Murkowski Outlines COVID-19 Emergency Relief Bill in Year-End Omnibus Package
The U.S. Senate passed a year-end omnibus bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which includes nearly $900 billion in targeted COVID-19 emergency relief for vulnerable Americans. The final COVID-19 emergency relief package was based on the Bipartisan COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020, legislation which Senator Murkowski recently unveiled alongside U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Warner (D-VA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Angus King (I-ME), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representatives Gottheimer (D-NJ-5) and Tom Reed (R-NY-23).
“The health and economic impacts of COVID-19 have been devastating, having touched every corner of the nation. Americans are counting on Congress for support. Following months of standstill and arguing over COVID-19 negotiations, I joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of colleagues committed to find compromise. We put our differences aside, put in the necessary time, and developed an emergency relief framework that put Americans first. I am proud to have been a part of a good-faith effort which led to the final COVID-19 relief legislation before us today,” said Senator Murkowski. “For small businesses struggling to keep their doors open, additional funding is included for the Paycheck Protection Program. The bill also temporarily provides $300 per week supplemental unemployment insurance as well as a $600 economic impact payments for many Americans who are struggling to make ends meet. The bill includes funding to support health care providers, schools, renters facing eviction, the Postal Service, and the food insecure. The bill also includes funding to expand the purchase and distribution of vaccines, taking us one step closer to ending the pandemic. There is still work to be done, but the targeted relief measures included in this bill will deliver direct and timely results for those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic.”
ALASKA BILL HIGHLIGHTS
SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESSES AND ECONOMIC STABILITY:
- Paycheck Protection Program: Includes a second round of loans through the Paycheck Protection Program — a forgivable, non-taxable, simplified loan forgiveness program established by the CARES Act this spring.
- PPP Clarifying language: Clarifying language is added which explains that deductions are allowed for otherwise deductible expenses paid with the proceeds of a PPP loan that is forgiven, and the tax basis and other attributes of the borrower’s assets will not be reduced as a result of the loan forgiveness. The provision is effective as of the date of enactment of the CARES Act. The provision provides similar treatment for Second Draw PPP loans, effective for tax years ending after the date of enactment of the provision. Local radio and TV stations as well as newspapers are now eligible for this funding.
- PPP Improvements: Includes a simplified forgiveness application. The bill allows for second draw loan applicants (less than $150,000 loans) to certify that the entity meets the revenue loss requirements. The bill also allows borrowers whose loan calculations have increased due to changes in interim final rules to work with lenders to modify their loan value regardless of whether the loan has been fully disbursed, or if Form 1502 has already been submitted.
- Repeal of EIDL Advance Deduction: Repeals section 1110(e)(6) of the CARES Act, which requires PPP borrowers to deduct the amount of their EIDL advance from their PPP forgiveness amount.
- Extension of time to spend CARES funding: Extends the deadline for spending CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund aid on COVID-related expenses through December 31, 2021. This applies to states, localities, and tribes.
- Individual Economic Impact Payments – An additional round of $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year and $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000 per year, as well as a $600 payment for each qualified child dependent under 17. The bill also address families with mixed immigration status, allowing one-half ($600) to married filing jointly so long as at least one adult member of a filing couple has an SSN. Eligible children must also have a Social Security Number. These two provisions are retroactive to the CARES Act, so married filing jointly should be able to claim for additional credit when they file their 2020 taxes. CARES provided a first round of EIP of $1,200/$2,400 with same phase-out thresholds and $500 for children under 17.
- Provisions from the Community Services Block Grant Act: Includes language to address problems within the CARES Act that limited small states’ ability to utilize the CSBG program. This would ensure Alaska would receive their remaining $3.625 million in CSBG CARES Act funds from HHS.
- CARES Act Section 3610 Extension: Extends until March 31, 2021, section 3610 of the CARES Act, which provides relief to certain federal contractors who cannot perform work at their duty-station or telework because of the nature of their jobs due to COVID-19.
