I have read the entire 880-page Coronavirus Stimulus Bill. Here is everything it does.
The past few days I have been consumed with news from Senate and the House about what kind of relief the richest country in the world would be providing for its strangely unwealthy citizens. But every article I read seemed to gloss over these massive numbers — $500 billion for corporations, $377 billion for small businesses — without explaining how any of it would work.
Do small business loans need to be repaid? What about the freeze on federal mortgage payments? Since most articles out there have been lacking detail (and often drenched in partisan spin) — and since I have so much free time right now — I decided to take on the task myself.
TL;DR: No, the direct payments to citizens aren’t enough and the terms for big business bailouts should have been stricter. But, billions upon billions of dollars are being poured into existing social welfare programs and grant programs. If people don’t apply for this money, it won’t get used. So read the list below and reach out if you think you qualify. Many of them, such as food stamps, are allowed to waive restrictions for receiving money that are normally in place. My advice? Do some research and apply for as many things as you think you can get.
Big Business Bailout — $504 billion
$500,000,000,000 in “loans, loan guarantees, and other investments” is made available to “severely distressed” sectors of the economy. The government can use the money to buy company debt, equity, or make loans, and the term of loans maxes out at 5 years.
While most of these loans must be repaid, it appears forgiveness in the form of tax credits is available for any portion of the loans to distressed or closed companies used to keep people on the payroll, including paying for their health benefits.
Democrats won increased oversight over what was originally a “corporate slush fund” including not allowing stock buybacks or dividend payments until one year after any loans under the program are fully repaid. However, Steven Mnuchin (or whoever the treasury secretary is) can waive those requirements if it is needed “to protect the interest of the federal government,” whatever that means.
In addition, compensation for anyone making over $425,000 a year is capped at current levels and restrictions are placed on severance pay. For executives making over $3 million, their salary is capped at $3 million + 50% of how much over $3 million they made. So if an executive made $100 million last year, he can get $3 + ($97 x 50%) = $51.5 million. This includes stock options and other non-monetary compensation. Poor guys.
Large companies are asked to maintain their levels of employment, but only “to the extent practicable” until September 2020, but they are capped at laying off more than 10% of their workforce. It is based on employment levels as of March 24, so it doesn’t help people who have already been laid off. These protections are far too weak. And I’m pretty sure there was a wave of layoffs anticipating this going into effect. Negotiating pay or conditions of employment with unions is forbidden for one year.
For mid-size companies (between 500 and 10,000 employees), the rules are much stricter. Loans can be made at less than 2% interest and will be payment- and interest-deferred for 6 months. These loans must be used to retain at least 90% of their workforce at full compensation and to rehire those who have been fired, restoring levels to 90% of their workforce as of February 1, 2020. For two years after repayment they are also blocked from stock buybacks and dividends, forbidden from outsourcing jobs, and must abide by all current collective bargaining agreements in place.
The bill provides for the secretaries of Housing and Urban Development, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to make expedited appointments in their agencies to help fight COVID-19.
The bill lowers the community bank leverage ratio from 9% to 8% during the emergency. Financial institutions are temporarily relieved from compliance with CECL standards, which were put in place after the 2008 collapse and require banks to estimate and cushion for expected future losses. It looks like a lot of other regulations were relaxed as well, but I was too lazy to go back and reference the other bills they were amending.
The bill appoints an Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery to oversee all of the loans and other investments made under the bill, including reasoning behind why every company who receives money is eligible. The office will also provide quarterly reports on the status of all funds released. In addition to the Inspector General, a bipartisan, five-member congressional oversight commission is created to provide monthly reports making sure corporations aren’t abusing the system, to investigate fraud, and to maximize taxpayer returns.
Lastly, no money from the program is to go to companies run by the President, Vice President, heads of executive departments, members of Congress or their families, including their “spouse, child, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law.” LOLZ, might as well have just put in “or anyone named Jared or Ivanka.”
