President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package, sending relief to families, workers, businesses, and hospitals devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic disruption it has caused. Here are some highlights:
There is a one-time payment of $1,200 per adult, or $2,400 per couple. Amounts begin phasing out at $75,000 for individuals, or $150,000 per couple. Families would receive an additional $500 per child.
Unemployment benefits for individuals include 2 main categories. The first is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers people who are unable to work because of the COVID-19 outbreak — that includes independent contractors, gig workers, sick people, and those caring for a loved one during the outbreak. The second is an extra $600 per week over the next four months for those who are out of work and getting jobless benefits in their state regardless of salary through July 31, 2020. This includes those that are currently receiving unemployment benefits and is in addition to what you’ll receive in state benefits. If you were scheduled to start a job but lost the job or are unable to get to it as a result of COVID-19, you’re eligible. You should also be covered if you’re out of work due to an inability to reach the office due to a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis. If you are still unemployed after the 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits, this bill will extend benefits for 13 weeks.
Federally guaranteed loans are available at community banks to small businesses that pledge not to lay off their workers. The loans would be available during an emergency period ending June 30 and would be forgiven if the employer continued to pay workers for the duration of the crisis. Small businesses may not be able to survive unless there is assistance. The goal is to keep employees connected to their employers.
Loans for distressed companies would come from a $425 billion fund controlled by the Federal Reserve, and an additional $75 billion would be available for industry-specific loans — including airlines and hotels. The Federal Reserve Fund would require immediate disclosure of the recipients and stronger oversight, including installing an inspector general and congressionally appointed board to monitor it. Companies that benefit could not engage in stock buybacks while they received government assistance, and for an additional year after that. Trump family businesses — or those of any other senior government officials — cannot receive loan money through that fund, although they could potentially still benefit from other parts of the bill.
The bill includes an employee retention tax credit to help companies keep workers on payroll. Companies will also be able to defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax. A huge tax break for interest costs and operating losses limited by the 2017 tax overhaul was restored at a $200 billion cost for the real estate sector.
$150 billion is devoted to the health care system, including $100 billion for grants to hospitals and other health care providers overloaded with COVID-19 caseloads. The bill also includes billions more to furnish personal and protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, and new construction to house patients. Also, Medicare payments to all hospitals and providers will be increased. Treating veterans at VA facilities.
It also seeks to strengthen the safety net for the poor and homeless. Schools, universities, and students will get relief, small business loans payments will be deferred. Grants for child-care and early education programs. Evictions from public housing will be put on pause. Food stamps are also included.
The bill will reimburse state and local governments for medical response, community services, and other safety measures. It will also extend the federal deadline for people getting driver’s licenses with enhanced security features, called REAL ID, from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021. It will help states prepare for 2020 elections with steps including expanded vote by mail and additional polling locations.
Tax breaks include temporarily waiving penalties for COVID-19 related early withdrawals, easing the required minimum annual disbursements from some retirement accounts, and increasing deductions for charitable contributions. Employers who pay furloughed workers can get tax credits for some of those payments. The bill will postpone business payments of payroll taxes until 2021 or 2022.
Public transit systems will also get relief including publicly owned commercial airports, 430,000 transit jobs and $1 billion for Amtrak.
By: Denise Hintze