Highlights of Approved Senate Phase 3 Rescue Package

Posted on 03/25/2020 9:44 PM

Senate Dems succeeded in lowering CCC borrowing authority from earlier push for $50 billion level



The Senate late Wednesday evening by a vote of 96-to-0 approved the $2 trillion Covid-19 Phase 3 rescue package.

     Link to full text of the legislation.

     Link to a summary of the $340 billion supplemental appropriations component.

     Link to a section-by-section summary of the rest of the $2 trillion package, including tax, unemployment insurance health care, small-business loans, aid to airlines and other hard-hit industries



General Highlights

     • Taxpayers with incomes up to $75,000 per year would receive $1,200 in direct payments, which phase out and end altogether for those earning more than $99,000. Families would get an additional $500 per child. The grants aren’t available at all, for example, for individuals without children making more than $99,000 and married couples without children making more than $198,000.

     • Unemployment benefits would be extended by 13 weeks and was broadened to include freelancers, furloughed employees and gig workers.

     • Federally guaranteed loans totaling $350 billion would be available to small businesses that pledged not to lay off workers, and would be forgiven if they continued to pay workers for the duration of the crisis. The SBA loan program could be huge for farmers and ranchers, at least those that employ significant labor.

     Link to Payment Protection Program and Loan Forgiveness; Entrepreneurial Development Program and Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Grants

     Link to small business frequently asked questions

     Link to Paycheck Protection Program and Loan Forgiveness



USDA & Food Programs. USDA would receive:

     • $15.8 billion in mandatory funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps, of which $100 million would be used for food distribution on American Indian reservations. $15.5 billion is slated for a contingency fund to cover food costs and any surge in enrollment fueled by an expected increase in unemployment because of layoffs and business closures. The remaining $300 million would provide grants of $100 million for food distribution on Indian reservations and $200 million for nutrition programs in the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and American Samoa.

     • $9.5 billion for the Office of the Secretary to provide aid to agricultural producers affected by the virus.

     • $8.8 billion for child nutrition programs.

     • $450 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), of which $150 million could be used for costs associated with distribution.

     The measure would allow the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to use as much as $14 billion in previous funding to reimburse net realized losses.

     The increase in borrowing authority raised concerns among some Senate Democrats because the Trump administration tapped the CCC for a total of nearly $23 billion in trade aid payments in 2018 and 2019. Critics say the payment distribution favored large farmers.

     An earlier version of the appropriations package in the bill would have given USDA borrowing authority up to $50 billion — a $20 billion increase over the current borrowing limit from the Treasury Department. On Monday, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the top Senate Appropriations Committee Democrat, said he was concerned about the $20 billion increase in borrowing authority and said President Donald Trump’s use of the CCC for the trade aid payment had been a political move to help his farm base. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, noted on the Senate floor that cherry growers in her state of Michigan had not received payments although they’ve been hurt by trade practices by Turkey.

     The Senate rescue bill for agriculture and food also includes:

     • $8.8 billion for child nutrition programs, including the school lunch program.

     • $450 million for commodity food purchases for emergency food assistance through food banks and other nonprofit groups.

     • $100 million for continuing a pilot project to expand broadband service to rural communities.

     • $4 million for the Foreign Agricultural Service, which promotes and develops export markets for U.S. farm goods, to cover costs of moving overseas employees and their families back to the United States.

     • $33 million for the Food Safety and Inspection Service to hire temporary and part-time workers and to cover relocation costs for temporary inspectors.

     • $20.5 million for a subsidy that will allow $1 billion in lending authority for the Business and Industry loan guarantee program for rural businesses.

     • $3 million for the Farm Service Agency to hire temporary staff and pay overtime costs.

     Farm Bureau chart



OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

$139 billion to state and local governments. The bill stipulates that within 30 days of enactment, the Treasury secretary shall distribute funds to state and local governments. Amounts going to each of the 50 states will be determined in proportion to the population, with no state government receiving less than $1.25 billion. Eligible local governments are defined as any governing body below the state level having more than 500,000 people under its purview. The inspector general of the Treasury is charged with conducting oversight of receipt and distribution.

$400 million in grants for states to adjust elections. The Brennan Center for Justice estimates $2 billion is necessary for states to accommodate mail-in ballots and other measures that divert action from traditional precinct polling places. House Democrats initially proposed $4 billion in election assistance, while Senate Republicans proposed $140 million.

Airlines: $29 billion in loans, $29 billion in grants. The bill designates $17 billion for businesses “critical to maintaining national security.” While no specific company is named, people familiar with the negotiations say it is meant for Boeing, a major U.S. defense contractor with lingering 737 Max problems in addition to the coronavirus struggles.

