The latest legislative package for coronavirus relief and government spending was signed off by President Trump, grumbling that the $600 relief checks were “a disgrace.” Nevertheless, the Republican Senate refused to increase the payments. Senate Majority Leader characterized a recommended higher amount of $2,000 as “socialism for rich people.”
Either way, the payments have started. Of course, the direct payments aren’t the only part of the stimulus, so let’s check out the rest of what’s in store for us.
Highlights of the Bill
$600 Direct Payment
The checks for adults and dependent children in families earning up to $75,000 is the obvious one. Beyond that ceiling, earners will receive smaller check—with no benefits at all to individuals earning over $87,000.
Extended Unemployment Benefits
The bill extends federal unemployment supplements for jobless workers. Payments will be up to $300 per week through mid-March 2021.
Extension of Rental Eviction Moratorium
The stay on evictions will remain in effect until January 31. This also includes assistance payments of $25 billion to assist families in paying their rent.
Additional SNAP Funding
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will receive a $13 billion boost in funding. Formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, SNAP provides food assistance for Americans at or below 130% of the poverty line.
PPP Loans for Small Businesses
Small businesses will receive $284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans and $10 billion for child care centers to help small businesses safely reopen.
$68 billion will be spent on COVID-19 vaccination covering purchasing, distribution, and assistance to state-testing programs. Of that funding, $20 billion is set aside to make vaccine free to anyone needing it.
- Funding ($7 billion) is set aside to increase internet broadband access for students’ families and unemployed workers during the pandemic.
- Transportation-related assistance to airlines ($16 billion), mass transit agencies ($14 billion), highway construction ($10 billion) and Amtrak ($1 billion).
- Funding for schools and universities ($82 billion) to assist in reopening. The measure includes $2.75 billion for private K-12 schools.
- Aid to farmers ($13 billion) for food growers as well as livestock, dairy, and poultry producers.
- Ending “surprise medical billing.” Under this provision, patients must receive an honest cost estimate three days before any scheduled medical procedure. Billing disputes will be subject to arbitrating.
- Cost of meals are now a deductible business expense. This one was specifically sought by President Trump.
More Payments in the Future?
Certainly, given the fact that 6 in 10 consumers report financial setbacks because of the pandemic, and many other families were counting on a bigger payment, millions of Americans could use bigger checks.
Capitalizing on the attractiveness of more free government money, President-elect Joe Biden told Georgia voters that he planned to funnel $2,000 in coronavirus relief payments to Americans “immediately” if Georgia elected both Democrat candidates in the US Senate runoffs.
Whether that supplemental election promise will materialize is still in doubt. Democrats won both Georgia seats, and the Senate is now deadlocked at 50-50 with VP-elect Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote. The train wreck that is runaway government spending is expected to continue.