As the clock neared midnight on Monday on Capitol Hill, Congress finally pushed through the long-waited COVID-19 stimulus package. The $900 billion stimulus bill was packaged as part of the $1.4 trillion government spending package in order to pass it through the halls of Congress. The bill also carries the distinction of being the second-largest stimulus package ever passed by Congress. Here is a look at some of the finer details of the bipartisan bill and how it may affect you in the short-term.
Personal Stimulus Checks: What many Americans are looking toward is the promise of a personal stimulus check. Qualifying adults can expect to receive up to $600 in direct payment. Individuals with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of up to $75,000 will receive the full amount. Married couples filing jointly will have the full amount reduced for incomes of more than $150,000.Read More »
When Will I See the Money? According to Secretary Treasury Steven Mnuchin, the checks may be distributed as early as next week. The goal is to get the funds to Americans as quickly as possible so that it will begin recirculating in the economy. Those people who already have a direct deposit account set up with the IRS will see the money first. It will take longer for the treasury department to cut paper checks.
It should be noted that this amount of $600 is still roughly half of what most Americans received last spring as part of the original Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. During that round of checks, qualifying American adults received $1,200 with an additional $500 per child 17 years and younger.
Unemployment Benefits: Another key element of the package is the unemployment benefits addition. Those qualified individuals receiving state unemployment benefits will also receive an additional $300 per week in enhanced payments from the federal government. This program will last 11 weeks, beginning at the end of December and continuing through March 14.
Like the personal stimulus checks, this figure is half of the amount of what was provided under the CARES Act. The additional unemployment benefit provided by this previous legislation expired at the end of July.
In addition to the federal enhancement of traditional unemployment benefits, the new bill extends two more programs designed to help the jobless. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program is engineered to provide help to freelancers, contractors, gig workers, and other self-employed individuals. Additionally, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment (PEU) compensation program adds an extra 13 weeks of unemployment payments when the traditional state benefits expire.
Both of these programs had been set to expire at the end of the year. However, with the passage of this new bill, the programs will continue for 11 more weeks. While each program will not accept new applicants after March 14, existing claims will continue through April 5 for those individuals who have not maxed out with 50 weeks of assistance.
Additional Provisions Encompass Wide Variety of Needs: Although the direct stimulus payment and extended unemployment benefits are the two elements of the bill with the most buzz, this significant piece of legislation carries a host of additional provisions. Here are a few highlights.
- Paycheck Protection Program – Many small businesses will find relief with the reopening of the Paycheck Protection Program. This program delivers financial aid to small business owners so that they can stay afloat during this unprecedented economic time. The bill also added $12 billion in aid for minority-owned businesses.
- Eviction Moratorium Extended – The bill extends the eviction moratorium from the end of December to January 31. It also offers $25 billion in rental assistance directed for people without income due to the health crisis.
- Assistance for Schools and Child Care – Recognizing that it costs a significant amount of money to safely reopen schools, the bill includes $82 billion for K-12 schools and colleges. There is also $10 billion set aside for child care providers having financial difficulties during this time.
- Grants for the Arts – One goal of the bill is to help the struggling arts community. This help comes in the form of a $15 billion grant program directed to help theaters, live performance venues, and museums. The funding is intended to help with rent, utilities, and payroll costs.
- COVID-19 Vaccine and Medical Care Funding – The bill will also make it easier to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine as quickly and effectively as possible through the use of $20 billion for the purchase of the shots and $8 billion for distribution costs. $20 billion has also been set aside for states to boost testing efforts.
- Nutritional Funding – The second stimulus package will raise the level of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by 15% over the next six months. Otherwise known as food stamps, the SNAP program provides crucial assistance for low-income families. The deal also allocates funding for food banks and nutritional services for the senior population.
What is Next for the Bill? Now that both houses of Congress have passed through the massive piece of legislation, it goes to the desk of President Donald Trump for final approval. The president is expected to sign the bill into law within the next few days.
What Was Left Out: There was certainly a fair amount of compromise that went into negotiating the bipartisan legislation. Democrats were disappointed that the bill does not encompass the billions of dollars that they asked for to help state and local governments. They also did not receive the financial relief for teachers or first responders that they requested. On the other side of the aisle, Republicans had to let go of their desire for liability protection for lawsuits tied to the pandemic.
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