The Senate's $2 trillion emergency aid bill is nearing the finish line in Congress, as lawmakers moved to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Here is a look at the major pieces of the package, and how households and businesses are set to benefit, based on where the legislation stood late Wednesday.
We've broken it into four parts: the top lines, households and workers, business and banking, and personal finance and taxes.
THE TOP LINES
-- $250 billion to make unemployment insurance available to more categories of workers and to extend the duration of benefits to 39 weeks from the 26 weeks typical in most states. It would also provide an extra $600 a week for four months.
-- $301 billion in direct payments to households.
-- $349 billion in loans to small businesses, with the amount spent on payroll, rent or utilities converting into grants that don't have to be repaid.
-- $500 billion for loans, loan guarantees or other aid to businesses, states and municipalities -- including the possibility that the government will take direct equity stakes in distressed companies. Of the total, $29 billion is set aside for cargo and passenger airlines, and $17 billion is for businesses deemed critical to national security, such as Boeing. The remaining $454 billion would go to backstop losses in lending facilities established or expanded by the Federal Reserve.
-- $32 billion in grants to cover wages at passenger air carriers, cargo air carriers and contractors.
-- $150 billion in direct aid to states, distributed according to population size. A municipality could apply to receive aid directly, reducing the amount available to the rest of the state.
-- $221 billion in a variety of tax benefits for businesses, including allowing businesses to defer payroll taxes, which finance Medicare and Social Security, for the rest of the year. It would also temporarily allow businesses to claim deductions using today's losses against past profits to claim quick refunds for cash infusions.
-- $340 billion in supplemental spending, which includes $117 billion for hospitals and veterans' care. It also includes $25 billion mostly for public transit to make up for revenue lost because of dwindling ridership.
HOUSEHOLDS AND WORKERS
Checks to individuals
The bill provides for direct payments of $1,200 to adults and $500 per child to American households, structured as tax refunds to allow the IRS to distribute the funds quickly. There is no provision for future direct payments in the event the economic disruption lasts into the later spring. The direct grants are phased out for upper income brackets, starting with $75,000 of individual income. 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.
The deal would extend the duration of jobless benefits to 39 weeks from 26 available in most states, and includes a $600-a-week increase for the first four months, with the bonus payment available through July 31. These benefits would be extended to contract workers, freelancers and other nontraditional workers, who lack benefits in some states. The aim is to replace lost wages as completely as possible.
Gig Workers and Freelancers
The bill expands some benefits and grants to independent contractors, such as Uber drivers and freelance film editors, that normally go only to employees or small businesses. For example, it extends unemployment benefits to self-employed workers, including independent contractors, freelancers and other nontraditional workers who are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable to work because of Covid-19. It includes a $600-a-week increase on top of current levels of unemployment benefits for four months. Independent contractors also can apply for the $10 billion set aside for emergency EIDL -- economic injury disaster loan -- funds, which are normally available only to a narrower category of small businesses.
BUSINESS AND BANKING
For passenger airlines, the bill includes $25 billion in direct funding for worker salaries and benefits, as well as up to $25 billion in loans and loan guarantees. The bill hews to what airlines had been asking for. Carriers had lobbied aggressively for direct grants rather than just loans, warning that without an immediate infusion of cash, they would have to make sharp job cuts. "This is not a corporate bailout; it's a rescue package for workers," Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said.
The bill also includes $3 billion in assistance to keep paying contract workers that provide airline catering, baggage loading, ticketing and check-in, and other services at airports. Cargo airlines will be eligible to receive $4 billion in loans and guarantees, and $4 billion in payroll assistance.
In exchange for the payroll grants, carriers must agree not to furlough, lay off or cut pay for employees until Sept. 30. Assistance also hinges on companies agreeing not to buy back shares or pay dividends, and to limits on executive compensation.
The package also allows the Transportation Department to direct airlines to maintain specific flights based on their schedules on March 1, before carriers had instituted the deepest cuts to their flying. This would include services to rural communities and to support delivery of health-care-related cargo.
The closure of nearly all of the country's assembly plants has forced thousands of manufacturers throughout the industry's supply chain into a sudden cash crunch. The bill's authorization of up to hundreds of billions of dollars in loans should help. "If not for that, I would foresee quite a bit of bankruptcies," said Jeremy Rice, automotive practice lead at accounting firm Mazars U.S.A. One omission: Industry lobbyists have asked to push back implementation of the new North American trade deal, which will require adjustments to manufacturing footprints for some cars to still qualify for duty-free status. As of now, that deal is still set to enter into force on June 1.
The bill delays implementation of a new accounting rule that would have required banks to sock away reserves for any estimated loan losses all at once, instead of spreading them out over the life of the loan. FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams and others had expressed concern that the rule would tie up funds banks could otherwise lend to struggling consumers and businesses.
The bill gives the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency the authority to allow banks to make loans that would typically trip up size restrictions. Smaller community banks with less than $10 billion in assets get more lending flexibility through a higher maximum leverage ratio and more wiggle room if they exceed it. Banks will also get more leeway on how they account for troubled consumer loans, allowing them to work with struggling borrowers who have fallen behind on their payments.
Boeing Co. stands to have access to $17 billion in loans and loan guarantees for "businesses critical to maintaining national security," according to congressional officials and a senior aviation industry executive closely tracking the legislation. The Chicago aerospace giant had sought at least $60 billion to be shared with suppliers and the broader aerospace manufacturing sector. It wasn't immediately known how much of the overall stimulus funds could benefit Boeing's commercial arm and its suppliers.
Part of the $17 billion can be directed at defense contractors and their suppliers, many of whom also work on commercial programs, industry executives said. A Boeing spokesman declined to comment midday Wednesday, while the legislative process remained under way.
Taxpayer-funded loans would come with various conditions, including restrictions on stock buybacks and dividends and layoff prohibitions for six months. The assistance could also allow the U.S. treasury secretary to take an equity stake in government loan recipients or charge interest on loans.
--Andrew Tangel and Doug Cameron
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 Strategic Petroleum Reserve. 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. Industry officials expressed disappointment. Democrats were unwilling to support what they considered to be bailouts, and Republicans balked at supporting renewables, say energy industry analysts.
--Christopher M. Matthews
The bill directs more than $48 billion to agriculture and nutrition programs, helping cushion the blow for producers reeling from the latest in a string of hits to the U.S. farm economy, as prices sank for corn, soybeans, wheat and cattle. "Our markets have been very depressed such that it's questionable whether a person can make a living at these levels," said Illinois grain farmer Paul Rasmussen, 68.
The law designates $14 billion to replenish the Commodity Credit Corp., a Depression-era program designed to stabilize farm incomes, and $9.5 billion to support producers of specialty crops, livestock and dairy, as well as those who supply farmers markets, restaurants and schools.
Kate Leone of Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200 food banks, said the group was grateful for the bill's support of food banks, but disappointed that participants in the nation's food stamp program wouldn't see increases in their benefits.
--Jesse Newman and Kirk Maltais
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