Here’s what’s in the porky relief bill

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Congress is passing a $900 billion Covid-19 aid bill that includes assistance for households and businesses. There is also funding for vaccine distribution and more. But the bill excluded the Republican priority of liability protections for businesses and other entities and left out a pot for state and local funding desired by Democrats. Although, New York City’s MTA gets a bailout.

Basically, it’s craptastic. There are good things in the bill, but lots of waste. We haven’t read it yet, but looking at the Wall Street Journal summary, it’s hard to see how it will do much. No one seems to care about the outrageous debt as we deep dive into Coward and Piven territory.

They are planning another billion-dollar bill like this, but what they should do instead is allow people to open up cautiously.

THE SUMMARY

THE DIRECT PAYMENTS

Households would receive $600 for each adult and $600 for each dependent, instead of $1,200 and $500, respectively, in the first round. Mixed-status households, where some people are ineligible noncitizens, would get payments based on the number of eligible people in the households instead of being shut out as they were in the first round.

It’s based on income from 2019, and the checks will be in peoples’ accounts next week.
JOBLESS AID

Workers would be eligible for a $300-a-week federal unemployment subsidy. GIG workers will be eligible this time. The money is available through March 14.

RENTAL ASSISTANCE

The bill provides $25 billion of assistance to tenants in arrears on their rent. It also extends until the end of January 2021, a federal eviction prohibition, which the incoming Biden administration may extend again.

[That’s not so great for landlords.]

HEALTH CARE

The bill includes $9 billion for health-care providers and $4.5 billion for mental health, and more than $1 billion for the National Institutes of Health to conduct Covid-19 research.

NIH is Dr. Fauci, and we know where that got us.

SCHOOLS

The bill provides $82 billion for public and private K-12 schools, as well as colleges. The bulk would go to a $54.3 billion fund for public schools, while $22.7 billion would go to public and private higher education.

That will make teacher’s unions happy.

TESTING, TRACING, AND VACCINES

States would receive $22 billion for testing, tracing, and Covid-19 mitigation programs. Of this, $2.5 billion would be sent as grants targeting rural areas and communities of color.

States and federal agencies would receive funding for vaccine distribution. About $20 billion would go to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or Barda, for procuring vaccines and therapeutics. Nearly $9 billion would go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and states for further distribution of the vaccine, and $3 billion is designated for the national stockpile.

Included in those sums is $300 million that is directed to go to high-risk areas and to communities of color. [EMPHASIS MINE. SOUNDS RACIST.]

AIRLINES

Tens of thousands of airline employees would get their jobs back, at least for a few months, under the new bill, which includes $15 billion to cover airline salaries and benefits through the end of March. The bill also includes $1 billion for airline contractor payrolls.

Airlines received $25 billion under the Cares Act in the spring to cover workers’ pay and benefits, and in exchange, agreed not to lay off or furlough employees until Oct. 1.

BANKS

The bill would provide $12 billion in support to small lenders focused on low-income and minority communities, buttressing minority-owned banks and firms known as community financial development institutions. [EMPHASIS MINE]

The bill has $15 billion for independent movie theaters, live entertainment venues, and cultural institutions.

FARMS

The U.S. agriculture sector is set for another multibillion-dollar injection in the new relief bill, which directs $13 billion to crop farmers, cattle ranchers, and rural communities.

RAIL AND TRANSIT

The bill would provide $1 billion in relief funds to Amtrak, aimed at helping the national passenger railroad avoid further layoffs and furloughs of its workers. Amtrak receives a regular operating subsidy of around $2 billion a year from the federal government. [It’s a complete failure]

The bill also sets aside $14 billion for transit systems, many of which are considering major cuts in service and layoffs. In New York City alone, elected officials say they need an immediate $4.5 billion infusion to stave off severe subway and bus service reductions. The bill also sets aside $2 billion for the bus industry and $10 billion for state highways. [The MTA is run very badly and is top-heavy. Now, all you people in Nebraska will get to pay for it. The fact is the city is locked down, so they don’t need the staff. They want to keep all the same staff they had when people were riding the subways and buses — without cutting their union workers.]

SMALL BUSINESS

The $325 billion allotted to help small businesses includes $284 billion for first and second forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans and expands eligibility for local newspapers and TV and radio broadcasters. The bill also includes $20 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loans. [EMPHASIS MINE FOR MEDIA???]

FAILED US POSTAL SERVICE

The bill loosens some of the strings imposed on the U.S. Postal Service from the Cares Act, which provided a $10 billion Treasury loan after terms were negotiated. The bill would still provide $10 billion to the financially strained institution, but the Postal Service wouldn’t be required to repay it, and the conditions imposed by the Treasury wouldn’t apply. The USPS will have to develop a plan to become solvent and present it to Congress in 180 days.

TAXES

Aside from the PPP break, the bill would extend a tax credit for struggling employers who keep workers on the payroll. It would let recipients of certain tax credits qualify based on their 2019 incomes; in some cases, lower 2020 incomes could reduce their eligibility.

The bill would also temporarily extend tax breaks for renewable energy, including incentives for wind energy and carbon capture. It also includes deductions for business meals, a provision that President Trump backed but that faced criticism from Democrats as a subsidy for three-martini lunches and indoor dining during a pandemic.

Lower excise taxes on beer, wine, and spirits set to expire on Dec. 31 will be permanently extended, and tax incentives for investing in low-income areas and hiring workers from disadvantaged groups would be extended for five years.

At least we can keep drinking as we descend into bankruptcy.


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