County and Local Leaders, flagging for you some of the key provisions in the Bipartisan package for COVID-19 relief that is being attached to a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. An agreement was reached yesterday. At present, the House is expected to vote on the legislation first, before sending it to the Senate. As I learn more about specific and relevant pieces of the omnibus spending package, which I anticipate will include reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools and robust PILT funding, among many key spending provisions, I will share.
Of particular note with regard to the COVID-19 relief package, the Democratic leadership’s statement wrote: “State and local governments will certainly need additional funding to prevent the senseless layoffs of heroic essential workers and critical service cuts. The agreement provides some important new targeted funds for state and local government functions that will help alleviate their overall budget burdens. These targeted funds include the emergency resources for schools, $27 billion for state highways, struggling transit agencies, Amtrak and airports, $22 billion for the health-related expenses of state, local, tribal and territorial government, and an additional year of eligibility for expenses under the CARES Coronavirus Relief Fund.”
- Accelerating vaccine distribution: The bipartisan COVID relief package provides billions in urgently needed funds to accelerate the free and equitable distribution of safe vaccines to as many Americans as possible as soon as possible, to implement a strong national testing and tracing strategy with billions reserved specifically for combating the disparities facing communities of color, and to support our heroic health care workers and providers.
- Ending surprise billing: The package includes bipartisan, bicameral legislation that will end surprise billing for emergency and scheduled care.
- Strong support for small business: Secured in the final package was critical funding and policy changes to help small businesses, including minority-owned businesses, and nonprofits recover from the pandemic. The agreement includes over $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans, expanded PPP eligibility for nonprofits and local newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters, key modifications to PPP to serve the smallest businesses and struggling non-profits and better assist independent restaurants, and includes $15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions. The agreement also includes $20 billion for targeted EIDL Grants which are critical to many smaller businesses on Main Street.
- Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions: The agreement includes dedicated PPP set-asides for very small businesses and lending through community-based lenders like Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs); $9 billion in emergency U.S. Treasury capital investments in CDFIs and MDIs to support lending in low-income and underserved communities, including persistent poverty counties, that may be disproportionately impacted by the economic effects of the COVID–19 pandemic; and $3 billion in emergency support for CDFIs through the CDFI Fund to respond to the economic impact of the pandemic on underserved low-income and minority communities.
- Rental assistance: $25 billion in critically needed rental assistance for families struggling to stay in their homes and an extension of the eviction moratorium.
- Strengthens the Low Income Housing Tax Credit: The package enhances the LIHTC to help increase affordable housing construction and provide greater certainty to new and ongoing affordable housing projects.
- Direct payment checks: A new round of direct payments worth up to $600 per adult and child.
- Strengthened Earned Income Tax Credit & Child Tax Credit: The agreement helps ensure that families who faced unemployment or reduced wages during the pandemic are able to receive a strong tax credit based on their 2019 income, preserving these vital income supports for vulnerable families.
- Supports paid sick leave: The agreement provides a tax credit to support employers offering paid sick leave, based on the Families First framework.
- Employee Retention Tax Credit: The agreement extends and improves the Employee Retention Tax Credit to help keep workers in the jobs during coronavirus closures or reduced revenue.
- Enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits: The package averted the sudden expiration of Unemployment Insurance benefits for millions and added a $300 per week UI enhancement for Americans out of work.
- Nutrition assistance for hungry families: $13 billion in increased SNAP and child nutrition benefits to help relieve the historic hunger crisis that has left up to 17 million children food insecure.
- Education and child care: The agreement provides $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools, including support for HVAC repair and replacement to mitigate virus transmission and reopen classrooms, and $10 billion for child care assistance to help get parents back to work and keep child care providers open.
- Historic expansion of Pell Grants: The package includes the largest expansion of Pell Grant recipients in over a decade, reaching 500,000 new recipients and ensuring more than 1.5 million students will now receive the maximum benefit.
- Broadband access: The agreement invests $7 billion to increase access to broadband, including a new Emergency Broadband Benefit to help millions of students, families and unemployed workers afford the broadband they need during the pandemic.
- WRDA: The agreement includes the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2020, creating good-paying jobs strengthening and improving the vital water infrastructure that Americans rely on while unlocking the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
- Global Health: An additional $3.36 billion for a total of $4 billion for GAVI, the international vaccine alliance.
Washington, D.C. –– Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the statement below following the announcement of a bipartisan agreement for a new Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) relief and government funding package:
“This bipartisan agreement will provide much-needed relief in the country’s moment of crisis. Although it does not go as far as I would have liked, it will help create a bridge for our frontline health care workers, small businesses, and the unemployed until more Americans can access the vaccine. It should not have taken Washington this long to reach this agreement, and we should pass it without further delay. At the same time, we should come back in the new year prepared to work immediately on additional relief to ensure people have enough support until the pandemic and economic crisis are fully behind us. We owe that to all Americans who are enduring severe hardship in this difficult time.”