new applicants on March 14th but continue through April 5th for existing claimants who have not yet reached the maximum number of weeks.
Also, the measure provides a federally funded $100 per week additional benefit to those who have at least $5,000 in annual self-employment income but are disqualified from receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance because they are eligible for regular state unemployment benefits; In addition, the package gives states the authority to waive overpayments in cases where the claimant is not at fault.
The package also continues full federal financing of extended benefits through mid-March, providing up to 20 additional weeks of payments depending on a state’s unemployment rate. Typically, states and the federal government split the tab. Fewer than two dozen states now offer extended benefits because of the improving economy.
Payment Protection Program & Small business loans
The package reopens the Paycheck Protection Program so that some of the hardest-hit small businesses can apply for a second loan. The program stopped taking applications for the first round of loans in August.
The second loans will be limited to those with fewer than 300 employees that have seen drops of at least 25% of their revenue during the first, second or third quarter of 2020. It also reduces the amount a borrower can receive from $10 million to $2 million, gives businesses more flexibility on how they spend the money and simplifies the forgiveness process for loans under $150,000. It carves out $12 billion for minority-owned businesses. It also expands eligibility to more nonprofits as well as local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters.
Grants for theaters and other live venues
The package creates a $15 billion grant program for live venues, theaters and museum operators that have lost at least 25% of their revenues. The initial grant can total up to $10 million per eligible business. A second grant, worth half the amount of the first, may also be available. The money will be for specified expenses such as payroll costs, rent, utilities and personal protective equipment.
During the first 14 days of the program’s implementation, grants will be awarded to those who have faced 90% revenue losses. Then, those who have experienced at least 70% revenue losses will be eligible during the next two weeks. After the first month of the program, any other eligible businesses can receive grants.
Funding for schools and child care
It provides $82 billion in aid for K-12 schools and colleges. An additional $10 billion is included to support child care providers that have struggled because of the pandemic.
It extends until January 31 the eviction protection set to expire at the end of the year. It also provides $25 billion in rental assistance for individuals who lost their sources of income during the pandemic.
Federal nutrition assistance
The package raises SNAP benefits by 15% for six months but does not expand eligibility. This is more generous than the original bipartisan agreement from earlier in December, which called for a four-month increase.
It also expands the Pandemic-EBT program to families with children under age 6 who receive food stamps, deeming them “enrolled” in child care and eligible for benefits. The program now provides money to low-income families with school-age children in lieu of the free and reduced-price meals they would have received in school.
The package sends $400 million to food banks and food pantries through The Emergency Food Assistance Program.It also provides $175 million for nutrition services for seniors, such as Meals on Wheels, and $13 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which serves more than 700,000 older Americans monthly.
Vaccine and hospital funding
It provides $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines so they can be available at no charge for those who need it, as well as another $8 billion for vaccine distribution. It also gives states $20 billion to assist with testing. And it adds $3 billion to the $175 billion fund for hospitals and health care providers for reimbursement of health care-related expenses or lost revenue resulting from the pandemic. The original agreement would have given them another $35 billion.
Payroll tax repayment Employers who are deferring their workers’ payroll taxes under President Trump’s executive action from August now have until the end of 2021 to increase their employees’ withholding to pay back the taxes owed. Originally, the deferred amount