The Transportation Industry
Of the larger $500 billion fund, $32 billion is earmarked for “relief for airline workers” with $25 billion for the passenger airline industry, $4 billion for cargo air carriers, and $3 billion for contractors, such as airline catering companies. This $32 billion can ONLY be used to pay wages, salaries, and benefits. It forbids involuntary furloughs and reducing pay and benefits through September.
Airlines are required to maintain service to destinations they serviced prior to this at the discretion of the government. Airline excise taxes and taxes on kerosene are also suspended through January 2021.
An additional $17 billion is dedicated to “businesses critical to national security” which is basically just Boeing. Can’t say I’m super pumped about rescuing Boeing when they were already failing after building a faulty airplane that killed a bunch of people.
On top of all this, $25 billion has been set aside for “transit infrastructure grants.” This catgory appears to be broad enough to apply to anyone in the transit industry. The program will specifically be used for operating expenses to make whole the payroll of these companies, provide administrative leave for employees, and purchase PPEs.
The FAA has been allocated an additional $10 billion for grants in airports, which appears to be divided among all airports based on their number of enplanements. Receiving grant money requires workforce retention, with exceptions for non-hub and non-primary airports.
Just over $1 billion is earmarked for Amtrak, with $492 million specifically for operations in the Northeast Corridor. Any furloughed employees must be rehired when operations return to normal.
Small Business Help — $377 billion
$349 billion in loans for small businesses (up to 500 employees) as well as nonprofits, sole-proprietors, and independent contractors affected by the coronavirus. This is to be used for payroll, rent/mortgages, utilities, and other daily costs of doing business. The maximum loan amount is essentially 2.5 times your average monthly payroll, capped at $10,000,000.
You can get SBA loans from local lenders. Essentially, it’s a normal loan from your bank, but the government backs it and will pay back the bank for the amount that is forgiven (more on that below). These fall under the SBA 7(a) category and interest rates are under 4%. Most of the conditions of normal SBA loans (collateral, personal guarantee, etc.) have been waived.
SBA Express Loans are increased from a cap of $350,000 to $1,000,000 through January 31, 2021. These are for those who already have existing SBA loans to get money faster.
The SBA Disaster Loan program received an additional $562 million in available funds, and the terms have been amended as these are usually for hurricanes and other natural disasters. Loans can be received quickly, based solely on your credit score.
$17 billion is provided as subsidies for loan payments for existing small business loans. The act encourages lenders to work with businesses and provide deferments where appropriate.
$10 billion in emergency EIDL grants — importantly, businesses can get a $10,000 advance within 3 days, whether or not they are eventually approved, and this advance does not need to be repaid if you are denied. However, if you receive the advance, it will reduce the total amount of the loan that can be forgiven.
Businesses who borrow under the act will receive loan forgiveness for any payroll costs, rent, utility payments, and mortgage interest (not principal) accrued on their property. The amount forgiven is reduced if you fire people during this time, and is also reduced by the amount that their salaries have been reduced.
Payments on loans are deferred for 6 months, up to 1 year.
There is also $265 million in specific grants for education and training for small business concerns, mainly aimed at the effects and containment of COVID-19, increased telework options, reducing business travel, effects on supply chains, and things like that. $10 million of these grants are specifically targeted for minority-owned businesses.
Unemployment Benefits — $260 billion
You are eligible for unemployment benefits if you are sick, have a family member who is sick, if you have a child who is not in school due to COVID-19, if you are unable to get to work because of COVID-19, if you have been ordered to quarantine, if you were scheduled to start a new job but are unable to, if you’ve had to quit your job due to COVID-19, or if your job was closed due to to COVID-19. Notably, benefits have been expanded to include those who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, and those who do not have sufficient work history to traditionally qualify.
You cannot receive benefits if you are able to telework with pay or if you are already receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave.
The benefits are available for those affected from January 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020, as long as you remain affected, up to 13 weeks. It looks as though a minimum amount has been set, but the maximum amount is based on state law, and includes an additional $600 per week. Average state benefits are $385 per week, according to U.S. News & World Report, meaning many can get over $900 per week in benefits.
Most frustratingly, it appears they have not waived conditions for “actively seeking work” despite a paucity of available jobs amid the shutdowns, though these conditions can be waived due to “illness, quarantine, or movement restriction” (i.e. lockdown).
