Congress approved, on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, 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.

This bill, known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) of 2021 was initially rejected by former President Donald Trump who said changes were needed including a larger stimulus package and changes to the budget portion of the legislation. On Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, he signed the bill.

The stimulus legislation includes $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.

Key Takeaways

  • The CAA includes 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 legislation includes the following:

Direct Payments

The package includes 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 will get $1,200. In addition, dependents 16 and under are eligible for $600. Payments began within a week after the bill was signed into law. Those whose bank information was already with the IRS got paid first.

The legislation prohibits the IRS from disbursing stimulus payments after Jan. 15, 2021. If you didn't receive your payment by then, you will have to claim it as a "recovery rebate" tax credit when you file your 2020 taxes.

Extra Unemployment Benefits

If you are currently receiving unemployment benefits you will be eligible for an additional $300 per week through March 14, 2021. This includes 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 is also extended so anyone who has exhausted benefits is now eligible for up to 50 weeks of combined state and PUA or PEUC benefits.

Passage of the American Rescue Plan extends $300 weekly unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021.

Small Business Relief

Under the broad caption of small business relief, the bill provides $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, cultural institutions.

Community Development Lending

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) will get $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.

Transportation

Although state and local government assistance isn't in this legislation, some local help is 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.

Vaccines

Funding for COVID-19 vaccine procurement and distribution to the tune of $69 billion breaks 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.

Schools

K-12 schools, colleges, and universities are slated to receive $82 billion to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Following a similar pattern to that used with the CARES Act, this funding is divided as follows:

  • $818.8 million for Bureau of Indian Education and outlying areas.
  • $4.05 billion for 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.

Rent Assistance

State and local governments will be responsible for distributing a reported $25 billion in emergency federal rent assistance. The money will be targeted to families impacted by COVID who struggle to pay rent and/or owe past-due rent payments. Approximately $800 million of these funds will be reserved for Native American housing entities. The bill also includes an extension of the CDC eviction moratorium through Jan. 31, 2021.

Nutrition and Agriculture

A 15% increase in SNAP benefits—plus additional funding for food banks and senior nutrition programs costing $13 billion—makes up half of the $26 billion set aside here. This includes $614 million for nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico and other territories. Included in this allotment are emergency funds for school and daycare feeding programs, as well as improvements in the P-EBT program.

The second $13 billion consists of direct payments, purchases, and loans to farmers and ranchers who have suffered losses due to the pandemic. These funds will also be used to support the food supply chain, purchase food, donate to food banks, and support local food systems.

US Postal Service

A CARES Act $10 billion loan to the USPS will be converted to direct funding with no required repayment by the new stimulus legislation. These funds are being used to offset operational costs and expenses resulting from the pandemic.

Childcare

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.

Broadband

Emergency funds totaling $3.2 billion will go to low-income families to provide access to broadband internet through an FCC fund. The law also includes 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 will fund broadband in rural areas. The total set aside for broadband is 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 are 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 extends the Coronavirus Relief Fund created by the CARES Act and the Employee Retention Tax Credit. It also provides a special "lookback" for Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for low-income individuals and provides a Contractor Pay Extension, allowing federal agencies to reimburse contractors for the cost of paid leave during the COVID pandemic.

Comparison With CARES Act

The table below compares appropriations in several key areas of both the new Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) 2021 and the CARES Act.

Key Component CAA 2021 CARES Act
Direct payment/EIPs $166 billion ($600) $293 billion ($1,200)
Unemployment $120 billion ($300) $268 billion ($600)
Small business $325 billion $377 billion
Community development $12 billion $5 billion
Transportation $45 billion $71 billion
Vaccine develop/distribute $69 billion $28 billion
Schools $82 billion $31 billion
Rent assistance $25 billion $17 billion
Nutrition & Agriculture $26 billion $25 billion
U.S. Postal Service $10 billion (loan forgiveness) $10 billion (loan)
Child Care $10 billion $5 billion
Broadband $7 billion $25 billion
Coronavirus Relief Fund Extend/Expand $150 billion
Employee Retention Credit Extend/Expand $55 billion
Lookback for EITC/CTC New N/A
Contractor Pay Extension New N/A
Total bill appropriations $910 billion $2.2 trillion

Sources: H.R. 133: Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 , CARES Act

The American Rescue Plan

Following the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden as President, the new Democratic majority began taking steps to pass its own $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, 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 December 30, 2020, and January 1, 2026, will not be taxable to the recipient.