E34: Season 3 Episode 14: America by the Numbers – A Summary of the COVID-19 Relief Legislation
By Tom Dunlap
The largest economic stimulus package in the history of the United States has passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by the president.
Some suggest that rather than calling this a stimulus package, it should be called a “survival” package. The new law is meant to help keep the American economy afloat during the economic fallout due to COVID-19.
There are a lot of articles summarizing, explaining, and even complaining about the coronavirus relief law – but this is a short and sweet list of the major provisions that have now become law, by the numbers, and without political commentary.
HOW DOES THE CORONAVIRUS RELIEF LAW HELP INDIVIDUALS?
The provisions of the stimulus law for individuals essentially work to keep American workers paid and employed. The law includes monetary support so that Americans can pay their bills and they can continue to purchase food for their families. For families that are food insecure, this bill also supports increases in food assistance programs. For those Americans who make under $75,000, they will be given a direct check to help put money back into the economy. Finally, for those who may have lost their job, the bill boosts unemployment benefits to help Americans survive during this time. By the numbers:
- $1,200 ($2,400 for couples) check will be made out for all U. S. residents who make less than $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples)
- $500 check will be given per child for all U.S. residents who make less than $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples)
- $25 billion for food assistance with $16 billion for SNAP food stamps programs and almost $9 billion for child nutrition.
- $600 more per week for up to four months for the unemployed
HOW DOES THE CORONAVIRUS RELIEF LAW HELP AMERICAN BUSINESSES?
This law allocates money to struggling businesses, as well as offers a payroll tax-credit to employers as an incentive to prevent businesses from laying off employees. For severely distressed industries, such as the airline industry, special provisions have been offered in an attempt to help support through this temporary but significant time. By the numbers:
- $500 billion in loans for the Treasury Department to distribute to struggling sectors of the economy, including towns, cities, and airlines.
- $5,000 per worker (as a maximum) as a payroll tax credit for businesses that keeps idle workers on their payrolls during the pandemic. To get this credit, however, businesses will have to show they took a 50 percent loss compared to the same quarter past years and if they take the payroll tax credit, the company can’t take the special SBA loans.
- 2 percent tax deferral of the Social Security tax paid by employers and self-employed individuals which will then be paid over the two years: half by Dec. 31, 2021, and half by Dec. 31, 2022.
- $58 billion in aid payments to the airline industry, consisting of $29 billion in grants for “the continuation of payment of employee wages, salaries, and benefits”, and $29 billion in loans and loan guarantees for passenger airlines, repair stations, and ticket agents, as well as a short term relief from paying excise taxes on the tickets, fuel, and cargo. The money cannot be used for stock buybacks, and the bill limits executive compensation.
- $24 billion for ranchers, with $14 billion for the USDA to stabilize the farm economy and $9.5 billion for emergency aid for the agriculture, including fruit & vegetable growers and cattle ranchers.
- A temporary exemption from an excise tax for alcohol they use to make hand sanitizer that’s produced and distributed within Food and Drug Administration guidelines for distilleries.
- Retail tax fix that will let retailers who have invested in property improvement deduct the cost of the improvements from their taxes.
HOW DOES THE CORONAVIRUS RELIEF LAW HELP TOWARDS AMERICAN RECOVERY FROM COVID-19?
This law not only helps with the immediate crisis but also takes serious measures to support the overall fight against COVID-19 and the race to find a cure. This law provides money to the Department of Defense for the deployment of the National Guard to support with logistics around the care of American citizens during the pandemic and increased funding for research and development, along with telemedicine options for American citizens. By the numbers:
- $10.5 billion for the Department of Defense which includes $1.5 billion for the National Guard to deploy as many as 20,000 soldiers to help fight the coronavirus over the next six months
- $200 million for telemedicine to boost remote telemedicine health check-ups.
- $415 million on research and development to develop vaccines and antivirals.
- $150 billion for state and local governments, with $8 billion for local governments.
- $100 billion in rescue funds for hospitals and a 20% pay bump in Medicare payment for patients with coronavirus (Note – $0 for the oil industry or cruise line companies)
- $30 billion for colleges and universities, states and school districts.
- $10 billion in Treasury loan for the US Postal service to keep them out of insolvency
WHO ARE THE LOSERS?
Oil Companies: The oil companies did not get the $3 billion the Trump administration wanted, but neither did renewable energy companies get any additional tax breaks.
FCC: The Democrats did not get the $2 billion to an FCC subsidy program that helps schools and libraries connect to the internet, and the administration did not get the $50 million it wanted for a pilot program to help schools.
Insurers and the Cruise Industry got very little if anything.