For those already on unemployment before coronavirus, the benefits period has been extended by 13 weeks up to 39 weeks, and you should automatically start receiving the additional $600 check if you are currently enrolled with your state.
Short-time compensation is also available for those whose hours have been cut, but the benefits do not apply to “seasonal, temporary, or intermittent” workers, and it depends on if this is something your state currently offers. The bill also provides $100 million in grants for states to enact short-time compensation legislation to remain in place going forward.
The Department of Labor is also receiving $345 million for “Training and Employment Services” to help dislocated workers.
Cash Money — $290 billion
All permanent American residents making up to $75,000 ($150,000 for couples, or $112,000 for heads of household) will receive a one-time cash payment of $1,200, or $2,400 for those married filing jointly, plus $500 per child. Nonresident aliens are excluded.
The cash payment is reduced by 5% based on how much your income exceeds these amounts, up to $99,000 for individuals. So if you make $80,000, that’s $5,000 over, multiply by 5% = $250 less. This will be based on your 2019 or 2018 taxes, depending on if you filed for 2019 already.
When do I get my money?
Excellent question. Mnuchin says they want to have things going out by April 6, but considering the bill just passed Congress two days ago, that seems like a pipe dream. When stimulus checks went out during the recession, it took about 8 weeks until the final checks were mailed. You’re likely to get money faster if you have direct deposit account set up with the IRS, but this feels a lot like too little, too late. Late April is probably your best hope.
Important to note that the checks aren’t taxable, but they are based on your 2020 income. So if you get a check, and then you make enough more in 2020 to put you over the threshold, you’ll have to pay it back.
The bill provides that if any accommodations are made by a lender (such as forgiving payments, allowing partial payments, etc.), it will not negatively affect your credit. If you were already delinquent, you will remain delinquent. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help people who can’t get accommodations from their credit cards, private student loans, or landlords. The best thing you can do is talk to your lenders and tell them what you’re going through.
Federally-backed mortgages for homes up to 4 families can be put into forbearance for 6 months up to 1 year if you are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. During this time, no interest or fees will accrue and it will not affect your credit. For multi-family properties, the forbearance period is 30 days with two additional 30-day periods.
A moratorium on foreclosures of non-vacant, federally-backed properties goes into effect for 60 days beginning March 18. Landlords cannot evict tenants or charge any late fees so long as they are in forbearance. There is also a 120-day moratorium on evictions of renters living in properties with federally-backed mortgages (and anything in “covered housing programs” such as Section 8), whether single- or multi-family.
This likely covers around 50% of renters and homeowners in the country. As the government continues to buy mortgage-backed securities in order to stabilize the market, more and more families should qualify for these exemptions. If you’re a renter and can’t make your April 1st payment, please reach out to your landlord and find out if they have a federally-backed loan (or if their mortgage was recently purchased by the government) and if they qualify for forbearance. There will be no penalty for them to enter it and they can still collect rent from their other tenants who are able to pay.
Tax Stuff — $290 billion for businesses and $10 billion for personal
You do not have to pay taxes on withdrawals from retirement accounts up to $100,000 due to hardship related to the virus, and you can repay any distributions without additional taxation.
Fun bonus: if your business used alcohol to produce hand sanitizer, you are exempt from paying excise tax on the alcohol!
Businesses affected by coronavirus can get a tax deduction on employment taxes up to 50% of the salaries of retained employees, up to $10,000 per quarter. They have also amended the rules surrounding net operating losses going back to 2018, for which businesses could be eligible for refunds. Payroll taxes can be deferred for an additional year. Paid sick leave can also be reimbursed through tax credits. This stuff is super complicated, call your accountant!
Healthcare — $260 billion
The healthcare section of the bill provides money for all sorts of things, from analysis of potential supply-chain disruptions to broadening definitions of emergency medical equipment. A lot of emphasis is put on manufacturers of life-saving equipment (such as ventilators) and increasing our national stockpile of basically everything. There are dozens of pages on minute changes to Medicare and Medicaid which were impossible to decipher considering they reference other bills, but I’m assuming (hoping?) they’re mostly relaxing restrictions and speeding up care. Here is a good discussion of some of the specifics from HealthAffairs.org.
