The Covid-19 Relief Bill did not see daylight by Christmas, but it did by the New Year.
Unlike the CARES Act of earlier last year, this is not a bill that offers penalty-free access to IRAs or forgives the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) for seniors for another year. But the $300 charitable deduction ($600 per couple) for those who don’t itemize their deductions was extended for 2021.
Instead, it’s more of an “emergency relief” bill for those who might be struggling because of the pandemic.
For months, Congress argued over what would be in this next bill. As we entered December, the most significant disagreement seemed whether each eligible American should receive $600 or $2,000.
But the 5,593-page bill holds far more than that. Its $900 billion price tag includes forgiving the U.S. Post Office for funds received through the CARES Act earlier last year. And setting aside $45 billion for planes, trains and highways.
Yet several benefits could interest you, a family member, friend or neighbor.
Benefits to individuals
Direct payments: The bill means a little extra money in people’s pockets. This second round of direct payments was modeled after the refundable tax credits distributed earlier this year in the CARES Act. A $600 stimulus payment will go to each individual (including qualifying children) who earns up to $75,000. Individuals earning from $75,000 to $87,000 will receive less, and those earning over $87,000 receive nothing at all.
Married taxpayers filing jointly receive $1,200; the phase-out for couples starts at $150,000 and ends entirely at $174,000. The distribution of these funds is well underway.
Unemployment benefits: Lawmakers agreed to extend unemployment benefits for jobless workers through mid-March 2021. The federal government will also add to state unemployment benefits with something known as the “federal bump,” this time, a $300-per-week add-on. These benefits are an extension of the expiring unemployment provisions of the 2020 CARES Act.
Assistance is extended for self-employed people and gig workers over a similar period. So are the emergency unemployment benefits for governmental entities and nonprofit organizations.
Rental assistance: A temporary and targeted rental assistance program worth $25 billion extends the eviction moratorium from the end of 2020 until January 31, 2021. The funds are designed to be applied to back (and possibly future) rent and utilities and will be paid to your landlord or utility provider. And states and territories are expected to prioritize households with unemployed individuals and lower incomes.
Nutrition support: Unemployment and closures have put a particular burden on families and older Americans to meet their nutritional needs. It has touched a surprising proportion of the population. The bill includes an additional $13 billion to increase benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), plus $400 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
Closed schools have also affected access to food for households where children counted on school meals. The bill promises as much funding as needed to continue providing emergency relief for child and adult care food programs.
Benefits to companies
PPP loans: Small businesses have been among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Small-business owners at all economic levels have struggled with the shutdowns and their limited access to customers. The bill includes some $284 billion (of the $325 billion for small businesses) to provide distressed small businesses with forgivable loans to help keep them open and paying their employees. It’s a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program.
These loan programs can be somewhat complicated – including their tax treatment. To maximize the benefit to the company, they are best accessed with the help of someone familiar with all the regulations and stipulations. The bill does somewhat simplify the loan forgiveness process for borrowers with loans under $150,000.
In some cases, eligibility has been tightened to lessen fraud, but it has also been extended to new categories, including nonprofits, local newspapers, TV and radio stations. The bill redefines how funds can be used.
Shuttered venues: Much like the hospitality sector, “shuttered venues” make up a sector that has struggled due to pandemic-forced closures. The sector includes live venues, cultural institutions and independent movie theaters.
The bill reserves $15 billion to make grants to venue owners and operators. The Small Business Administration (SBA) can make an initial grant of up to $10 million to an eligible entity or person, and then provide a supplemental grant equal to 50% of the initial grant. Helpful as they are, these grants can only be used for expenses such as payroll costs, rent, utilities and personal protective equipment.
Agriculture: The pandemic spotlighted how food reaches our tables, starting with the country’s farmers and working through processors and distributors. The fund’s $13 billion is targeted at three different uses: covering pandemic-related losses for poultry and livestock growers, loans to small- and medium-sized processors or distributors, and compensating renewable fuel producers for market losses.
Healthcare providers: Hospitals, physicians and others will be reimbursed for lost revenue and additional expenses due to the pandemic through the Healthcare Provider Relief Fund, funded with an additional $3 billion.
Getting back to normal
Funding is needed to help transition away from the impact of the pandemic. Two significant expenses are those related to vaccines and the return to in-person learning.
Vaccines: This bill includes $68 billion to develop, buy and distribute the various Covid-19 vaccines. Funds will help pay for testing and tracing, with $20 billion making the vaccine available to anyone who needs it. Each state is in charge of distributing the vaccine, so this funding plays a critical support role.
Education: After months of online learning, preparations are advancing to return students to the classroom. The bill includes $82 billion to help schools and universities with safe reopening, with $10 billion for childcare centers and $2.75 billion for private K-12 education.
Nine-hundred billion dollars. That’s a lot of money.
This article was originally published on WickedLocal.com.