- Unemployment Insurance: Extends Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to March 14, 2021 and allows individuals receiving benefits as of March 14, 2021 to continue through April 5, 2021, as long as the individual has not reached the maximum number of weeks. The bill also restores the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) federal supplement to all state and federal unemployment benefits at $300 per week, starting after December 26 and ending March 14, 2021.
- Small Brewers Excise Tax Reduction: Includes a permanent reduction of excise tax on domestic beer production. This is been a priority for Alaska’s small brewers.
IMPROVING HEALTH AND WELLNESS:
- SAMHSA: $4.25 billion overall for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration including a $125 million set-aside for tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations to address substance use disorder and behavioral health efforts.
- Mental Health Services Block grant: $1.65 billion for Mental Health Services Block grant, of which no less than 50 percent of funds shall be directed to behavioral health providers.
- Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG): Includes $1.65 billion for Substance Abuse and Prevent Treatment Block Grant which was authorized by Congress to provide funds to States, Territories, and Indian Tribes for the purpose preventing and treating substance abuse.
- COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution: Includes $8.75 billion to plan, prepare for, promote, distribute, administer, monitor, and track coronavirus vaccines. Of this amount:
- $4.5 billion goes to states, localities, territories, and tribes, with $210 million to be transferred to IHS for distribution to tribes, tribal organizations, Urban Indian Health Organizations, and health service providers to tribes.
- $300 million for high-risk and underserved populations, including rural communities
- Provider Relief Fund: Provides $3 billion for the Provider Relief Fund, a program established by the CARES Act to help health care providers recover lost revenue and net changes in expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- COVID-19 Testing, Contact Tracing, and Surveillance: Includes $22.4 billion to states, localities, territories, and tribes, of which $790 million will be transferred to IHS for distribution to tribes, tribal organizations, Urban Indian Health Organizations, and health service providers to tribes, and $2.5 billion is dedicated to expanding testing for high-risk and underserved populations, including rural populations.
- Federal Aviation Administration: Includes $2 billion in assistance to airports. Of this amount $5 million is included to help small communities address air service issues.
- Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS): Includes $2 billion to support payroll for parts of the transportation industry that didn’t get relief in the CARES Act, including Alaska’s ferries and the motor coach industry.
- Airport grant funding: Includes $4 billion to help large and small airports, including those in Alaska, with combatting coronavirus debt service payments, and rent relief for airport concessions.
- Federal Transit Administration grants: Includes $14 billion for FTA Grants. Alaska’s ferry system is eligible for this funding.
- Federal Highway Administration Programs: Includes $10B for FHWA state highways programs. Alaska will receive a portion of this funding which can be used to support the state’s ferry system.
- Essential Air Service funding: Includes $23 million in support of the Essential Air Service Program, which is vital to many of Alaska’s rural communities.
- Airline Payroll Support Program: Includes $15 billion for the airline payroll support program (PSP) and extends it through March 31, 2021.
SUPPORTING EDUCATION AND FAMILIES:
- Child Care: Includes $10 billion for child care providers that participate in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to provide child care assistance to families and help providers cover operational costs.
- Head Start: Includes $250 million for Head Start providers
- Education Stabilization Fund: Includes $81.9 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund, including $819 million for the Bureau of Indian Education and outlying areas.
- Emergency Rental Assistance: Provides $25 billion for emergency rental assistance, which will provide protections for renters who would otherwise be at risk of losing their homes this winter. Included in this amount is $800 million for Tribes or their Tribally Designated Housing Entities.
INVESTING IN AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SECURITY:
- Fisheries: Includes $300 million total for fishery assistance, which includes a set aside of $30 million for Tribes.
- Seafood Purchases and Protective Costs: Includes $1.5 billion for the Secretary to purchase food and agricultural products, including seafood, and provide grant and loan support to food processors, including seafood processing facilities and processing vessels, and other organizations for COVID response and worker protection.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) Benefits: Temporarily increases the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) monthly benefits to address the higher cost of food.
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): Includes $400 million for TEFAP which provides food to food banks.
- Commodity Supplemental Food Program: Includes $13 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program to provide food boxes to senior citizens.