By Lenore Fedow
lenore.fedow@nationaljeweler.com
A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a $908 billion COVID-19 relief bill, which includes aid for small businesses and vaccine distribution.
Washington—There is a new COVID-19 relief package on the table.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a $908 billion proposal Monday night, which has been split into two bills.

The first bill, dubbed the Bipartisan Emergency COVID Relief Act of 2020, is a $748 billion proposal that would include money for small business loans, unemployment benefits, education, transportation and the vaccine rollout.

Unemployment assistance would be extended for 16 weeks from the current expiration date of Dec. 26, with an additional $300 per week, as per a summary of the bill.

The Small Business Administration would receive $300 billion, including funds for another round of Paycheck Protection Program loans.

The loan forgiveness process would be simplified for those with PPP loans of $150,000 or less.

There would also be $25 billion for emergency rental assistance and an extension of the eviction moratorium, which is currently set to expire Dec. 31, through Jan. 31.

The second bill is a $160 billion proposal for state and local needs, called the Bipartisan State and Local Support and Small Business Protection Act of 2020.


The bill also includes short-term protection from pandemic-related lawsuits for employers, which has been a point of contention.

While Republicans have argued the protections would shield small businesses from lawsuits, Democrats counter that they could endanger workers.

States and local governments would receive $152 billion in aid through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, with one-third of that money being distributed based on each state’s population.

The remaining two-thirds would be allotted based on the proportion of each state’s revenue losses relative to the total revenue losses of all states.

Each state would receive a minimum of $500 million.

The remaining $8 billion in funding would go to tribal entities.

While the first bill is expected to find wide support, the second bill may not.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has already called for the local spending and liability shield to be removed, as per Politico, and be addressed in another bill.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have held talks about the new relief bill, according to her office.

Earlier this month, Pelosi rejected a $1.8 trillion stimulus offer from the White House, choosing to keep her focus on the Senate proposal.

While the rejected offer included another round of stimulus checks, albeit less unemployment assistance, the new bill does not.

The lack of direct stimulus checks is an issue for Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who want to at least vote on the idea.

“It would be a dereliction of duty if Congress adjourns for Christmas without having a vote on providing working families with direct payments,” said Hawley in a statement.

The spending bill, regardless of what it includes, will need to pass by Friday to avoid a government shutdown.

“America’s working families and frontlines heroes are crying out for #covid relief,” said a tweet from the Nancy Pelosi team account.

“Mitch McConnell staying on ‘pause’ for the past 7 months of this pandemic does not bode well for the all-hands-on-deck commitment we need to recover from our economic devastation. #FlipTheSenate.”

A survey of 5,500 small business owners, conducted by small business networking site Alignable, found that 85 percent believe they will need additional federal funding to make it from now until June 2021.

“Dueling members of Congress need to compromise and jump over political hurdles to ensure that more small businesses weather the rest of this catastrophic COVID storm,” said Alignable co-founder and CEO Eric Groves in a release about the results.

“Our latest poll clearly demonstrates that more aid is desperately needed to keep hard-working small business leaders afloat, and to continue fueling the recovery.”

The average amount each business would need, as per the survey, is $110,000.

Of those surveyed, 20 percent said they would use the loan to pay rent and employee salaries.

Alignable found that around 34 percent of small businesses have not had the money to cover their full rent on time since May.

Other uses for the money cited by survey-takers included paying additional bills (16 percent), “paying myself” (13 percent), loan payments (12 percent), investing in expansion plans (8 percent) and bolstering virtual skills (6 percent).


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