$100 billion to hospitals and health care providers. Nearly a third of the entire stimulus package will provide reimbursements and supplement lost revenue to hospitals. Another $27 billion will funnel to research and development around the vaccine, supervised by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority of the Health and Human Services Department. However, more than half of that might go to replenishing national stockpiles of medical supplies, drugs and protective equipment.

$45 billion for FEMA. The Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Relief Fund will receive $45 billion. The funds are intended to help state and local efforts, including medical response and purchasing protective equipment. The breakdown includes:

     • $200 million for shelter, food and services.

     • $100 million in grants to firefighters for protective equipment, supplies and reimbursements.

     • $100 million for enhanced sanitation at airport security checkpoints and other airport costs.

Transportation Department. The Transportation Department would receive more than $31 billion, including:

     • $25 billion for Federal Transit Administration grants that could be used for operating expenses relating to the coronavirus, including lost revenue, purchasing personal protective equipment, and preventative maintenance and cleaning.

     • $10 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program. At least $500 million would be available to allow for a 100% federal share for grants provided under the fiscal 2020 appropriations law (Public Law 116-94). The measure would provide a separate $56 million for the Essential Air Service that preserves operations at smaller airports.

     • $1 billion for Amtrak, including $526 million for National Network Grants and $492 million for Northeast Corridor Grants. The bill would require weekly reports on employee furloughs related to the coronavirus and would require that employees have the opportunity to be recalled when service is restored to pre-March 1 levels.



Other Agencies: The bill also would provide:

     • $1.9 billion for the Commerce Department. Most of that amount, $1.5 billion, would be provided to the Economic Development Administration to respond to “economic injury” resulting from the coronavirus outbreak.

     • $1 billion for the Justice Department, including $850 million for state and local law enforcement assistance.

     • $562 million for Small Business Administration disaster loans.

     • $400 million for election security grants that would be distributed by the Election Assistance Commission.

     • $360 million for the Labor Department, of which $345 million would be for the Employment and Training Administration.

     • $300 million for the Social Security Administration.

     • $275 million for the General Services Administration Federal Buildings Fund.

     • $250 million for the Internal Revenue Service to cover costs associated with delaying tax filing deadlines and implementing tax changes under the second coronavirus measure.

     • $200 million for the Federal Communications Commission, including to help health-care providers with telecommunications services, information services, and devices to enable telemedicine.

     • $93 million for the Legislative Branch, including money to support teleworking.

     • $75 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting, plus $50 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services and $25 million for the Kennedy Center.

     • $70 million for the Army Corps of Engineers.



Other Provisions:

Aid Oversight: The measure would provide $80 million for a Pandemic Response Accountability Committee that would oversee loans and other funds provided to nonfederal entities under the bill and other coronavirus response laws.

     The committee would be established within the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. It would include inspectors general of relevant departments and an executive director selected with congressional input.

     The committee would detect and prevent fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, and identify major risks. Its tasks would include conducting audits, and reviewing grant and contract reporting and program administration. It could issue subpoenas to compel testimony.

     Suspected violations of criminal law would be reported to the Justice Department.

     Information on how the funds are used would have to be posted to a public website. Federal agencies would have to report monthly on any use of coronavirus funds that exceeds $150,000.

     The committee would terminate on Sept. 30, 2025.

Energy: The package would extend through fiscal 2022 the Energy Department’s authority to draw down and sell crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) and to deposit the proceeds into the Energy Security and Infrastructure Modernization Fund.

     It also would spread over three years a requirement in the fiscal 2020 appropriations law to sell $450 million from the SPR to fund the reserve’s Life Extension II project. The measure would provide about $100 million for the department’s Office of Science.

     The bill contains no major provisions to specifically aid the U.S. energy industry. Beleaguered U.S. oil producers had sought a range of remedies, including preferential tax treatment, direct subsidies and a $3 billion purchase of oil by the federal government for the SPR. The renewable energy industry had sought extensions to tax provisions that would have helped wind-and-solar developers secure valuable tax credits even if there were construction delays.

Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund: The measure would also change the treatment of money appropriated from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Any such amount would be subtracted from the Army Corps’ estimated discretionary budget authority, effectively reducing the amount of funding in a bill that would count toward 302(b) allocations or spending caps. The total reduction couldn’t exceed the amount deposited in the fund in the previous fiscal year.

     The change wouldn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2021, or the enactment of a new water resources development act, whichever occurs first.

Other Changes: The measure also would:

     • Allow the use of video conferencing or teleconferencing for criminal proceedings.

     • Delay REAL ID requirements until at least Sept. 30, 2021.

     • Extend the DHS Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program through July 23, 2020.

     • Provide emergency authority to the Copyright Office to modify timing provisions.


 

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