There are small but important details, such as limiting liability for healthcare workers during this time (so it’s harder to sue them if a patient dies), protections for those who are volunteering, and privacy protections for patients’ health history. Money is allocated for a public awareness campaign to increase blood donation.
The largest chunk of this is the $150 billion “Coronavirus Relief Fund” that states, territories, localities, and tribes can use to cover any COVID-19-related expenses not explicitly covered in the bill. At issue here is that the District of Colombia has been classified as a territory along with Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Marianas, who are to share $3 billion based on population, meaning the District will get only about $750 million in funding. The money for states will be divided based on population, but with a minimum of $1.25 billion for each state. Considering DC is both more populated and with a higher population density than many states (and most of the isolated territories), they are petitioning to be reclassified here. Tribal governments will receive $8 billion.
$4 billion is allocated to community health centers including $310 million for the National Health Service Corps. There is over $1 billion in various grant programs (many of which already existed), and most of which are broadly aimed at improving preventive medicine, health outcomes, disease prevention, and access to care in rural and medically underserved communities. An additional grant program worth $203 million over 5 years was created specifically to fund research into geriatric treatment and care. Yet another, worth $1.2 billion, is dedicated to the education, training, and advancement of nurses, including $585 million for loan repayment.
The bill (in concert with the two previous bills already passed) allows states to cover the costs of testing for the uninsured through state Medicaid programs, but doesn’t appear to require them to do so. I hope I’m reading that wrong. It requires insurance companies to cover the costs of tests, treatments, and vaccines without cost-sharing. It also expands prescription refill limits to allow Medicare patients to stock up for 3 months. Unfortunately, both the insured and uninsured can still get hit with a hefty bill if they require hospitalization.
$1.32 billion has been designated for research into testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19. Another $1.32 billion is allocated to emergency funds for community health centers.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is receiving $17.3 billion through September 2021 for care and facilities, including to homeless vets, and another $2.15 billion to improve technology infrastructure. It also blocks suspension or disenrollment from anyone during the public health emergency.
The bill allocates $337.5 million to states for “Money Follows the Person” programs, allowing Medicaid recipients greater choice in where they get care, plus $200 million for “program management” for Medicaid and Medicare.
Another $29 million per year for 5 years ($145 million) in grants is designed specifically for improvements in telehealth, 50% of which must be awarded to rural areas. Other specific telehealth initiatives include expanding telehealth definitions and allowances for insurance companies, and waiving previously required in-person visits.
$397.5 million in grants ($79.5 million per year for 5 years) is devoted entirely to improving rural healthcare facilities and overall access to healthcare in rural areas. This is an increase from the previous bill, which allocated $45 million per year for only 3 years.
There is $125.5 million per year for 5 years ($627.5 million) in grants to the “Healthy Start” program to reduce infant mortality rates, improve perinatal outcomes, and reduce dispartities in health status for communities with disproportinately poor outcomes.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services will receive $425 million.
There are also some truly random things, such as classifying menstrual products (tampons, pads, etc.) as “medical care” so that they can be paid for using Healthcare Spending Accounts (HSAs), as well as changes to processes for drug classifications, analysis of new sunscreen ingredients, approval of OTC cough and cold medicine for children, and changes to packaging requirements for new drugs.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed in mid-March granted up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave if your child’s school has been closed up to $200 per day. Additionally, it provided for 2 weeks of paid sick leave at 100% of salary up to $511 per day if you were infected with the virus or ordered to be quarantined. The new bill has capped paid sick leave at $200 per day up to $10,000, but the $511 per day still applies to “Emergency Paid Sick Leave.”
Gig-workers and the self-employed can get these benefits in the form of tax credits. Unfortunately, there are massive loopholes for companies under 50 people and corporations over 500 people…which makes zero sense. For businesses, the payments are all in the form of tax credits, which doesn’t really help small businesses with massive liquidity problems right now who are required to pay these costs upfront.
