The end of 2020 seems to come with signs of relief for many and a catastrophic outlook for others.
After months of political discussions, and while hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost their lives, Congress has finally agreed to pass a $900 billion relief package.
Senators passed the bill late Monday along with a larger $1.4 million spending bill to fund government operations over the next nine months.
We’ve broken down the bill, which passed 359-53 in the House and 92-6 in the Senate, in five key points:
Money Keeps Flowing To Those Who Don’t Need It
The new legislation will allow companies to deduct the expenses associated with their forgiven PPP loans — many of which went to large companies during the first quarantine, leaving small and medium businesses in bankruptcy.
Similarly, a portion of government funding from the year-end package will keep nearly $1.4 billion for President Trump’s southern border wall, plus $20 million for new border processing coordinators, but there will be no new funding for more border patrol agents or immigration personnel.
Meanwhile, ordinary individuals, and those earning up to $75,000 a year, will be paid $600, while couples earning up to $150,000 will receive $1,200, plus $600 per child.
Similarly, the bill provides for weekly federal unemployment benefits of $300 per week, exactly half the amount provided for in the CARES Act, but makes the stimulus checks more accessible to immigrant families.
While the $600 federal pandemic unemployment compensation worked for about 16 weeks as part of the initial stimulus, the $300 federal unemployment stimulus will work for 11 weeks, until March 14.
Public Health Finally Has The Budget That Was Needed, Though Still Not Much
The package includes $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines, nearly $9 billion for vaccine distribution, and about $22 billion to assist States with testing, tracking, and COVID-19 mitigation programs.
Similarly, the Strategic National Stockpile would receive over $3 billion. The omnibus includes an agreement to protect patients from receiving “surprise” medical bills after a last-minute haggle.
Airlines Come Back to the Rescue, Even When Hardly Anyone Is Flying
The government budget amounts to $45 billion in transportation aid, including $15 billion to help airlines maintain their payrolls, $14 billion for mass transit, $10 billion for state roads, and $2 billion for airports, despite airlines being a conglomerate priority.
According to Statista, on December 20, 2020, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened just over one million passengers at U.S. airports, compared to over 2.5 million passengers screened on the same day of the week a year earlier.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, some of the largest airline groups had worrying financial statements. For example, American Airlines had a total debt to EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) ratio of 4.04. When the coronavirus struck, companies with the least sustainable balance sheets were the most affected.
A Relief for 20 Million People at Risk of Being Evicted
As Politico explained, one of the few areas where the second stimulus expands the CARES Act is rental assistance, providing help to eligible families who cannot pay their rent or rent arrears.
These funds can also be used for rent and utility payments, and the bill also extends the CDC’s flawed eviction moratorium until January 31, 2021. Up to 20 million Americans have fallen behind in rent during the pandemic.
Of the $25 billion in federal rental assistance, $800 million is reserved for Native American housing entities.
Two Museums Will See The Light
The legislation authorizes the creation of a Smithsonian Women’s History Museum and the National Museum of the American Latino on or near the National Mall after Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) blocked bipartisan legislation establishing the museums earlier this month.