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What’s in the second stimulus package for COVID-19 relief?

Find out who’s getting checks, unemployment benefits and more.

This story is developing and will be updated regularly.

Leaders in the House and Senate reached an agreement December 20, 2020 for a second COVID-19 relief package — worth up to $900 billion. Congress passed the bill Monday night and sent it to President Trump to sign into law before the sun sets on 2020. With it will come not only a second round of stimulus checks, but extended unemployment benefits, student loan relief, a continued moratorium on evictions and more.

Second stimulus checks

One of the biggest features to come with this new relief package is a second round of stimulus checks worth $600 each for qualifying Americans. Eligible parents and legal guardians also get an extra $600 for each dependent under the age of 17.

How much you qualify for depends on the adjusted gross income reported on your most recent tax return. You should receive the full $600 if your adjusted gross income is no more than:

  • $75,000 if you’re single or married and filing taxes separately
  • $115,000 if you’re married and filing jointly
  • $112,500 if you’re the head of your household

The amount you receive decreases by $5 for every $100 you earn over $75,000 as an individual — or over $115,000 as a married couple.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expects Americans to start receiving their $600 stimulus checks by direct deposit before the New Year. If you haven’t already signed up for direct deposit from the last stimulus, we’ve rounded up a few tips to increase your chances of getting your payment faster.

Check out our short video where we lay down some tips for how you can get your stimulus check faster.

Unemployment benefits

Federal unemployment benefits have been renewed — though they have been reduced to just $300 a week for 11 weeks — in addition to the unemployment benefits offered by your state. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program also extends benefits to gig workers and freelancers as well as contractors and other self-employed individuals. And alongside the additional $300, the typical seven-day waiting period for benefits has been waived.

To qualify, you need to have become unemployed and apply for benefits between December 27, 2020 to March 14, 2021. You will also need to provide documentation that proves unemployment no later than 21 days after submitting an application for unemployment assistance. However, even if you forgot to submit this required documentation in the past, that doesn’t disqualify you from getting unemployment assistance now.

To continue receiving benefits, you will need to submit recertification weekly that confirms you still qualify for benefits.

Rental assistance

The new COVID-19 relief bill also includes $25 billion in rental assistance for states to distribute throughout 2021, as well as a pause on evictions extended through January 31, 2021. This means that your landlord won’t be legally allowed to evict you from your home or apartment — provided your landlord holds a government-backed mortgage, rural housing voucher or uses another qualifying federal housing program.

Like with the CARES Act, your landlord also won’t be able to charge you fees or penalties for nonpayment. And even when the moratorium ends, you should still be given at least 30 days notice before eviction proceedings begin.

Rental assistance relief is to be prioritized to those eligible households with incomes no greater than 80% of the area median income as determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You might qualify for relief if someone in your household qualifies for unemployment benefits or has experienced a reduction in income or financial hardship due to COVID-19, including a past due utility bill, notice of eviction or unsafe or unhealthy living conditions.

And keep in mind that any rental assistance you receive is not considered income on your taxes or when calculating your eligibility for federal assistance programs.

Healthcare funding

The stimulus bill set aside roughly $69 billion for healthcare and research facilities as well as everyday Americans.

The bill allocates $9 billion to healthcare providers to cover the costs of continuing to prepare and care for COVID-19 patients. This includes buying supplies, hiring more healthcare workers and building new facilities. It also made surprise medical bills illegal. Starting in 2022, healthcare providers will have to work with insurers to decide on a fair price to charge for services.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and states will get around $9 billion to efficiently distribute the vaccine, while $3 billion would go to the Strategic National Stockpile in case the US needs to purchase vaccines, PPE and other essential supplies. This portion of the bill specifically sets aside $300 million to high-risk areas and communities of color.

In terms of COVID-19 testing and tracking, states will receive $22 billion to run coronavirus mitigation programs — and around $2.5 billion will go to rural areas and communities of color. States and federal agencies will also receive funding to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, which will be available at no cost. The biggest chunk of money — almost $20 billion — will go to the Biomedical Advanced Research & Development Authority (BARDA), to produce vaccines and other therapeutic medications.

The package also poured $4.5 billion into mental health and substance abuse treatment and prevention. It expanded the telehealth waivers for Medicare, meaning Americans will be able to keep scheduling virtual visits with their doctors. Plus, it allocated more than $1 billion to the National Institutes of Health to conduct COVID-19 research.

Nutrition programs

The second stimulus funds expands some benefits for federal nutrition programs.

Value of benefits and eligibility for SNAP

From January 1, 2021 through April 30, 2021, benefits will be calculated using 115% of the June 2020 value of the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP). Any unemployment assistance you receive will not count as income or a resource when determining your eligibility for SNAP. And students enrolled at least half-time in a university or college who either receive federal work-study benefits or have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $0 are also eligible for SNAP.

Food delivery for older Americans

Under the new stimulus ruling, states are required to treat older Americans who are homebound because of the coronavirus pandemic as eligible for nutrition assistance. If you are at least 60 years old and are practicing social distancing, you may qualify for a home-delivered nutrition services waiver.

Expanded options for businesses

The second stimulus bill included more funding for businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and Small Business Administration SBA loan programs.

PPP and EIDL loans

Small businesses that have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 are eligible to borrow up to $2 million through the Second Draw PPP loan program. To qualify, you must have no more than 300 employees and experienced a 25% revenue loss during any quarter in 2020 compared to 2019. Small 501(c)(6) organizations are also eligible as long as they have fewer than 150 employees and aren’t involved in political activities.

The stimulus also simplified the forgiveness process for businesses that borrowed under $2 million and clarified that PPP forgiveness is not taxable. It also made expenses eligible for forgiveness and allows businesses that spent money on these costs — like buying personal protective equipment — to apply for more funds on their first loan.

The bill also reinstated the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (ELD) grants. Businesses that received under $10,000 in grants can qualify for up to that full amount if they apply before December 31, 2021.

Temporary changes to SBA loans

The stimulus bill also made some adjustment to non-COVID emergency loan programs

  • Extended SBA Debt Relief. The SBA will continue to cover principal, interest and fees on current and new loans through the SBA 7(a) and microloan program for three to eight months, depending on the loan.
  • Reduced or eliminated fees. The SBA will charge or reduce guarantee fees on new loans through any 7(a) loan program — including Community Advantage loans — and is eliminating the participation fee on 504 loans.
  • Increased SBA guarantee. The SBA will guarantee up to 90% of all 7(a) loans — also including Community Advantage loans — and between 50% and 75% of SBA express loans.
  • Larger express loans. The SBA will continue to offer Express as high as $1 million until October 1, 2021. At that date, the maximum you can borrow through this program will be $500,000 — up from the original $350,000 cap on express loans.

Grants for live venues

A new grant program has been instated for live venues that were forced to close due to social distancing restrictions and stay-at-home orders. Grant amounts will either be based on your operating expenses during the pandemic, up to $10 million.

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