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Himes details federal relief bill

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) speaks to reporters in 2019. (File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. — The newly passed federal stimulus bill should provide about $5 billion to Connecticut’s schools, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) said. The hardest hit businesses can apply for more Personal Protection Program (PPP) loans and unemployment benefits have been extended and expanded. If you got a direct payment in the first stimulus wave, you’re likely getting another check.

Plus, everyone should be able to get free vaccinations against COVID-19.

Himes shared this information in a tele-town hall, broadcasting from the United States capital ahead of the vote on the package.

“This {relief bill} is the second largest emergency appropriation in the history of the country, exceeding the American Recovery Act which was passed in 2009, when we were going through the housing crisis,” he said.

Dubbed the Coronavirus Relief & Omnibus Agreement, it’s in excess of $900 billion, he said. A press release from his office explains “notable provisions”:

 

 

Economic Impact (Direct) Payments (EIP):

  • Congress included EIP provisions that will provide one-time payments of $600 per eligible adult and $600 per eligible dependent under the age of 17
  • Eligibility for this provision is the same as in the CARES Act:
    • All single taxpayers with an adjusted gross income up to $75,000 filing single or $150,000 filing jointly receive the full benefit.
    • The benefit tapers off until it is completely eliminated for those making more than $99,000 filing single/$198,000 filing jointly at a rate of 5 percent.
    • Requires a work-eligible social security number.
  • Unlike the CARES Act, “mixed-status families,” where one spouse is a citizen and the other is not, ARE eligible for payments for each citizen in the family. This change is retroactive, so mixed-status families will be able to claim the original EIP when they file their 2020 tax return in 2021.

 

Unemployment Insurance (UI):

  • The bill includes supplemented unemployment insurance for both “gig” and “non-gig” extended for 11 weeks (through March 14th).
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation is extended for 11 weeks (through March 14th) at $300 per week.  This means everyone who is receiving at least $1 in unemployment insurance per week – including those on PUA – will receive an additional $300.
  • Unemployment insurance under the bill will include an extra $100 (on top of $300) for “mixed earners” — workers who earned income from both W-2 and non-W2 jobs.

 

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

  • The PPP lending program is continued with $284.5 billion dollars in funding to provide forgivable loans to small businesses.
    • It includes set asides for smaller borrowers/underserved communities, including small businesses with fewer than 10 employees.
    • $15 billion is reserved for loans made by small community lenders (community banks/credit unions).
    • $15 billion has been designated for Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions. The set aside exists to ensure money reaches low-income and underserved communities.
  • The bill will allow businesses that were especially hard hit by the pandemic to apply for a second PPP loan.  To qualify a firm must have 300 or fewer employees AND had revenue loss of at least 25 percent in any quarter of 2020.
  • PPP is expanded to include 501(c)(6) non-profit organizations, includes simplified loan forgiveness for loans under $150,000, and changes the calculations for restaurants to allow them to take loans at 350 percent of payroll instead of 250 percent.

 

“The administration of this provision should be very similar to the administration of the first round of PPP, and logistics and processes should become clearer over the coming days. Interested businesses should contact their financial institutions with questions about application or qualification for the program,” the press release said.

 

Rental Assistance:

  • The bill provides $25 billion in rental relief funding to eligible households in a program to be administered by states.
  • Eligible uses include rent, rental arrears, necessary utilities, and arrears of necessary utilities.
  • Renters will apply for the assistance and state agencies will send the payment directly to landlord. Landlords can also apply directly for assistance but will be required to notify the tenant that assistance is being provided on their behalf and obtain the tenant’s consent.
  • Eligible households are defined as renters who:
    • Have a household income not more than 80 percent of the area median income (AMI); have one or more household members who can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and have one or more household members who qualify for unemployment benefits or experienced financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the pandemic.

 

Food Aid:

  • The bill contains $13 billion in nutrition assistance including a 15 percent percent increase in Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP) benefits for 6 months, $400 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), $4.6 billion to extend Pandemic EBT program (P-EBT) to child care facilities and schools to provide free and reduced-price meals to children who qualify, and $175 million for Meals on Wheels.

 

Other Provisions:

  • The bill contains $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools, including support for HVAC repair and replacement to mitigate virus transmission and reopen classrooms.
  • The bill includes $10 billion for childcare assistance to help get parents back to work and keep childcare providers open.
  • Transportation assistance including $14 billion for transit, $10 billion for state highways, and $2 billion for airports.

 

Regarding the politics, Himes said, “There were a lot of people who got to a point, different in their politics as Mitch McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Donald Trump and others, as a result, it is exactly what you would expect it to be: a compromise of things that, and I’ll speak for myself here, that I like very much, and some things that I really don’t like. That is of course the nature of compromise.”

He’s voted for it because something needs to be done, and “this bill should have been passed four or five months ago, and that it could in certain respects be better targeted and larger,” he said. “I am one of 535 people who have a vote in this building. And so I will take a compromise.”

