Wednesday, December 16, 2020

What's in the bipartisan relief bill for agriculture and more

A bipartisan group of senators has released a pair of coronavirus relief bills that aim to provide economic aid for American workers and small businesses. The bills were originally one $908 billion plan unveiled earlier this month, but the senators split them into two bills they believe have a better chance of passing. The first bill is a $748 billion comprehensive measure, and the second bill provides $160 billion for state and local funding (click here for a Tax Foundation estimate of how much each state would receive).

"The $748 billion measure is expected to include additional funding for the popular Paycheck Protection Program, schools and unemployment insurance, as well as more money for vaccine development and distribution, coronavirus testing and contact tracing. Both Republicans and Democrats agree on these measures," Grace Segers reports for CBS News. "The second bill, however, would address two issues that have been sticking points between Republicans and Democrats in negotiations over a relief package: $160 billion for state and local governments, a priority for Democrats, and a liability shield for businesses, key to Republicans. Republicans oppose the former, while Democrats think the liability shield could hurt workers."

The $748 billion bill earmarked $13 billion "to address Covid-related impacts on farmers, ranchers, growers, etc., and rural communities, Ben Nuelle reports for Agri-Pulse. From that funding, $600 million will go toward fishery disaster relief, and an undisclosed amount would go to the Agriculture Department's Rural Development agencies to fund water and wastewater programs.

Other measures in the $748 billion bill:

  • The U.S. Postal Service would get $10 billion from the treasury without having to repay it, but would have to disclose how the money is spent. The USPS Board of Governors would have to present a plan to Congress within 180 days to ensure the service's long-term solvency.
  • $10 billion to support child-care providers struggling economically.
  • $6.25 billion for broadband build-out.
  • $3 billion to to help underserved areas—especially rural areas—with broadband hotspots, computers, and other needs for distance learning.
  • $200 million for internet-connected devices for libraries in low-income and rural areas.
  • $475 million for the Federal Communications Commission's Covid-19 Telehealth Program, with 20% set aside for small, rural health-care providers.
  • $100 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs for Telehealth and Connected Care Program.
  • $3.15 billion to substance-abuse prevention and treatment block grants.
  • $1.3 billion for opioid response grants to states.
  • An unspecified amount (possibly none needed) for expanding access to medication-assisted treatment by allowing limited extension of telehealth waivers and eliminating the requirement for practitioners to apply for a waiver through the Drug Enforcement Administration in order to prescribe buprenorphine.
  • An extension of the eviction moratorium until Jan. 31.
  • $25 billion in rental assistance.
  • $35 billion for health-care providers.
  • 16 weeks of unemployment benefits at $300 per week.
  • 16-week extensions in base unemployment benefits and the unemployment program for gig workers and independent contractors.
  • $300 billion for small-business relief.
  • $82 billion for schools.
  • $13 billion in emergency food assistance.

No comments: