Congress Passes New COVID-19 Relief Package
The U.S. Congress passed a second round of coronavirus relief Dec. 21 that includes funding for small businesses, extra payments to people receiving unemployment benefits, and direct payments for many Americans.
The president signed the bill late Dec. 27, after earlier threatening a veto.
More than one-third of the $892 billion package is earmarked for small businesses battered by the pandemic, including $284 billion for new Payroll Protection Program forgivable loans.
The package also provides $286 billion in direct economic relief to U.S. citizens.
This includes $166 billion in payments to Americans with checks of up to $600 per adult and child for individuals making up to $75,000 a year and $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000 a year.
And there’s $120 billion to restore supplemental federal pandemic unemployment benefits—via a $300 weekly payment for some unemployment recipients through March 14.
That’s half the $600 weekly unemployment benefit that ended in July.
The package also includes $69 billion for vaccines, testing, and healthcare providers, including $30 billion to obtain vaccines and treatments, $22 billion for testing, tracing, and mitigation, $9 billion for healthcare providers, and $4.5 billion for mental health.
A total of $82 billion is earmarked for schools.
This includes $54 billion to public schools grades K-12 impacted by the pandemic, $23 billion for colleges and universities, and $1 billion for Native American schools.
The deal also:
- Sets aside $25 billion for a first-ever federal rental assistance program that will disburse funds to state and local governments to help people who’ve fallen behind on rent and may be facing eviction
- Increases food and farm aid by $26 billion, including increasing food stamp benefits by 15% and funding food banks, Meals on Wheels, and other food programs, and $13 billion to farmers and ranchers
- Budgets $10 billion to the Child Care Development Block Grant to help families with childcare costs and assist providers in covering increasing operational costs
- Forgives a $10 billion loan made to the U.S. Post Office in the previous relief legislation
- Provides $7 billion to give broadband access to more Americans, including $3.2 billion for a new temporary benefit program to help low-income Americans get access, and $1.9 billion to replace telecommunications equipment that poses a national security risk
No Liability Protection
The bill seeks to end surprise medical billing that happens when patients receive medical treatment outside their network then are hit with massive bills.
The package mandates that insured patients only need to pay in-network costs when a medical emergency or other situation forces them to use an out-of-network medical provider.
The legislation does not include substantial aid for local and state governments, nor does it provide liability protection to businesses whose employees get the coronavirus.
The relief package welcomes green energy investments by extending the investment tax credit in green energy and energy efficiency for two years and the production tax credit for one year.
It also expands tax incentives for off-shore wind and other green energy.
And it encourages energy-efficient commercial buildings by making the deduction for certain energy efficient property permanent.
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