What is in the Emergency Stimulus Package?

Congress passed an emergency stimulus package that delivers roughly $900 billion in COVID-19-related aid on December 21, 2020, and on December 27, 2020, President Trump signed the bill into law. The bill was part of a $1.4 trillion spending package that will keep the government afloat for the fiscal year. Continue reading to gain a better understanding of what was included in the emergency relief bill.

What is Included the Bill?

The bill grants funding for unemployment benefits, small businesses, direct payments to individuals, vaccine distribution, and rental assistance.

The bill includes funding for unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans. It allows those Americans to receive $300 per week in federal funding in addition to the existing unemployment, assuming their state-level benefits have not run out. The additional unemployment benefits and extensions included within this bill would provide aid for 11 weeks from their expiration at the end of December 2020 through at least March 14, 2021.

Initial COVID-19 relief for unemployment benefits was introduced by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed on March 27, 2020. The CARES Act provided funding for states to waive any waiting requirements for unemployment income (UI) benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic and give an additional $600 per week to all individuals receiving UI benefits for weeks of unemployment ending before July 31, 2020. President Trump signed a memorandum to extend a portion of unemployment wages after the initial $600 per week expired.

The bill also includes an extension of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). This program allows workers who are not traditionally eligible to receive unemployment benefits, including self-employed and gig workers. Additionally, there is an 11-week extension in base benefits included within the bill.

Aid for Businesses

The bill includes approximately $325 billion in funding to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to support U.S. businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill allocates $284 billion in funding to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Under the bill, certain firms that had already applied for received and exhausted PPP funds will be eligible to apply for another PPP loan. To qualify for a second PPP loan, a business must have less than 300 employees and have sustained at least a 30% loss in revenue during any quarter of 2020. Additionally, small 501(c)(6) organizations with 150 or fewer employees that are not lobbying organizations would be eligible for a PPP loan with this round of funding.

The bill includes another round of economic impact payments—otherwise known as stimulus checks. The CARES Act provided the first round of stimulus checks for eligible Americans. Under the CARES Act, tax filers with an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns were eligible to receive the full payment of $1,200 per individual or $2,400 per married couple. Parents were also eligible to receive $500 for each qualifying child.

The bill mirrors the same eligibility guidelines as the CARES Act, barring the stimulus check amount is less this time around. Instead of being eligible for a $1,200 payment, qualifying taxpayers are eligible for $600 per individual or $1,200 per married couple. Parents will also be eligible to receive $600 for each qualifying child.

Other provisions included in the Bill:

  • The bipartisan bill provides funding for a variety of other issues, including:
    • S. Postal Service—$10 billion
    • Health Care Provider Relief Fund—$35 billion
    • COVID-19 Testing and Tracing and Vaccine Distribution—$69 billion
    • Transportation Industry Relief (Airlines, Airports, Buses, Transit and Amtrak)—$45 billion
    • Education—$82 billion
    • Housing Assistance (Rental)—$25 billion
  • The bill extends the federal moratorium on evictions until the end of January 2021

Another provision included in the bill is a ban on surprise medical bills—to help protect insured patients from large medical bills when they unknowingly receive out-of-network care. The bill also includes enhanced tax credits, including the employee retention tax credit for employers that keep employees on payroll and provide paid sick leave.

Under the bill, the earned income tax credit and child tax credit would become available to those who lost wages or their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and expand the low-income housing tax credit.  Click here to view the full text and see what else is included within the bill.

What’s not included in this bill

While the bill doesn’t provide direct aid to state, local and tribal governments, it does extend the deadline for states and cities to use unspent money provided by the CARES Act. Under the CARES Act, states and cities had until the end of 2020 to spend their funds, and any unspent amount would have to be returned to the Department of Treasury. This bill extends the original deadline for a full year.

Lastly, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was not explicitly extended by the bill, and so employers are no longer required to provide federal FFCRA leave past December 31, 2020. As alluded to earlier, there is a provision in the bill that pertains to FFCRA, which provides that employers who voluntarily choose to continue to provide leave in line with FFCRA terms can continue to receive a federal tax credit for leave through March 31, 2021.

Employers should keep in mind that some states and local jurisdictions have passed their own FFCRA-like laws that extend beyond December 31, 2020, and others that were set to end December 31 may be extended well into 2021.