Late into the day on December 21, Congress finally passed a much anticipated (and arguably long-overdue) second stimulus package. Signed by the President on December 27, the new stimulus package has already begun affecting Americans as we ring in the new year. I knew it happened when I received an email from a client on the 28th asking why the US Treasury Dept. had deposited $600 into her checking account… and did it have to do with her taxes?
Spreading $900 billion (notably much less than March’s $2 trillion deal) amongst businesses, hospitals, families and individuals, this second economic stimulus package is designed to bring relief to those experiencing the financial hardships caused by the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While this second stimulus package is less than what we saw in March, it still far surpasses the Americans In Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 - which offered $168 billion in relief to individuals and businesses. At this point, given the status of the virus and the slow pace of the vaccine, we assume there will be a third package – especially after Georgia confirmed the Democratic control of both houses.
This historic bill is actually only part of a larger $1.4 trillion spending package and contains a staggering 5,600 pages. Below are some highlights of the bill’s coronavirus-related relief efforts that could affect you, your family and your business in the near future.
Unemployment benefits as established in the original CARES Act are due to expire on December 31. With the newly passed act, those on unemployment can continue receiving an additional $300 in federal unemployment benefits for an additional 11 weeks.
The CARES Act also established a pandemic unemployment assistant (PUA) program to offer unemployment benefits to those who have previously not been eligible - including those who have been furloughed by their employer, freelancers and gig workers (such as Uber or Lyft drivers).
This new act is set to extend the PUA program for an additional 11 weeks.
Similar to the CARES Act, eligible American taxpayers will be receiving direct stimulus payments of $600 as part of the new bill. Just as before, those with incomes up to $75,000 will receive $600 payments, while families with children will receive an additional $600 per child. That means that an eligible family of four will receive $2,400 in direct stimulus payments.
Paycheck Protection Program & Small Business Loans
A popular program throughout the pandemic, the Paycheck Protection Program will get the boost it needs to continue operating in 2021 - to the tune of around $284 billion. As a reminder, the PPP offers businesses with under 500 people assistance in the form of forgivable loans that help cover payroll and other necessary operating expenses.
Not seen in the CARES Act, this new package includes a “Save Our Stages Act,” which offers cultural centers, theaters and other live performance venues $15 billion in government assistance.
Some of our own community partners have mentioned how woefully inadequate this amount is for our nation’s stages – most of which were forced to remain closed these many months.
A point of contention for several months now, schools across the country have had to make a very tough decision - continue virtual learning or bring kids back for in-person classes? Money appointed to schools in the initial CARES Act largely went to increasing technology capabilities for virtual learning and emergency financial aid grants to college students.
Around $82 billion will be split between the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
COVID-19 Vaccination Distribution & Testing
The FDA approved two COVID-19 vaccines in December, and distribution of them has begun. Approximately $69 billion from the new stimulus package will go towards vaccination procurement and distribution, as well as statewide testing-and-tracing measures.
The new stimulus bill has extended the CDC’s moratorium on rent evictions through the end of January.
For the millions of Americans past-due on their rent payments, the stimulus package includes $25 billion in rental assistance for qualified families and individuals.
Food Assistance Programs
Food assistance programs, like SNAP, will receive around $13 billion in federal assistance.
For many, the passing of a new stimulus package may feel nothing short of a Christmas miracle. For others, the benefits provided may be falling short of expectations. Of note, President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. is set to take office on January 20 and has already made it clear this will not be the end of government assistance amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
On December 22, he tweeted, “I applaud this relief package, but our work is far from over. Starting in the new year, Congress will need to immediately get to work on support for our COVID-19 plan.” While we won’t know what additional relief may be coming, it’s possible the newly passed legislation could bring at least some good news to you, your family and your business.