Welfare & Social Programs
$8.8 billion is designated for child nutrition programs, and an additional $15.8 billion is dedicated to SNAP (aka food stamps) with $100 million earmarked for Indian reservations and $200 million for territories such as Guam and Puerto Rico. $450 million is devoted to the Commodity Assistance Program, which works with low-income food programs such as WIC and food banks. Note that eligibility requirements have changed, so you may be eligible for programs now that you weren’t before (during the emergency period only).
$5 billion is allocated to a Community Development Fund, $2 billion of which goes towards Section 8 Housing (I think), and another $1 billion of it directly to states will be allocated based on current public health needs. This fund seems to be aimed at providing housing assistance, but it also seems quite broad in how communities can apply it. An additional $1 billion is devoted to Project-Based Rental Assistance, which helps low-income families live in more expensive areas, paying rent based on their income.
$4 billion is set aside for families who are homeless or receiving homelessness assistance. $2 billion of this will go to existing grant programs already working with the homeless, and the other $2 billion will be given directly to states and localities “for the benefit of unsheltered homeless, sheltered homeless, and those at risk of homelessness,” and also to areas with the greatest need based on geographic factors. No program receiving money from this bucket can require a person to receive any kind of treatment or any other prerequisite activity in order to receive shelter.
Another $900 million will go to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and $3.5 billion is directed towards Child Care Development Block Grants both to provide assistance to low-income families (and families of healthcare workers and first responders, regardless of income), and to help keep daycare centers open. $65 million is devoted to Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, including covering hotel costs for those who need to quarantine.
$1.87 billion is being allocated to children and family services programs, including Community Services Block Grants, the Head Start Act, summer programs for kids, homeless youth programs, as well as domestic violence prevention services.
$955 million is going towards community and disabled living programs, including nutrition assistance, support for family caregivers, and elder rights protection. Another $50 million is specifically for housing for the elderly and $15 million for housing the disabled.
$1.25 billion is going to provide tenant-based rental assistance for those in public housing, including vouchers. It allows landlords who work with the public housing program leeway to keep families in their homes. An additional $685 million is provided just for operations costs of public housing programs.
Education — $32 billion
The broader $30 billion fund will be allocated to states based on their relative populations and number of children, and can be used in elementary, secondary, and higher education for a range of things from professional development and cleaning supplies to coordinating long-term closures, distance learning, and purchasing educational technology.
The section on student loans was complicated to read and referenced provisions in other federal student loan acts that made it hard to fully decipher. But here is what I think it’s saying:
Any federal student loans or grants used to cover semesters that were cancelled due to a qualifying emergency (i.e., coronavirus) will not need to be repaid. It also sounds like the requirement to repay loans for a semester if you withdraw from school due to a qualifying emergency will be waived. There are also a lot of details about leaves of absence and academic progress that previously could have caused grant recipients to lose their funding, but those requirements can now be waived by your university.
It provides relief for public and charter schools in the form of waivers for many statutory or regulatory requirements they won’t be able to meet (other than those related to civil rights).
$62 million in loan payment deferments for universities in the HBCU (Historically Black College and Universities) program.
All federal student loan payments will be automatically deferred for 6 months. You can continue making principal payments during this time if you want to. You will not have any negative credit markings, and interest will not accrue during this time. Unfortunately, the bill does nothing to address private student loans (such as Sallie Mae and Discover), though the vast majority (about 92%) are federal. If you have private student loans, your lender may be providing their own form of relief. Check with them.
For public school teachers who are working towards student loan forgiveness, any break in employment will not affect their eligibility.
At the forefront of the fight against coronavirus, the CDC has been given $4.3 billion, $1.5 billion of which is allocated for states to provide surveillance, epidemiology, lab capacity, infection control, and other preparedness activities, $500 million towards global disease detection, and $500 million towards public health data surveillance, among other things.
The Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund has been allocated an additional $27 billion for research into vaccines, increasing manufacturing capacity, therapeutics, medical supplies, and for purchasing vaccines once they’re available. $16 billion of this is earmarked for increasing the strategic national stockpile. Plus, an additional $275 million is available for research into HIV, rural health, tribal health, and reimbursing healthcare providers for additional expenses, most likely related to testing.
