As the American people continue battling COVID-19 this holiday season, Congress has just reached an agreement and passed another rescue package to be scheduled ASAP, and they state that more help is on the way.  Almost nine (9) months after the CARES Act was signed into law, Congress has agreed on a 2nd stimulus package.   A $908 Billion Bill that is less than half the size of the original COVID-19 package.

To help alleviate the first crisis, the bill will provide:

  • $600 check for every Americans making up to $75K
  • $300 per week in federal unemployment benefits for an additional 11 weeks.
  • To help slow down the second crisis, the bill includes a $69 Billion to expand vaccine distribution, test and trace measures, and other public health efforts.

 While the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation ran for about 16 weeks as part of the initial stimulus, the $300 federal Unemployment Boost will run for 11 weeks, through March 14.    As for the direct payments, families with children will also be eligible for $600 per child.

In addition, the new bill will also extend the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program providing benefits to the self-employed and contract and gig workers for 11 weeks.

$325 Billion for Small Businesses
The bulk of small business aid, some $284 Billion, will go to forgivable loans as part of the paycheck Protection Program, allowing businesses with fewer than 500 employees to cover payroll, rent and utilities.  Another $15 Billion will go to live venues, cultural institutions, and movie theaters as part of the Save Our Stages Act.

$82 Billion for Schools
Most of the spending for schools is divvied up between the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund ($54.3 Billion) and the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund ($22.7 Billion)

$45 Billion for Transportation – Over $4 Billion for MTA

  • $15 Billion for airline payroll support
  • $10 Billion for State Highways
  • $2 Billion for airports and related businesses
  • $1 Billion for Amtrak.

 Wrapped into the $14 Billion secured for public transit is about $4 Billion for the MTA, which received the same amount of funding as it did during the Cares Act.

$69 Billion for public health measures, including Vaccinations and Testing

  • $20 Billion for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority
  • $9 Billion – The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will receive this for the vaccination efforts.
  • States will receive $22 Billion for test and trace programs.

$25 Billion in Rental Assistance

As many as 20 million Americans have fallen behind on rent during the pandemic. 

  • This rental assistance provides aid to qualified families who are not able to make rent or pay off past-due rent.
  • These funds can also be used for rent and utility payments.
  • This act also extends the imperfect CDC eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021.

$13 Billion for Additional SNAP benefits

  • With as many as 50 million Americans facing food insecurity this year, $13 Billion from the second stimulus will go toward food-assistance programs, including SNAP benefits.
  • The bill will also include another $13 Billion in direct payments , buys, and loans to farmers who have taken hits during the pandemic.

Ban on Medical Bills
In at least one case, Congress used the massive stimulus bill to address a problem that is not related to the pandemic:  Surprise Medical Bills, which have long been a scourge of American Health Care.   The new stimulus bill mandates that in most cases, health providers will have to haggle with insurance companies to negotiate a fair price for patients in such cases of treatment, often in an emergency setting, rather than charging the full cost to the patients themselves.  The provision begins in 2022, and does not cover ground ambulance trips, which are a frequent source of surprise billing.

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