Americans in need of financial reprieve anxiously await an agreement as Congress finalizes the long-anticipated, multi-trillion dollar coronavirus stimulus package. Airlines impacted by travel restrictions and businesses on Main Street are also set to benefit from the $2 trillion package. The NEIU Independent breaks down the benefits and amenities of the historic stimulus package.
Payments to individuals
Under the negotiated plan, single Americans receive $1,200 while married couples get $2,400. Parents also receive $500 per child under the age of 17.
Congress also constructed an adjusted pay scale, limiting payments to individuals with an annual income above $75,000 and disqualifying anyone earning over $99,000 from collecting the personal stipends. For couples, that amount is doubled to $150,000 and $198,000, respectively.
Under the current package, unemployment benefits nearly double to $600 per week for up to four months on top of state benefits, which typically range from $250 to $500 per week.
The unprecedented measure also calls for a 13-week expansion of extended benefits to supplement the 12 to 28 weeks covered at the local level, depending on state restrictions. The extension is meant to assist workers still unemployed once state benefits are terminated.
Furthermore, lawmakers are ironing out a novel pandemic unemployment assistance program aimed toward aiding those who are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable to work because of the virus, including independent contractors and the self-employed.
The stimulus package would suspend student loans and protect homeowners with federally-backed mortgages for up to 180 days. The Department of Education will suspend student payment without penalty through Sept. 30.
Pell Grant recipients forced to drop out due to the coronavirus are also insulated from penalty
$500 billion lending program
Under the bill, The Treasury Department will oversee a $500 billion lending program that will provide loans, loan guarantees and investments.
The bill specifically allocates $25 billion for passenger air carriers, $17 billion for businesses dealing with national security and an additional $4 billion for cargo carriers. The remaining $454 billion is left to the discretion of the Treasury Department barring limitations embedded in the bill.
Such limitations prohibit businesses receiving loans from issuing dividends for up to a year after the loan is satisfied. The bill also mandates that businesses benefiting from assistance must retain at least 90% of its employees between March 24 through Sept. 30.
A specific provision absolves mid-sized businesses employing between 500 and 10,000 employees from repaying loans for six months from the date the loan is issued. A congressional oversight committee will oversee how and where the money is spent.
Politicians can’t benefit
Federally elected officials and their immediate families cannot access funds from the $500 billion lending program.
The bill excludes businesses owned or partially owned by “the President, the Vice President, the head of an Executive department, or member of Congress; and the spouse, child, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law” from benefiting from the package.
The provision was key contention on the Democratic side of the aisle, temporarily delaying progress of the stimulus package while creating a fissure between Senate Democrats and Republicans.
Assistance for small businesses
The bill reserves $350 billion for small businesses. This lending program would assist small businesses in satisfying expenses such as payroll, utilities and rent and will not require repayment should small businesses retain their workforce.
The bill provides eight weeks of assistance to small businesses retroactive to Feb. 15., aiming to provide small business owners the financial security to rehire employees who were laid off.
Relief for health care providers
The package funnels billions of dollars to hospitals and medical centers overwhelmed by the influx of patients, with reimbursement via Medicare for those treating patients that contracted coronavirus COVID-19. Under the bill, hospitals are at liberty to request accelerated payments from Medicare as the Medicare cuts scheduled as part of a previous deficit reduction agreement are indefinitely suspended.
While the bill prohibits funds from being used to erect President Trump’s border wall, extra funding will be distributed to the Defense Department to deploy the National Guard and use the Defense Production Act to help accelerate the production of critically scarce medical supplies and equipment.
The bill also allocates funding toward the development of therapies and vaccines. When a vaccine becomes available, it will be free of cost to Medicare beneficiaries.
The bill also relaxes the parameters for using and paying for telehealth services.
Protections for homeowners and renters
The bill protects renters and homeowners from foreclosure or eviction.
Homeowners enduring financial hardship due to the coronavirus will be provided a forbearance on federally backed mortgage for up to 60 days. According to the bill, servicers of federally backed mortgages are forbidden from commencing the foreclosure process for 60 days from March 18.
The federally backed mortgage may also be extended for four periods of 30 days each.
Fees, penalties and interest cannot be tacked onto delayed payments. Renters with federally backed mortgages are also prohibited from evicting tenants due to nonpayment for up to 120 days.
The bill allocates $450 million to the Emergency Food Assistance, reserving $350 million to buy food and an additional $100 million for distribution. Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories will receive an additional $200 million while the bill affords American Indian reservations $100 million for food distribution.
The package reserves $324 million for the State Department, which is responsible for using the money to cover “evacuation expenses.” According to CNN, a senior State Department official reports that 9,300 Americans have already returned home while the government is monitoring an additional 13,500 Americans abroad. The bill does not state whether the funding is dedicated to U.S. diplomats, Americans traveling or living abroad or both.
Schools and colleges receive up to $31 billion in an effort to continue instruction amid school closures. Public transit agencies leveled by lost ridership would receive $25 billion, with airports and Amtrak receiving additional funding.
With the postponement of many states’ primaries, states receive additional funding to ensure safety for voters. Such measures include the expansion of early voting and the implementation of mail-in voting procedures.
The deadline for states to satisfy Real ID requirements would be extended to October of 2021 at the latest. Real IDs are federally mandated identification cards required to board aircrafts. The current deadline remains at Oct. 1, 2020, until the measure passes.
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