Congress passed the COVID relief bill last night, but at a whopping 5,500+ pages, we are all wondering what exactly is in the bill. Here’s a quick explainer.
It’s important to understand that technically, two bills were passed: the COVID relief bill is part of what they call the omnibus bill that will fund the federal government. (You may have heard a few murmurings about a potential shutdown — this omnibus prevents that from happening.) So, some of the items that we’re hearing about that are enraging (like the tax breaks for corporate meal expenses that the Republicans wanted, and got), are actually in the omnibus and not the COVID relief bill.
Now the information is just starting to come out now, and once more journalists and analysts have a chance to read the bill fully and understand what the implications are, we’ll get more information. But for now, here’s some of what we know:
What’s in the bill
Individuals making up to $75,000 a year will get $600 and couples making up to $150,000 per year will get $1,200, as well as a $600 payment for each child. You can learn more details about who will get money (and when) at this Vox article.
The bill allocates $20 billion to buy additional vaccines, $8 billion to distribute vaccines, and $22 billion to the states for testing, tracing and mitigation programs.
Interestingly, the bill includes a provision ending surprise medical billing. “[P]atients would be required to receive a ‘true and honest cost estimate’ three days before any scheduled procedure and that billing disputes would be subject to arbitration.” Source
It “revive[s] the supplemental federal unemployment insurance benefit, giving an extra $300 a week to those receiving state unemployment benefits.” Source
It also extends “a program for self-employed and gig economy workers that provides additional weeks of unemployment insurance.” Source
There is $284 billion more for small business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. “The bill would also expand the program to include nonprofits and local news organizations, and there is an additional $20 billion in grants for businesses in low-income communities.” Source
There is “$25 billion in rental assistance to help pay for past-due rent, future rent payments and utility bills, as well as an extension of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium through Jan. 31.” There’s also $800 million dedicated specifically to Native American communities. Source & Source
The bill “includes $10 billion for child care centers to help providers safely reopen.” Source
Schools will get help: $82 billion for elementary and secondary schools, $23 billion for universities and colleges, and $1.7 billion for Black and tribal colleges.
There is a $13 billion increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamp program.
There’s $45 billion for transportation assistance, including funds to pay airline workers, mass transit systems, Amtrak, and more.
Considering we’re all at home, it’s nice to hear that the “bill includes $7 billion in broadband funding. It would also provide $300 million for rural broadband and $250 million for telehealth.” Source
What’s not in the bill
It doesn’t include any funding for states, which was a Democratic priority.
It also doesn’t include any liability protection from Covid-19-related lawsuits for businesses, which the Republicans were pushing for.
What comes next
President-Elect Joe Biden has called this particular bill “just a down payment” and has vowed to work on another stimulus bill once he’s sworn in. Let me take this moment to encourage you to get involved with the Senate runoff races happening in less than 2 weeks. If we can win those Senate seats, perhaps the bill we pass under a Democratic-controlled Congress can look more like the HEROES Act that the House passed back in mid-May. Let’s make that happen!
I hope you all have a happy and healthy holiday season!