Congress Comes Through
We don’t expect to see much in the way of bipartisan legislation in the coming years, but perhaps Democrats and Republicans were imbued with the holiday spirit, as they managed to come to an agreement on a $900 billion COVID relief package that should provide targeted support for those individuals and businesses affected most by the pandemic, as well as stimulus to most Americans. Highlights of the bill include:
- Direct payment checks for up to $600 per adult and child. These payments, however, begin to phase out at an income of $75,000 ($150,000 per married couples) and go to $0 at an income of $87,000 ($174,000 for married couples)
- An additional $300 per week in unemployment benefits for another 11 weeks.
- $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program small business loans.
- $82 billion to education providers, including funds to help schools reopen safely.
- $25 billion for rental assistance, $10 billion for child care assistance, $13 billion for SNAP and child nutrition benefits, $7 billion for broadband access, and $30 billion into vaccine procurement and distribution.
- Curtailment of surprise medical billing, which can occur when a hospital patient is visited or treated by a doctor who turns out to be out of network. The ensuing bill, often not covered by insurance, can be astronomical. Such surprise medical bills will now go through an arbitration process.
- Random oddities that typically are snuck into a long bill (this one is 5,000+ pages) with bipartisan support: a murder hornet eradication program, a ban on federal funding for ACORN, (an organization that no longer exists) and a statement of policy with respect to the Dalai Lama’s succession via reincarnation. Murder hornet queens could not be reached for comment, as they are currently in hibernation.
Left out of the bill were aid to state and local governments (an item on Democrats’ wish list) and liability protection for businesses (a key Republican demand). Still, this bill, which is expected to be signed by President Trump, should help provide an economic bridge between now and later in 2021, when we hopefully will have sufficient and effective vaccine uptake, and a daily life resembling pre-pandemic times.
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