December 28 Update: President Trump has signed the bill. We will update this space with any additional information when it is available.
December 23 Update: The bill is still awaiting signature from the President. We will update this space with more information when it is available.
December 22, 2020
The United States Congress yesterday evening passed an omnibus bill providing funding for most government agencies. Included in the bipartisan legislation was $900 billion of emergency economic relief to address further damage caused by impacts of COVID-19. That section in the bill is titled “Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act, 2021.” It is expected that President Trump will sign the bill soon.
As is often the case with final funding bills coming together late in the year, this bill contains myriad special provisions included to secure individual Senator and Representative votes and administration support.
Three core elements of this economic relief speak to the needs of many complementary health-care and beauty professionals—direct payment stimulus checks, expanded and extended unemployment benefits, and a third round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding for small businesses. Fundamentally, these three elements will work similarly (though less generously) as they did in the larger CARES Act this past spring.
Direct payment stimulus checks (technically a rebate against federal taxes otherwise owed) this time will be $600 per person, adults and dependents under the age of 17 (compared to $1,200 per person in the earlier CARES Act). Individuals earning up to $75,000 will be fully eligible. Individuals earning between $75,000 and $87,000 will receive lesser amounts, calculated on a sliding scale. If you meet these eligibility criteria and show up on Treasury Department (IRS) files, you should not have to apply. Payment checks will be deposited in your bank account of record over the next few weeks.
Unemployment benefits, both regular and pandemic, which had been scheduled to expire next week, will be extended an additional 11 weeks and the federal government will top off state unemployment benefits with $300 per week of supplemental dollars. In theory, those features will happen seamlessly. In reality, many state employment offices will require time to reprogram their computer systems and implement new staff training and forms. Even though the 11-week extension and $300 supplement are federal government supports, administration of them will continue to be a state responsibility. Please be alert to instructions that will be forthcoming from your state Employment Office.
If you own your own practice, you potentially could benefit from a third bite of the PPP apple. Even if you previously received funds under this program, you can reapply under this third round. This time the PPP pot will be $284.5 billion, of which a segment is reserved for specified categories of borrowers. Prior PPP loan borrowers will be eligible to apply for “second draw loans.” Some of that sum is earmarked for special categories such as minority-owned businesses. Indications are that the program will continue to be housed in the Small Business Administration, with banks continuing their role as conduits.
Other elements of the emergency relief funds include a one-month moratorium on residential evictions through January 2021, plus $25 billion in emergency assistance to renters, an expansion of food stamps, $82 billion for schools, and $20 billion more for vaccine distribution.
We will continue to update this post with any further details and clarifications as they emerge.