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Medicine, rent, childcare: what will change the new assistance package in connection with COVID-19

After months of unsuccessful negotiations, the U.S. Congress has voted for an almost $ 900 billion coronavirus relief package to help American businesses and families affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Writes about it Financial Times.

Photo: Shutterstock

Details of the sweeping stimulus proposals, the second-largest economic aid package in U.S. history, were released Monday afternoon, December 21, hours before scheduled votes in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Republican-controlled Senate.

The Covid-19 relief package is part of a much larger appropriation bill funding the federal government, and the huge, $ 2,5 trillion consolidated law spans nearly 5600 pages. Once approved by Congress, it must be signed by President Donald Trump. Officials at the White House have said Trump will sign the bill.

Key principles to stimulate the economy were announced, including a nearly $ 285 billion extension of the Wage Protection Program, an incentive designed to convince small businesses not to lay off workers; a new round of direct payments of up to $ 600 for American adults; and a $ 300 per week co-payment on unemployment insurance until mid-March.

But there are dozens of other provisions providing support for everyone from child care providers and renters to airlines.

Surprise medical bills

The "No Surprises Act" includes provisions prohibiting unexpected medical bills that are issued in the United States when patients receive care from doctors or hospitals that are not part of their private health insurance network. People sometimes face these unforeseen expenses after visiting an emergency room.

Lawmakers on both sides have tried for years to tackle the surprise billing problem but have faced stiff opposition from well-funded healthcare providers and insurance companies.

The latest bill ensures that patients pay no more than if the medical services they received were provided by a doctor or hospital covered by their insurance, and sets up an arbitration system to determine who pays the remainder of the bill.

On the subject: US Congress approves financial aid package in connection with COVID-19: details

Colleges, schools and kindergartens

While local authorities in different parts of the country have taken different approaches to reopening schools and universities amid the Covid-19 pandemic, American classrooms have generally remained closed this year, unlike European ones. Many school administrators said they lacked funds to implement health and safety protocols that would keep students and teachers safe.

The coronavirus relief package is providing $ 82 billion in funding for colleges and schools, including money to repair and replace heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to curb the spread of Covid-19. The bill also includes $ 10 billion in childcare assistance to help parents of young children and child care providers.

Rental assistance

The $ 2,2 trillion CARES Act passed in March put in place protections against evictions of people living in federally subsidized housing or late fees for failing to pay rent.

The latest bill extends the eviction moratorium until the end of January and goes even further, including additional $ 25 billion in rental assistance to state and local governments. State and local governments, in turn, are expected to provide financial assistance to eligible households to help them pay rent, rent arrears, utilities and other household expenses associated with the pandemic.

Airlines and public transport

The CARES Act gave airlines $ 50 billion in exchange for companies not firing people throughout the summer. However, tens of thousands of workers were laid off when the scheme ended on Oct. 1 as airlines grapple with falling demand for their services.

The bailout package includes an additional $ 16 billion for the aviation industry, again assuming companies will refrain from laying off or cutting workers' wages. The funds can only be used to pay salaries and employee benefits until the end of March.

The bill also includes billions of dollars in other transportation-related projects and industries, including $ 10 billion for highways, $ 2 billion for intercity buses and $ 2 billion for airports.

Energy

The Consolidated Bill contains some of the most important energy laws passed in recent years, including critical democratic legislative priorities to combat climate change and encourage investment in the renewable energy sector.

It extends a critical tax incentive for solar energy developers, known as the manufacturing tax credit, by one year, and a similar tax credit requested by wind energy developers by two years. Both were due to expire later this year and are viewed by analysts as vital to support investment in the sector.

The bill calls for $ 35 billion in energy research and development over the next 10 years, with funding focused on wind and solar technologies, batteries, advanced nuclear power and carbon capture.

It also calls for a reduction of 2035 percent in the use of hydrofluorocarbons (a powerful greenhouse gas commonly used in air conditioning and heating systems) by 85.

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Business expenses

Large statutes in the United States are sometimes compared to a Christmas tree because of all the decorative and seemingly unrelated provisions that are added to them.

The move, which has surprised both parties, includes a provision allowing businesses to deduct corporate food and beverage expenses entirely from their federal taxes.

Trump has long advocated the measure, saying it would help a shaky restaurant industry, but economists have questioned the claim. Critics argue that the president's “three martini dinner” tax break would cut tax bills for big business, not money-starved Americans.

On Sunday, December 20, the Washington Post reported that Democrats agreed to include the provision in exchange for expanding earned income tax credits for low-income families.

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