$12.5 million has been allocated to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to do GIS mapping of infectious disease hot spots, including cruise ships, in addition to research into disinfecting schools, homes, and daycare facilities.
The National Institutes of Health will receive $706 million for Allergy & Infectious Diseases; $103.4 million for the Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; $60 million for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering; $10 million for National Library of Medicine; $36 million for the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences; and $30 million for the Office of the Director.
The agriculture industry will receive $9.5 billion in support to avoid any supply chain disruptions during the emergency. An additional $55 million will go directly towards increasing Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services; $45 million to marketing; $33 million to Food Safety and Inspection Services. There is also $300 million for fisheries.
Law Enforcement & Defense
There is $15 million for U.S. Marshal’s salaries, $20 million for the FBI, $15 million for the DEA, $100 million for the federal prison system, and $850 million for state and local law enforcement.
The prison system, which is significantly vulnerable, is allowed flexibility in visitation through teleconferencing, as well as additional allotments of personal protective equipment. The bill provides new rules for videoconferencing for criminal proceedings, but only when absolutely necessary, and only during the national emergency.
The Army National Guard is receiving $933 million for personnel and operations, then another $558 million for the Air Force National Guard, $160 million for the Army, $90 million for the Marine Corps, $306 million for the Navy, $155 million for the Air Force, $141 million for the Coast Guard and $48 million for the Army Reserve. PLUS another $828 million to “defense-wide operation and maintenance” totaling over $3 billion dollars in defense spending.
Another even-billion is devoted to spending under the Defense Production Act, which allows the government to direct manufacturers to start producing much-needed items such as masks and ventilators.
The Department of Defense has also been allocated $3.8 billion for “health programs,” with $3.39 billion earmarked for operation and maintenance and $415 million for research & development. An additional $1 billion will support the DoD’s healthcare system for armed forces personnel, TRICARE.
The Department of Homeland Security is receiving $178 million solely for the purchasing of PPEs and sanitation materials. The TSA is receiving $100 million for cleaning and sanitization at checkpoints, as well as overtime and travel costs.
The President has also been granted the authority to extend the appointments of various high-level military people including the Chiefs of the Army and Navy Reserves, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and the Army National Guard Director.
A full $3 billion is provided for the International Development Association (the World Bank). $324 million is dedicated to diplomatic and consular services, much of which will help evacuate Americans stranded in foreign countries. There is $258 million for international disaster assistance, and $350 million for migration and refugee assistance. An additional $88 million will go to support the Peace Corp, though it may be too little too late as many of them were already removed from their posts permanently without pay.
$514 million is devoted to the African Development Fund, and an additional $28 billion has been made available in loans to the IMF, only to be used if absolutely necessary.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs will receive an additional $453 million (on top of the $8 billion from the Coronavirus Relief Fund) for general prevention, preparedness, and managing social welfare programs, among other things, plus another $69 million for education programs. The Indian Health Service arm of HHS (Department of Health & Human Services) is also getting over $1 billion to provide care for the virus and infrastructure improvements.
Arts & Humanities
The National Archives got $8 million, the Smithsonian got $7.5 million, and the Kennedy Center gets $25 million — all mostly for deep cleaning and increasing telework. The National Endowment for the Arts received $75 million, 60% of which is to be distributed to states for direct grants, plus another $75 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting will receive $75 million. The Institute of Museum and Library Sciences is being granted $50 million to expand digital networks, purchase devices, and provide technical support.
The U.S. Postal Service will receive up to $10 billion in loans to cover operating expenses, but it cannot be used to repay debt. They have also been asked to prioritize all COVID-related deliveries.
$1.5 billion goes to the Economic Development Administration, which aims to stimulate growth in distressed communities, and will be working specifically towards areas hit hardest economically by the pandemic.
