On Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, Congress approved a 5,593-page, $2.3 trillion funding package consisting of a $900 billion end-of-the-year COVID-19 stimulus bill attached to a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the government through Sep. 30, 2021. After a delay, former President Donald Trump signed the bill on Sunday, Dec. 27.
The CAA stimulus legislation included $300 per week in additional jobless benefits, direct payments of $600 to individuals, $330 billion in small business loans, more than $80 billion for schools, and $69 billion for vaccine development and deployment.
- The CAA included direct payments of $600 per person including dependents 16 and under as well as:
- Unemployment benefits of $300 per week for 11 weeks, starting on Dec. 27, 2020
- Small business relief funding totaling $325 billion
- Vaccine development and distribution totaling $69 billion
- Help for schools, renters, welfare recipients, and more
- No state and local funding or liability protection for businesses
- The CAA was followed by the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021
Below are the details on what the CAA legislation included.
The CAA package included Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) of $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year. Married couples who file jointly and earn up to $150,000 per year received $1,200. In addition, dependents 16 and under were eligible for $600. Payments began within a week after the bill was signed into law. Those whose bank information was already with the IRS were paid first.
CAA legislation prohibited the IRS from disbursing stimulus payments after Jan. 15, 2021. If you didn't receive your payment by then, the IRS advised, you would have to claim it as a "recovery rebate" tax credit when you filed your 2020 taxes.
Extra Unemployment Benefits
If you were receiving unemployment benefits you would be eligible for an additional $300 per week through March 14, 2021. This included the self-employed, gig workers, and contract workers under an extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program was also extended so anyone who had exhausted benefits would now be eligible for up to 50 weeks of combined state and PUA or PEUC benefits.
Small Business Relief
Under the broad category of small business relief, the bill provided $325 billion apportioned as follows.
- $284 billion for forgivable first and second PPP loans
- $20 billion for new EIDL grants for businesses in low-income areas
- $3.5 billion for continued SBA debt relief payments
- $2 billion for enhanced SBA lending
- $15 billion for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions
Community Development Lending
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) were set to receive $12 billion in additional funding through a new Neighborhood Capital Investment program to help low-income and minority communities deal with the economic impact of COVID-19.
Although state and local government assistance wasn't included in this legislation, some local help was provided through $45 billion in transportation funding to include transit agencies, airlines and airline contractors, airports, state departments of transportation (DOTs), the motorcoach industry, and Amtrak as follows.
- $15 billion airline payroll support
- $1 billion airline contractor payroll support
- $14 billion for transit
- $10 billion for state highways
- $2 billion for airports and airport concessionaires
- $2 billion for the private motorcoach, school bus, and ferry industries
- $1 billion for Amtrak
Funding for COVID-19 vaccine procurement and distribution to the tune of $69 billion broke down to:
- $20 billion to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)
- $9 billion to the CDC and individual states or vaccine distribution. $3 billion to build up the Strategic National Stockpile's supplies of vaccine
- $22 billion direct aid to states for testing, tracing, and COVID mitigation
- $4.5 billion in additional mental health funding
- $9 billion to support healthcare providers
- $1 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) research into COVID-19
- $1 billion in direct funds to the Indian Health Service
K-12 schools, colleges, and universities were slated to receive $82 billion to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Following a similar pattern to that was used with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, this funding was divided as follows:
- $818.8 million for Bureau of Indian Education and outlying areas
- $4.05 billion for the Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund for services to private K-12 schools
- $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary [public K-12 schools] Emergency Relief Fund
- $22.7 billion to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund
State and local governments were responsible for distributing a reported $25 billion in emergency federal rent assistance. The money is targeted to families impacted by COVID who struggle to pay rent and/or owe past-due rent payments. Approximately $800 million of these funds are reserved for Native American housing entities.
Nutrition and Agriculture
A 15% increase in SNAP benefits—plus additional funding for food banks and senior nutrition programs costing $13 billion—made up half of the $26 billion set aside here. This included $614 million for nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico and other territories. Included in this allotment were emergency funds for school and daycare feeding programs, as well as improvements in the P-EBT program.
The second $13 billion consisted of direct payments, purchases, and loans to farmers and ranchers who suffered losses due to the pandemic. These funds would be used to support the food supply chain, purchase food, donate to food banks, and support local food systems.
