Congress and the Senate have reached an agreement on a new Covid-19 relief bill. This new round of funding will include funding for independent music venues that have been closed because of the pandemic. The House of Representatives voted on the bill Sunday night while the Senate will likely vote Monday, before sending it to President Donald Trump.
The official language of the bill has not been released, but Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement indicating the bill will includes “$15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions.”
“Today, we have reached agreement with Republicans and the White House on an emergency coronavirus relief and omnibus package that delivers urgently needed funds to save the lives and livelihoods of the American people as the virus accelerates.
“We are going to crush the virus and put money in the pockets of the American people. As part of the agreement, Democrats have secured provisions that include:
- Accelerating vaccine distribution and crushing the coronavirus: The bipartisan COVID relief package finally recognizes that we cannot get our economy working unless we can get the coronavirus under control. The package provides billions in urgently need 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.
- Ends surprise billing: The package includes bipartisan, bicameral legislation that will end surprise billing for emergency and scheduled care.
- Strong support for small business: Democrats secured 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: Democrats secured $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: Democrats secured a new round of direct payments worth up to $600 per adult and child, also ensuring that mixed-status families receive payments.
- 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: Democrats 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: Democrats secured $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.
- Fights the climate crisis: The agreement includes sweeping clean energy reforms, R&D enhancements, efficiency incentives, and extends clean energy tax credits to create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the clean economy. The package also phases out superpollutant HFCs, positioning the U.S. to lead the world in avoiding up to 0.5 degree Celsius of global warming.
- 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: Democrats secured an additional $3.36 billion for a total of $4 billion for GAVI, the international vaccine alliance, recognizing that we are not truly safe until the whole world is safe from the coronavirus.
“Importantly, the final agreement does not include several dangerous Republican proposals, including a long-demanded GOP provision that could unjustly put the health of workers at risk and take away their legal recourse, as well as an 11th hour attempt to sabotage the incoming administration’s ability to stabilize the economy and save jobs.
“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.
“The emergency relief in this agreement, the second largest in history only to the CARES Act, is an important first step that Democrats look forward to building on under the new Biden-Harris Administration to meet the remaining needs of the American people during this historic health and economic crisis.
“The House will move swiftly to pass this legislation immediately, so it can quickly be sent to the Senate and then to the President’s desk for his signature. With the horrifying acceleration of daily infections and deaths, there is no time to waste.”
Chuck Schumer said, “I’m especially pleased this this bill will provide money for bars and restaurants, and $15 billion in SPA grants for theater operators and small venue operators through the Save Our Stages Act. These venues are so important to my state and so many other states across the country. They are the lifeblood of our communities. They were the first to close and will be the last to open. This bill gives them a fighting chance.”