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Sorting Through The Coronavirus Stimulus and Spending Bill Passed by Congress

Before going home for the winter break, lawmakers in Washington passed the Omnibus Appropriations and Emergency Coronavirus Relief package that included the $900 billion Coronavirus Stimulus package.

North Jersey lawmakers cited different aspects of the bill in the days after it passed. North-JerseyNews.com went through the statements of Senators and Representatives to find out the contents of the legislative package that received overwhelming bipartisan support.

The final COVID-19 stimulus package includes:

Direct payment checks. This legislation provides a new round of direct payments worth up to $600 per adults making up to $75,000, $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000, and $600 for each dependent child. 

Enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits. The legislation prevented the expiration of Pandemic Unemployment Insurance benefits for millions and added a $300 per week UI enhancement for Americans out of work.

Fighting COVID-19. The bill provides $22 billion for COVID-19 testing infrastructure; roughly $20 billion toward procurement of vaccines and therapeutics; nearly $9 billion to the CDC and states for vaccine distribution; over $3 billion for the strategic national stockpile; $9 billion for health care providers; and $4.5 billion in funding for mental health services. In addition, the legislation will allocate $250 million for broadband services for telehealth.

Strong Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) support for small businesses. The legislation 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 for the smallest businesses and struggling nonprofits; $15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions. The agreement has $20 billion for targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Grants, which are critical to many smaller businesses.  Expenses associated with loans that are forgiven would also be tax deductible.

Transportation. The package provides $45 billion total for various modes of transit, including $15 billion for airlines, $14 billion for transit systems, $2 billion for airports and airport concessionaires, $1 billion for both Amtrak and airline contractors, $10 billion for state department of transportations, and $1 billion for the motor coach, school bus and ferry industries.

Nutrition assistance for hungry families. The bill includes $13 billion in increased SNAP and child nutrition benefits. 

Education and child care. There is $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools (including support for HVAC repair and replacement to mitigate virus transmission and reopen classrooms), $54 billion dedicated to K-12; $23 billion dedicated to higher education; and  $4 billion for the CARES Act Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund. Includes $10 billion for childcare assistance to help get parents back to work and keep childcare providers open.

Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions assistance. The legislation contains 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). This includes $9 billion in emergency U.S. Treasury capital investments to support lending in low-income and underserved communities, including persistent poverty counties, as well as $3 billion in emergency support for CDFIs to respond to the economic impact of the pandemic on underserved low-income and minority communities.

Rental assistance. The legislation includes $25 billion in rental assistance for families struggling to stay in their homes and an extension of the eviction moratorium.

Helping the Post Office. The package forgives the $10 billion loan made to USPS authorized by the CARES Act requiring no repayment.

Expanding Broadband. The bill allocates $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.

State and Local Expenses. The eligibility of state and local expenses under the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund are extended until Dec. 31, 2021, so state and local governments can continue to provide services to residents during the pandemic with funding they received from the CARES Act.

For the non-COVID-19 aspect of the spending bill, issues addressed of importance to North Jersey residents include: 

Paid sick leave tax credit. The bill provides a tax credit to support employers offering paid sick leave, using the Families First framework.

Strengthened Earned Income Tax Credit & Child Tax Credit. The bill helps families who faced unemployment or reduced wages during the pandemic to receive these credits based on their 2019 income.

Disaster tax relief. For presidentially declared disasters (other than COVID-19), the usual disaster tax relief measures will be available, including allowing residents of disaster areas to borrow or take out a loan of up to $100,000 from a retirement plan or IRA account without penalty; providing a tax credit of 40% of wages (up to $6,000 per employee) to employers in disaster zones; and increasing the low-income housing tax credit allocations in states that experienced the most serious disasters in 2020. 

Offshore wind program support. The legislation adds offshore wind to a five-year extension of the existing wind credit. 

National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) and Rebuild By Design (RBD) funding. The bill includes $15 million for the NDRC, $230 million for a project across Hoboken, Weehawken and Jersey City, and $150 million for a project in the Meadowlands for RBD programs slated to expire Sept., 30 2022, which will now remain accessible until Sept., 30 2023. 

Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) protections. As part of he WRDA, projects to be funded include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Report for the Hudson-Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration project of New Jersey, which includes work in the Meadowlands; the Peckman River Basin Flood Risk Management project to help protect against habitual flooding, and amendments to update the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries Study to address damaging storm surges such as the one seen during Superstorm Sandy that rendered enormous damage on the Garden State.

Holy Name Graduate Medical Education. The legislation fixes the arbitrary caps placed on the Graduate Medical Education (GME) program at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Strengthening the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. The bill enhances the credit to help increase affordable housing construction and provide greater certainty to new and ongoing affordable housing projects.

Pell Grants. The legislation contains the largest expansion of Pell Grant recipients in over a decade, reaching 500,000 new recipients and ensuring more than 1.5 million students receive the maximum benefit.

Latino Museum. Authorizes the Smithsonian Institute to create the National Museum of the American Latino to celebrate contributions Latinos have had in the United States and secured $6 million for the  Smithsonian Institution Latino Initiatives Center. 

Environmental Funding. The bill offers a one-year extension for the Hoboken Flood Resiliency Project to allow the city to continue working on their flood mitigation project. Additionally the legislation aecured $3.925 million for the Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers Program and makes permanent the deduction for energy efficiency improvements to building envelope, lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, and hot water systems of commercial buildings.

Health Care. Among the programs being funded include $53.3 million for autism programs at HRSA, providea greater funding to educate health care providers on Alzheimer’s dementia care planning services, three years of funding for Federally Qualified Community Health Centers the National Health Service Corps, Teaching Health Centers, and Special Diabetes Programs. secured $695 million for Public Health Emergency Preparedness PHEP programs – a $20 million increase from last year, $280.5 million for Hospital Preparedness Program, approved the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act, waives Medicare cost-sharing for seniors who have a polyp removed during colonoscopies and makes permanent the lower threshold of 7.5% in Medical Expense Deduction Floor. 

Gateway. Approximately $700 million has been earmarked for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and additional transit formula funding on top of the FAST Act guarantees. The bill funds the Capital Investment Grants program at $2 billion. Additionally, it prohibits funds from being used to increase the aircraft weight restrictions at Teterboro Airport.

Housing. The package includes the CO ALERTS Act, which will require carbon monoxide alarms to be installed in federally assisted housing and appropriated $3.75 billion to provide financial assistance for home heating and cooling to low-income households.

Public Safety.  Secured $237 million for COPS Hiring, $2 million more than last year, to place an additional 1,300 more police officers on the streets. FEMA Grants will be  made available to include $705 million for Urban Area Security Initiative grants,  $90 million for State Homeland Security Grant Program,  $610 million for State Homeland Security Grant Program, $720 million for Fire and SAFER grants,  $100 million for Public Transportation Security Assistance grants,  $100 million each for Port and Transit Security grants and   $125 million for Emergency Food and Shelter

Education. Early Childhood Education will receive $5.9 billion to support childcare for working families and $10.7 billion for Head Start. The National Science Foundation Hispanic Serving Institutions undergraduate program will be funded at $46.5 million and the extension  through 2025,  allowing for employers to provide a student loan repayment benefit to employees on a tax-free basis.

Economic Development. The proposed legislation extends annual $5 billion allocations of the New Markets Tax Credit for years 2021 through 2025, provides $3.475 billion for Community Development Block Grants, $200 million for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, $25 million more than FY 2020. 

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