Additional provisions in the December COVID relief and appropriations bill

ASTC is reading through the text of the almost 5,600-page omnibus spending and COVID relief bill for provisions relevant to the ASTC community. This is the third in a series of blog posts about the legislation in which we highlight other COVID relief provisions beyond changes to the Paycheck Protection Program including the opportunity for a second draw (addressed in the first post) and the new grants program for shuttered venues (addressed in the second post).

In addition to extending the Paycheck Protection Program and providing the opportunity for second draw loans—and a new grants program for shuttered venue operators, including museums—the COVID relief bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the President just before the end of 2020 includes a number of additional provisions of interest to the ASTC community.

ATM that says "ATM out of use due to social distancing"
Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🎞 on Unsplash

Universal charitable deductions

The bill extends, for one year, the universal charitable deduction established by the CARES Act, allow married couples filing jointly an above-the-line deduction of $600 ($300 for individuals). It also extends through the end of 2021 the increased adjusted gross income limits on deductible charitable contributions for individuals who itemize.

Extension of unemployment insurance

The bill extends the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, providing an additional $300 per week in unemployment compensation to individuals through March 14, 2021, on top of other state and Federal unemployment benefits. It also extends the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which provides additional weeks of Federal benefits to those who have exhausted state unemployment benefits—and increases the number of eligible weeks from 13 to 24.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program has also been extended and enables individuals to claim up to 50 weeks of benefits, up from 39 weeks previously. This program provides unemployment assistance to those who are traditionally not eligible—including freelancers, gig workers, and the self-employed.

For employers who self-insure for unemployment—a provision available to nonprofits and state and local governments—the bill continues through March 14, 2021, Federal support to cover half of the costs of employment benefits.

Direct payments to individuals

The bill provides direct economic relief to America, including stimulus checks of $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year and an additional $600 for dependent children under 17 years old (based upon 2019 tax returns). Proposals to increase these payments, which were called for by the President, passed the House but not the Senate.

Support to selected industries

The bill includes targeted support for specific industries, including airlines, public transit, and the U.S. Postal Service.

Support for COVID response

In addition to the normal fiscal year 2021 appropriations, which will be discussed in a forthcoming post, the bill provides funding related to COVID-19 response, testing, and vaccine distribution, including the following:

  • $8.75 billion to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support Federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal public health agencies to distribute, administer, monitor, and track coronavirus vaccination.
  • $19.695 billion to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency for manufacturing and procurement of vaccines, therapeutics, and related supplies
  • $22.4 billion to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for testing, contact tracing, and other activities to monitor and suppress COVID-19
  • $1.25 billion to the National Institutes of Health to support research and clinical trials related to the long-term effects of COVID-19 and the development of rapid diagnostics
  • $10 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants to provide immediate assistance to childcare providers and $250 million for Heat Start
  • $54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, formula funding to address learning loss, improve school facilities including infrastructure to reduce transmission of coronavirus, and educational technology.
  • $4.1 billion for the Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund for education-related pandemic assistance, including a set-aside of $2.75 billion for private schools.
  • $22.7 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, including to support technology costs due to the shift to online learning, financial aid, and providing for lost revenue.
  • $7 billion to expand broadband access for students, families, and unemployed workers.
  • $100 million to support farmers and farmers markets impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions and eligibility for loans and grants to farmers markets and food producers, processors, and distributors to respond to COVID-19, including measures to protect workers.

New Smithsonian museums

Smithsonian Castle in spring
Smithsonian Castle in spring. Photo by Joe Flood on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The bill also establishes two new museums within the Smithsonian Institution:

  • A comprehensive women’s history museum for “the collection and study of, and the establishment of programs relating to, women’s contributions to various fields and throughout different periods of history that have influenced the direction of the United States.”
  • The National Museum of the American Latino “to illuminate the story of the United States for the benefit of all by featuring Latino contributions; and to provide for the collection, study, research, publication, and establishment of exhibitions and programs relating to Latino life, art, history, and culture.”

The latter provision also calls for new grant programs—to be administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services—for programs, internships, fellowships, and other activities for Latino museums across the country.

Additional Information:

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