Just in time for Christmas, Congress delivered a pandemic relief package — including everything from $600 stimulus payments for most adults and children to $300 a week in extra unemployment payments and a long-sought Navajo water rights deal to help provide running water and adequate supplies on the tribe’s reservation.
“The legislation extends federal unemployment benefits, provides emergency relief for small businesses and supports health care providers and vaccine distribution,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, who helped lead a rank-and-file bipartisan group of senators that worked out much of the package and prodded leaders into passing it. “Thousands of Americans are in dire need of the lifeline this legislation provides.”
But President Donald Trump threw the long awaited deal into uncertainty Tuesday evening, when he criticized the package as a “disgrace,” and called it “wasteful and unnecessary.”
Just-defeated Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, voted for the bill. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, missed the vote as he is recovering from a stroke. But Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Reps. Chris Stewart and John Curtis voted against it.
Lee complained the relief — combined with a $1.4 trillion bill to cover government spending through September — was “bursting at the seams with special interest handouts slipped into 5,593 pages of legislative text in the dark of night. No one who voted for this bill read it. This process has not overcome Washington dysfunction; it is Washington dysfunction.”
Also as a disappointment to Lee, the bill funds new Smithsonian museums for women and Latino history — which Lee singlehandedly had blocked earlier this month saying they would lead to further division in the nation, and should be handled as part of the American Museum of History.
Following is a look at some of the key provisions for Utahns in the package:
Stimulus payments: A $600 payment is set to go to individuals who had adjusted gross incomes on last year’s taxes of up to $75,000 a year. Reduced checks would go to individuals making up to $87,000 a year.
Payments of $1,200 would go to married couples with adjusted gross incomes of less than $150,000 a year. Reduced checks, on a sliding scale, would go out to married couples who earn up to $174,000. Married couples also would receive an additional $600 for every child under 17.
People who file as a “head of household” (usually single parents with children) are eligible for a $600 check if they have an adjusted gross income up to $112,500 a year, plus they may receive an additional $600 per child under 17. Reduced checks on a sliding scale would be available for heads of household earning up to $124,500 annually.
Most Americans would receive the payment via direct deposit, but the IRS would send a paper check if it does not have bank details or if people closed the account that the IRS has on file.
Unlike earlier stimulus checks, mixed immigration status families will be eligible for this payment. Anyone in the family who is a U.S. citizen or has a “valid identification number” listed on their tax return will be eligible for the payment.
Unemployment assistance: It provides an extra $300 a week in extra federal aid on top of traditional state unemployment benefits through March 14. It also extends Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to gig workers and self-employed individuals.
Paycheck Protection Program: The bill included $284.5 billion to allow a second forgiveable PPP loan to the hardest-hit businesses and non-profits.
Businesses may not have more than 300 employees and must have at least a 25% reduction in revenues in at least one quarter in 2020 compare to previous quarters. Also, businesses that received a first PPP loan must have used, or plan to use, the full amount.
Nutrition assistance: The bill raises SNAP benefits, as food stamps are formally known, by 15% for six months but would not expand eligibility.
The deal also would send $400 million to food banks and food pantries through The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
Rental assistance: It provides $25 billion for rental assistance.
Eligible renters may receive assistance with rent and utility payments, unpaid rent or utility bills that have accumulated since the beginning of the pandemic, and other housing expenses that were incurred due, directly or indirectly, to the pandemic.
Congressional information sheets say, “Renters would apply for assistance with entities that state and local grantees select to administer the program. Once a renter qualifies for assistance, the administering entity would send the payment directly to the landlord.”
COVID-19: The bill provides $42.5 billion for vaccines, distribution of them, therapeutics, testing and contact tracing.
Navajo water rights settlement: The bill contains a long-sought deal. “The Navajo Nation,” Romney said, “will finally have access to running water.
Transportation: It includes $45 billion for transportation in including $16 billion in support for the airline industry.
Education: It contains $82 billion to support schools during the pandemic.
‘Save our stages’: It includes $15 billion for grants to theaters, museums and cinemas who demonstrate a 25% or greater revenue reduction.
Rural broadband: The bill has $300 million to improve broadband technologies, including for communities in rural Utah.
Moab uranium mill tailings: It contains $47.8 million for remedial action.
Miracle Mountain: The legislation includes a provision pushed by the Utah delegation to designate a mountain near Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge in Utah County as “Miracle Mountain,” a place where a damaging wildfire miraculously stalled.
E-cigarettes: It bans the online sales of e-cigarettes to children, a provision hailed by Romney.