 

Unemployment

Himes said he likes the unemployment provision because the relief is “very well targeted delivered by definition to those people who have lost their jobs. The bottom line is that unemployment insurance will be extended for everybody, for an 11-week period, beyond any expiration that might otherwise have occurred. It will also be expanded to provide an additional $300 per week to supplement the unemployment weekly payment that is being received by people, regardless of what that amount may be.”

And in Connecticut, they may go to April, he said.

“I’m told that the state of Connecticut and because there’s a little bit of play in the language. It may be extended beyond 11 weeks into April,” Himes said.

 

PPP loans

PPP loans in this “second draw” are limited to $2 million, Himes said. This time they go through “very, very small financial entities” so as “to try to level the playing field for those that don’t have long established banking relationships.”

“There will be a significant simplification of the process to get loan forgiveness for small up loans to $150,000 or less,” and restaurants are “now able to qualify for larger loans than they were in the first tranche of PPP made available by spring,” he said.

Instead of qualifying for 2.5 times the payroll, restaurants can qualify for 3.5 times, he said.

A citizen asked how the government was going to police the loans, so that companies who shouldn’t have gotten them won’t get them this time.

Public companies are excluded and it’s limited to companies with 300 or less employees, showing a 25 percent revenue loss, Himes said.

“That does not mean that we aren’t going to see some shenanigans when the government is making money available there is a class of organizations, people who look to take advantage of it but we should have much more visibility into, into who applies,” Himes said.

“When I say that the forgiveability for loans of less than $150,000 will be streamlined, that’s a good thing. It also means that there is what they will be less scrutinized in very small loans. You know there may be more fraud. There will be in the larger loans that will be subject to a lot more scrutiny, when they are forgiven,” Himes said.

And, “when we were passing the first CARES Act speed was really of the essence,” Himes said. “If you look at the curves of the COVID disease, April is just an appalling month in terms of increased cases, and it’s an appalling month in terms of the economy. So Congress acted fast, which is a good thing but fast sometimes means you act inefficiently, and that is what happened. Hopefully in the second round we’re going to tighten some that stuff up a little bit.”

 

 

 

School funding

Himes said he figures that roughly 1 percent of America’s school children live in Connecticut, so he usually takes 1 percent of large federal funding bill to estimate how much Connecticut will get, and $54 billion of this relief packages goes to K-12 schools.

“That’s really essential, particularly since this bill did not include direct aid to states and municipalities… that will take a lot of pressure off of our communities in terms of raising taxes against some of the challenges that schools have experienced,” he said.

The bill provides $23 billion for higher education, and there are “also discretionary funds of $4 billion that will be made available to governors, for them to use essentially at their discretion to assist in the stabilization of education institutions.”

 

Vaccinations

The bill provides $48 billion for to healthcare and national vaccine distribution, “roughly half” for testing, contact tracing and surveillance, and $2.5 billion for “particularly high risk and underserved populations to make sure that those populations are not left behind in the distribution of the vaccine,” he said. And, $4.5 billion goes toward programs for substance abuse and mental health.

The bill will “accelerate the distribution of the vaccine to do additional research to do research into therapy, and to make sure that every single American can get the vaccine for free in a timely fashion. And not just Americans. There is an appropriation in this bill to actually assist the international vaccination effort which I think is important,” he said.

 

 

EIDL, eviction moratorium and more

There’s also Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) loans, he said.

“They come with a $10,000 grant attached,” Himes said. “We had a lot of problems in the spring because due to a scarcity of funds that 10,000 grant was not made available to any borrowers. This bill has enough money to make sure that anybody who applies for an EIDL loan will get that $10,000 grant.”

It also extends the eviction moratorium for buildings with federally-backed mortgages, he said.

Himes said, “There’s all sorts of other stuff in this bill related to broadband services, the Postal Service, nutrition, very substantial increase in the availability of food stamps, and resources for food banks, fisheries, you name it, because it is at the end of the day, as I said, a $900 billion bill.”

3 comments

NiZ December 22, 2020 at 2:10 pm

Real smack in the face to the citizenry, that are unemployed or out of business from the shut down. I hope the voting citizenry WAKE UP NOW and realize they could careless about us. My paycheck ain’t long, I do what I can for those I see in need, there is but so much one or a community can do to support one another in these times. Lets not forget CT has created taxes, increased taxes, allowed utility companies to charge delivery fee tax that exceed some of our monthly usage amounts, or match half of it, got an new paycheck tax for family medical leave, like what the HECK already. TIME TO THROUGH A TEA PARTY

Not so Non Partisan December 22, 2020 at 9:20 pm

@Himes

Maybe you can also list all of the pork in this disgusting bill disguised as something for the people.

It’s called covid relief and yet it includes
Millions for gender equality in Pakistan
More millions for the Smithonian to build new museums
More millions for gender equal statues to replace those torn down this spring
Billions to bail out the MTA who didn’t cut one job while no one used mass transit
Pork, pork, pork

Let’s throw a real tea party and hoist you and every politician that voted yes overboard

John O'Neill December 23, 2020 at 1:15 pm

To Every Norwalker over 70 years of age — Keep in mind Jim Himes received his vaccine long before you will. Your families may want to keep that in mind when he’s up for re-election

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