With numbers in the billions, it can be easy to overlook smaller programs, but there are all kinds of grants for tens of millions of dollars. $6 million for “science and technical research,” $60 million for “Industrial Technology Services,” $50 million for Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership to assist manufacturers, $10 million for “Manufacturing USA,” and $80 million for NASA to help prevent coronavirus. Not sure how they’re going to help, but OK! There is $75 million for research and related activities at the National Science Foundation and $50 million for the Legal Services Corporation, which provides civil legal assistance to low-income Americans.
There is $70 million for the Army Corps of Engineers, $20.6 million for “water and related resources,” $99 million for the Department of Energy to literally do “Science,” and even extra money for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. $20.5 million is set aside for rural business development, and $25 million to develop distance learning, telemedicine, and broadband in rural areas.
The Department of Energy will be allowed to sell $450 million worth of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve annually for the next three years to fund the “Energy Securitization and Infrastructure Modernization Fund” and to help make up the deficit.
The Election Assistance Commission has received $400 million dollars, as there is expected to be significant disruptions in primaries over the coming months. The FCC received $200 million to help provide telecommunications services, specifically focused on telehealth services. The Federal Buildings Fund, which maintains offices for federal departments, received $275 million. Office of Personnel Management got another $12 million to increase digital case management.
$300 million will go to the Social Security Administration for increasing telework, as well as paying the salaries and benefits of all employees who will have a lot of paperwork processing to do.
For some insane reason, FEMA is only receiving $45 million, but a separate “Disaster Relief Fund” is getting $45 billion, so that seems OK. An additional $400 million is set aside for federal assistance to firefighters, Emergency Management Performance Grants (part of FEMA’s national preparedness effort), and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.
The Office of the Secretary for all departments combined will receive $158.4 million for cleaning public areas, supporting law enforcement, and emergency management operations.
The Forestry Department is getting $70.8 million for forest and rangeland research; cleaning, PPEs, and testing for their first responders; and capital improvement and maintenance. The poor EPA gets a paltry $6.2 million including $1.5 million for research on environmental transmission of the disease.
The Railroad Retirement Board, which provides benefits to retired railroad employess (what year was this board created?) will receive $5 million to increase IT and improve workforce mobility. Is this really a thing? Didn’t Amtrak already get a billion dollars?
Notably, $25 million has been allocated to salaries and expenses of the House of Representatives through September 2021 with only $5 million earmarked for coronavirus prevention, preparation, etc. The remainder is only to be used in an emergency requirement. There is a rumor going around that this is a pay raise…it is not. It is for staffers working overtime, to help pay for childcare, food services, and technology to increase telework capabilities. There is also $400,000 for the Office of the Attending Physician, $700,000 for the Library of Congress, $84,000 per month for Senate salaries and childcare, and $113,000 per month to the Little Scholars Child Development Center, which honestly just sounds like extra free daycare for Senators and their staff.
Honestly, before I read this bill I was a little mad at it. I wanted more direct payments for Americans, and a moratorium on ALL evictions along with a freezing of all rental and mortgage payments. I still want those things. But, while it doesn’t provide the immediate cash, there are robust options for Americans looking for help, and most of it comes in the form of grants, rather than loans that need to be repaid. Unfortunately, if you aren’t used to navigating the non-profits who are receiving all of these grants, it’s possible you may never get the help you need. And unsurprisingly, there is likely billions of dollars of spending in here that didn’t need to be added. But whatevs.
My advice is to apply for everything. If you are a small business owner or you are self-employed, head to the SBA and apply for a loan. If your business has been totally closed, get a disaster loan. If your landlord is saying they will kick you out, apply for the emergency $10,000 to tide you over until the rest of a loan can come through.
If you are a person who lost their job, apply for unemployment, apply for food stamps, talk to your landlord, talk to your former employer and see if they are applying for any of these programs. They will get benefits to keep employees on and some are being forced to re-hire fired employees in order to receive government help. If your landlord is threatening eviction, look into the many many programs for low-income housing or even homelessness assistance. They just got billions of dollars.
We still need rental eviction protection and mortgage freezes for the 50% of mortgages that aren’t federally backed. We need to be worried about the people getting evicted in three days. Some student loan forgiveness would be real nice as well.
But this is a good start, America.