Congress Rushes to Pass Huge Coronavirus Relief Bill


The final proposal includes $69 billion for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine and more than $22 billion for states to conduct testing, tracing and coronavirus mitigation programs. It will also provide $13 billion in increased nutrition assistance, $7 billion for broadband access, $45 billion for transportation and transit agencies and $25 billion in rental assistance.

It revives a popular business loan program, the Paycheck Protection Program, and allows businesses to receive a second loan and expand eligibility under that program for nonprofit organizations, local newspapers and radio and TV broadcasters. It will allocate $15 billion for performance venues, independent movie theaters and other cultural institutions devastated by the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the virus.

The bill also ensures that businesses will be able to deduct payroll costs and other expenses covered by the Paycheck Protection Program, and it will expand a tax credit that subsidizes wages for businesses hurt by the pandemic.

The bill contains $82 billion in education funding, with about $54 billion going to the nation’s K-12 schools and $22.7 billion going to colleges and universities, funds that still fall short of what both sectors say they need to blunt the effect of the virus, which has crippled school budgets and left its most vulnerable students in dire academic and financial straits.

Governors would receive $4.1 billion in a separate pot of relief funding, $2.75 billion of which would be reserved to support private and parochial schools, after Democrats fought to ensure the funding would not be used for private school vouchers. The bill also includes requirements and restrictions for how private schools that have received funding under the Paycheck Protection Program are eligible to receive state funds.

The bill also includes a number of tax provisions that are less significant to the overall economy but will make a big difference for some individuals and businesses. Republicans also secured a tax write-off, favored by corporate lobbyists and the White House, that Democrats have derided as a “three-martini” deduction allowing businesses to deduct 100 percent, instead of up to half, of their meal expenses.

Low-income workers will be able to qualify for tax credits based on either their 2019 or 2020 income — a priority for Democrats because people who lost jobs during the pandemic could otherwise lose out on programs like the earned-income tax credit that require people to work to qualify for the full benefit.

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