Congress Passes COVID-19 Recovery Plan

On March 10, the House passed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill on a largely party line vote of 220-211 less than a week after the Senate passed the measure on a 50-49 party-line vote in a Saturday session. President Biden signed the bill into law on March 11.

The package is one of the largest in U.S. history and includes billions of dollars designated for a variety of uses, including aid to state and local governments; funding to expand testing and contact tracing; and for vaccine distribution. Breakdowns for the massive legislative package are widely available elsewhere, but some key aspects are highlighted below.  

Small businesses: The bill provides another $7 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and $15 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. In addition, Congress included a $25 billion set-aside for a new grant program aimed specifically at bars and restaurants.

Stimulus checks: The bill provides direct payments of up to $1,400 per person, depending on income. Individuals earning $75,000 or less per year and couples earning $150,000 or less per year would each receive $1,400. The payments are capped, and they phase out quickly for individuals earning between $75,000 and $80,000 and couples earning between $150,000 and $160,000 annually. Individuals earning more than $80,000 annually and couples earning more than $160,000 annually are not eligible for payments.

Unemployment provisions: The package includes a $300 federal increase to weekly jobless payments and extends federal pandemic unemployment benefits through September 6.

Paid sick and family leave: The bill continues the practice, originally established in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, of providing payroll tax credits to employers who voluntarily provide paid sick and family leave through September 30.

Health insurance: The package expands Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace subsidies for two years and broadens the pool of people who qualify for lower premiums based on financial need. The package also funds COBRA coverage premiums through September 30 for workers who were laid off from their jobs during the pandemic.

PIA is continuing to work on business liability protections and reforms to the PPP, including extending the deadline for businesses to apply for PPP loans and addressing the issues that would face businesses in a future pandemic.