U.S. Postal Service
A CARES Act $10 billion loan to the USPS was converted to direct funding with no required repayment by the CAA legislation. These funds were designed to be used to offset operational costs and expenses resulting from the pandemic.
A Child Care and Development Block Grant of $10 billion, allocated through the new legislation will be used to provide childcare assistance to families. The funds will also be used to help childcare providers cover increased operating costs during the pandemic. Also included in this allotment: $250 million for Head Start providers.
Emergency funds totaling $3.2 billion were appropriated to go to low-income families to provide access to broadband internet through an FCC fund. Those funds began being disbursed May 12, 2021, as Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) funds.
The CAA broadband appropriation also included a $1 billion tribal broadband fund, $250 million in telehealth funding, and $65 million to complete broadband maps to aid in government disbursement of broadband funds. An additional $300 million grant program was set to provide broadband in rural areas. The total set aside for broadband was almost $7 billion.
No Surprises Act
The No Surprises Act, contained in Division BB of the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021, takes a federal approach to the problem of surprise medical billing. Most parts of the act go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. In the meantime, the Department of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Department of Labor were instructed to issue regulations and guidance.
The main provisions of the No Surprises Act:
- Protect patients from surprise medical bills due to gaps in coverage for services provided for emergencies and by out-of-network providers at in-network facilities, including by air ambulances.
- Hold patients liable only for their in-network cost-sharing amount but give providers and insurers the opportunity to negotiate reimbursement.
- Allow providers and insurers to access an independent dispute resolution process in the event disputes arise around reimbursement.
- Require providers and health plans to help patients access health care cost information.
Additional Programs and Extensions
In addition to all funding above, the stimulus extended the Coronavirus Relief Fund created by the CARES Act and the Employee Retention Tax Credit. It also provided a special "lookback" for Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for low-income individuals and provided a Contractor Pay Extension, allowing federal agencies to reimburse contractors for the cost of paid leave during the COVID pandemic.
Comparison With CARES Act and American Rescue Plan
The table below compares Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) funding in several key areas with both the CARES Act, which preceded the CAA and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which followed it.
|Signed into law||March 27, 2021 President
|Dec. 27, 2020
|March 11, 2021 President
|Direct payment/EIP||$293 billion ($1,200)||$166 billion ($600)||$402 billion ($1,400)|
|Unemployment||$268 billion ($600)||$120 billion ($300)||$206 billion ($300)|
|Small business||$377 billion||$325 billion||$54 billion|
|Community development||$5 billion||$12 billion||$362 billion|
|Transportation||$71 billion||$45 billion||$43.2 billion|
|Vaccine develop/distribute||$28 billion||$69 billion||$93 billion|
|Schools||$31 billion||$82 billion||$176 billion|
|Rent assistance||$17 billion||$25 billion||$21.6 billion|
|Nutrition & Agriculture||$25 billion||$26 billion||$22.7 billion|
|U.S. Postal Service||$10 billion (loan)||$10 billion (loan forgiveness)||$570 million (paid leave)|
|Child Care||$5 billion||$10 billion||$40 billion|
|Broadband||$25 billion||$7 billion||$7 billion plus|
|Coronavirus Relief Fund||$150 billion||Extended to 12/31/21|
|Employee Retention Credit||$55 billion||Extended to 6/30/21||Extended to 12/31/21|
|Lookback for EITC/CTC||Created||Expanded|
|Total appropriations||$2.2 trillion||$910 billion||$1.9 trillion|
Sources: H.R. 133: Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 , CARES Act , American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021
The American Rescue Plan
Following the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden as president, the new Democratic majority began taking steps to pass a new $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package to deliver further help, called the American Rescue Plan.
The plan, which was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021, calls for a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program, $1,400-per-person relief checks, financial support for small businesses, funding to helps schools reopen, expanded and extended unemployment insurance payments, rent subsidies, and more. The American Rescue Plan also includes a provision that student loan forgiveness issued between Jan. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2025, will not be taxable to the recipient.
U.S. Congress. "H.R. 133 - Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021." Accessed July 3, 2021.
USPS. "U.S. Postal Service Reaches Agreement with Treasury on $10 Billion CARES Act Lending Authority." Accessed July 3, 2021.
U.S. Congress. "H.R. 748: CARES Act." Accessed July 3, 2021.
U.S. Congress. "H.R.1319 - American Rescue Plan Act of 2021." Accessed July 3, 2021.