WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) voted in favor of a coronavirus relief package that will increase unemployment benefits, provide another round of support for small businesses, send another economic impact payment to working Americans, and deliver much-needed funds to strengthen our public health infrastructure as vaccines begin to deploy across the country. In addition, the legislation includes a number of other key priorities to bolster the nation’s response to the ongoing public health and economic crises. This legislation is based on the bipartisan COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020, which was negotiated by Senator King and a bipartisan group of his colleagues earlier this month.
“For months, the American people have been calling for a new coronavirus relief package. Today, after extensive bipartisan efforts and negotiation, we have reached an agreement to help our citizens in need weather the cold, dark winter ahead,” said Senator King. “This legislation includes critical unemployment funds to help Americans who’ve lost work through no fault of their own, along with an economic impact payment to help families make ends meet; an additional lifeline for small businesses who’ve been hit hard by the economic slowdown; and vital investments in the public health infrastructure that will be essential to controlling and defeating this pandemic. Beyond that, it increases funding to help families struggling to make rent catch up on overdue payments, supports emergency broadband service for low-income families, and increases SNAP benefits so families facing hard times can keep food on the table.
“This bill will do a lot of good, for a lot of people, but it is not enough for us to fully overcome the health and economic challenges our nation faces when this bill expires,” continued Senator King. “There is more work to do – for families, for businesses, and for state and local governments who have led the response to this crisis at the local level. It is my hope that this legislation will provide a bridge to the spring, and in the months ahead my House and Senate colleagues will continue to negotiate in a bipartisan spirit to craft another package that will provide additional support to people in need. Over the last several months, Congressional inaction has left too many Americans in a stressful limbo; let us not repeat our mistakes.”
Specifically, the coronavirus relief aid legislation passed tonight includes:
- $600 economic impact payments. The legislation includes an additional round of Economic Impact Payments of $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year and $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000 per year, and partial payments for individuals making up to $99,000 per year and couples making up to $198,000 per year, as well as a $600 payment for each child dependent. This means a family of four will receive as much as $2,400 in direct payments.
- Renewals for enhanced unemployment insurance. The package will provide an additional $300 per week for all workers receiving unemployment benefits through March 14, 2021. This bill also extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, with expanded coverage to the self-employed, gig workers, and others in non-traditional employment, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which provides additional weeks of federally-funded unemployment benefits to individuals who exhaust their regular state benefits. The extension will prevent as many as 14 million Americans from losing this economic lifeline at the end of the year.
- Urgent support for small businesses. The package includes a number of provisions to support America’s small businesses, including $284 billion to provide first and second forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. The legislation also includes $15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions. The bill extends principal and interest relief on SBA loans for at least three more months, ensures that EIDL Grants will not be subtracted from a business’ PPP forgiveness, and provides additional PPP funds to seasonal businesses that were not able to receive the full PPP loan for which they were eligible.
- Investments in public health infrastructure. The bill provides $20 billion for procurement of vaccines and therapeutics, nearly $9 billion to aid the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state efforts to distribute the vaccine, and more than $3 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile.
- Grants for coronavirus testing, tracing, and isolation. Based on several provisions from Senator King’s bipartisan TRACE Act, the bill provides $22 billion and allows those funds as grants that may be distributed directly to states, localities, higher education institutions, schools, laboratories, community-based testing sites, and mobile testing units to support programs that provide coronavirus testing, conduct contact tracing, or offer assistance to individuals who quarantine after a positive test or contact with someone who has contracted the coronavirus.
- Support for public transportation. Included in today’s legislation are provisions to support public transportation, including $1 billion for Amtrak and $2 billion for private motorcoach, school bus, and ferry industries. In addition, the package provides $10 billion in funding for state highways.
- Rental assistance and eviction moratorium. $25 billion will be used to establish a federal rental assistance program, distributed by state and local governments. The aid can be used to pay past due rent, future rent payments, or utility and energy bills. In addition, the legislation extends the existing CDC eviction moratorium until January 31, 2021.
- Funds to help provide broadband for low-income families. As the pandemic has underscored the importance of internet access, the legislation includes $3.2 billion in emergency broadband benefits to assist low-income families. In addition, the package offers $250 million to fund telehealth initiatives, and a new $300 million grant program to fund broadband in rural areas.
- Aid to provide increased support for mental health and substance use disorders. The legislation includes a total of $4.25 billion to support services for mental health and substance use disorders. Included in these funds are $1.65 billion for Substance Abuse and Prevention Treatment Block Grant, $1.65 billion for the Mental Health Services Block Grant, and $600 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics.
- Support for schools. The legislation provides $54.3 billion to support public education in primary and secondary schools, as well as $22.7 billion to provide relief to higher education institutions and financial aid grants for students. In addition, more than $4 billion will be sent to the Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund.
- Increased aid for nutrition and agriculture. The legislation will add an additional $13 billion to SNAP benefits, an increase of 15%, as well as increased support for food banks and senior nutrition programs. In addition, the bill includes $13 billion to aid farmers who have suffered losses due to the pandemic, and a $300 million fund to support fisheries and seafood producers impacted by the economic downturn. This section also establishes a $200 million program to aid timber harvesters, which was included after extensive advocacy from Senator King and his colleagues in the Maine delegation.