A $2 trillion stimulus bill to deal with the coronavirus pandemic passed by the U.S. Senate Wednesday has some components that might help some Mississippians.
The CARE (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act authorizes direct payments to taxpayers, a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits, emergency loans to small businesses, $100 billion in aid for hospitals and health systems nationwide and $425 billion in loans for larger, distressed businesses.
The Democrat-controlled House will take it up Friday after it passed the Senate by a 96-0 vote. President Donald Trump has said he intends to sign the legislation into law.
The CARE Act also limits liability for volunteer health care professionals and prioritizes U.S. Food and Drug Administration review of drugs that might help with the virus.
The direct payments to individuals would be $1,200 per adult to those earning less than $99,000 per year ($150,000 combined income for married filers) and $500 per child. Those who didn’t pay income tax would receive $600.
Airlines would receive $50 billion, while air cargo firms such as FedEx and UPS would receive $8 billion. Firms considered critical to national security would receive $17 billion.
Small businesses would be eligible for forgivable loans if they keep paying their employees. Firms that rehire employees by April 1 would also be eligible for the program.
Here are some other components of the stimulus:
- Payment and interest suspension on federal student loans – The Senate bill also provides borrowers a payment deferment for three months. During that same time, interest will also not be accrued on the debt.
- Medicare payment increases – The amount of Medicare payments to hospitals and providers would be increased from present rates.
- Excise tax holiday on jet fuel – The bill would remove federal taxes on jet fuel (kerosene) until January 1, 2021. This is designed to also help the airlines and other commercial aviation entities.
- Historically black universities – HBCUs would receive a deferment from repaying federal loans intended to pay for capital improvements. Mississippi has three HBCUs — Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State — that could benefit from this provision.
- Medicare telemedicine – Telehealth services for federally qualified health centers or rural health clinic would be payable under Medicare.
The bill also has some important other tax provisions, including ones governing net operating losses and employer-side Social Security payments (can be delayed until January 1, 2021, with 50 percent payable on December 31, 2021 and the remainder on December 31, 2022), for businesses. The bill would also suspend the tax on the alcohol (ethyl and isopropyl) used on hand sanitizer for this tax year.
According to the U.S. Debt Clock, the country’s debt is now up to $23.6 trillion, not counting the new stimulus.
U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) sponsored the 247-page legislation.
“Combating this disease has forced our country to put huge parts of national life on pause and triggered layoffs at a breathtaking pace,” said McConnell on the floor of the Senate. “This strange new reality has forced our nation onto something like a wartime footing.
“A fight has arrived on our shores. We did not seek it. We did not want it. But now, we are going to win it.”