Federal Lawmakers Reach Agreement on COVID Financial Relief Bill

From the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry

Late Sunday, federal lawmakers released the details on a second round of COVID-19 related financial relief for American taxpayers that is expected to be passed by Congress today and signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The $900 billion relief bill includes $284 billion in financial support for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program, which has provided small businesses with forgivable loans to keep their employees working and their doors open. Businesses that already received a PPP loan will be eligible to get a second one under the new terms, with some funds being set aside for the smallest businesses and community-based lenders.

Notably, $9 billion is being provided in capital investments for Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions that largely cater to minorities, as well as $3 billion for CDFIs through a Treasury fund. $20 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loans are also being appropriated to help small businesses. Additionally, $15 billion in grants are being dedicated to helping live venues stay afloat.

In terms of extended unemployment benefits, two expiring CARES Act programs – Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation – are being extended for 11 weeks. Congress is also adding $300 to all weekly unemployment benefits – half of what was appropriated in the original CARES Act – and workers who rely on multiple jobs and have lost income will also be eligible for a $100 weekly boost.

In terms of education, $82 billion is being dedicated toward schools and colleges to help them reopen classrooms and prevent virus transmission.

The agreement also includes $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines, $8 billion for vaccine distribution, $20 billion for states to conduct testing and $20 billion in extra federal relief for healthcare providers.

The bill also includes a second round of direct payments to Americans that will be up to $600 per adult and $600 per child. For adults, this is half of what was sent under the initial CARES Act but is slightly more than what was distributed for children in the first stimulus payment.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-PA, was heavily engaged in negotiations that ended the expansion of the Federal Reserve’s lending authority, which was enacted by Congress through the CARES Act signed earlier this year. Toomey said the deal will return the Federal authority to what it was before the pandemic struck, and will close four Fed lending facilities with any unspent funding being repurposed.

The bill was approved in conjunction with a $1.4 trillion budget bill that will fund federal agencies through the end of September, along with a package extending expiring tax provisions.

Further details regarding the specifics of the pandemic relief bill are available in this article in The Hill.

Once signed into law, the federal government will have appropriated more than $4 trillion in stimulus dollars related to the COVID-19 pandemic.