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Congress Passes Second COVID-19 Relief Package

COVID-19 relief check

Last night, Congress passed a second $900 billion COVID-19 relief package, extending badly needed benefits to millions of Americans facing unemployment and loss of income due to pandemic-related business closures. The package passed as a part of the $1.4 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. In addition to providing a second direct stimulus payment, the package extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for self-employed and gig workers through April 15, 2021, and notably includes some relief for mixed earners—those who have earnings from both traditional W-2 and self-employed 1099 sources—which the Guild and other organizations have been lobbying for during the last few months.

Here is a breakdown of the key provisions of the new package. We will be updating the COVID-19 Resources page on our website with more information about these programs in the coming days as new information becomes available.

Direct Payments

  • The package authorizes direct payments of $600 for individuals making up to $75,000, and $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000 (after which the payments begin to phase out), as well as an extra $600 per eligible child dependent.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits for self-employed and gig workers extended through March 14, 2021 (the deadline for new applicants to apply for PUA). All benefits slated to end on April 15, 2021.
  • The number of total weeks for PUA benefits has been increased from 39 to 50 to cover people who have almost used up all their benefits under the CARES Act.
  • People who are getting benefits as of March 14 will be able to stay on for an additional three weeks before their benefits are terminated to avoid a benefits cliff.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation

  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides additional weeks of assistance to traditional workers after the exhaustion of their state unemployment benefits, extended to March 14 to allow new applicants to enroll. All benefits slated to end on April 5, 2021.
  • The number of total weeks for PEUC benefits has been increased from 13 to 24 to cover people who have almost used up all their benefits.
  • People who are getting benefits as of March 14 will be able to stay on for an additional three weeks before their benefits are terminated to avoid a benefits cliff.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation

  • Unemployed individuals will receive an additional $300 per week for 10 weeks from December 26, 2020, to March 14, 2021. The new package’s $300 FPUC benefit is lower than the CARES Act’s $600 benefit.

Mixed-Earner Unemployment Compensation

  • Individuals who have at least $5,000 a year in self-employment income but are disqualified from receiving PUA because they are otherwise eligible for regular state unemployment benefits will receive a federally funded $100-per-week additional benefit—but only if their state opts in. So far, we have heard that New York is opting in and we are watching other states.
  • This mixed-earner supplemental benefit will be added to the FPUC and would terminate along with it on March 14, 2021. This provision would be effective for future unemployment benefit payments after a state chooses to make an agreement with the Department of Labor.

Paycheck Protection Program

  • Additional $284 billion added to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Past loan recipients are eligible for a second draw.
  • Repeal of the CARES Act requirement for deducting the EIDL advances from PPP loan forgiveness balance, and loan forgiveness process simplified.
  • Expanded PPP eligibility for local newspapers and TV and radio broadcasters, housing cooperatives, and 501(c)(6) nonprofits, including tourism promotion organizations and local chambers of commerce.
  • Qualified payroll and non-payroll expenses expanded for new and old PPP loans. Deductions are allowed for expenses paid with proceeds of a forgiven PPP loan, effective as of the date of enactment of the CARES Act and applicable to subsequent PPP loans.
  • Special set-asides created for very small businesses with 10 or fewer employees and for small businesses located in distressed area.
  • Allows loan awards of up to 2.5 times of payroll expenses, and up to 3.5 times of payroll expenses for small businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industries.
  • PPP loans will not be included in taxable income.
  • Deadline for application: March 31, 2020 (forgiveness of first loan is not required for second draw).

Small Business Administration Economic Industry Disaster Loans

  • $20 billion added for EIDL Advance grants. Small businesses and nonprofits in low- income communities are eligible to receive $10,000 grants. EIDL Advances will not be included in recipient’s taxable gross income.

Shuttered Venue Grants

  • $15 billion added for SBA grants of up to $10 million for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions to remedy the economic effects of the pandemic. Grants can be used to cover expenses such as payroll costs, rent, utilities, and personal protective equipment.

Additional Provisions

  • All other Unemployment Insurance (UI) provisions have also been extended to March 14, including interest-free loans to states to keep their unemployment insurance trust funds in shape, flexible staffing for states, and UI relief for nonprofit organizations.
  • New program integrity provisions have been added to require documentation of earnings and employment (versus just self-certification), along with new requirements for states to have processes for verifying the identity of applicants, to combat fraud and abuse in the unemployment programs.
  • Return to Work reporting requirements for states to have a place for employers to report when someone turns down a job and to notify claimants of the requirement to accept suitable work, unless there is good cause for refusal, have also been added.
  • Provides full federal financing of state Shared Work programs, allowing employers to avoid layoffs during the downturn by connecting their employees who are working reduced hours with partial unemployment compensation, through March 14, 2021.

If you have any questions about benefits under the new relief package or the CARES Act, please reach out to us and be sure to check our COVID-19 Resources page in the coming days for new updates.