What new stimulus package means for Arizona, nation

Congress approved a new $1.9 trillion stimulus package Wednesday to help carry the nation through the final stage of the pandemic. Out of that, Arizona expects to receive about $12 billion for aid to businesses, schools, families and others still struggling from pandemic shutdowns and disruptions. 

After several hours of testimony on the House floor, the measure, which was passed by the Senate on Saturday, was approved along party lines, 220-211, with all Democrats in support. Passage of the bill comes as expanded unemployment benefits are set to expire Sunday.  

President Joe Biden issued a statement celebrating the bill’s passage, saying he is ready to sign it into law. 

“This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation — the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going — a fighting chance,” Biden said.  

Main Street support

Corporate America and Arizona business leaders expressed reservations about the bill’s size and scope.

“The business community and state leaders will be poring over this bill in the coming days to better understand all of its implications,” said Garrick Taylor, interim president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “This bill, obviously, contains more than just targeted spending directly related to the fallout of the pandemic, but its inclusion of public health funding and tools to end the scourge of this pandemic once and for all is welcomed. Widening and accelerating the distribution of the vaccines is essential to relieving the pressure on our healthcare system and getting the broader economy back to full strength.”

Here’s what’s in the rescue plan

Here’s what the American Rescue Plan Act means for businesses, schools, families and others still struggling from pandemic shutdowns and disruptions. 

Restaurants, bars and food service providers: A dedicated relief fund of $28.6 billion is intended to help small and mid-sized restaurants, bars, caterers, food trucks, breweries and other food service providers in need of assistance with rent and operational expenses. It provides grants of up to $10 million per entity with a maximum of $5 million per location based on the difference between 2020 and 2019 revenue. 

Small businesses low-interest loans: The package provides $15 billion to the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program for small businesses to receive to low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Advances for small businesses of up to $10,000 may be converted to grants if used to cover business’s operating expenses. The smallest companies, those with fewer than 10 employees, will be given priority for some of the funding.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): Provides an additional $7.25 billion for the PPP program. Expands eligibility to 501(c) nonprofits (except 501c4) and larger nonprofits, as well as internet-only news and periodical publishers. However, the Act does not extend the PPP’s current application period, which closes on March 31.

Voluntary tax credits for employers: A provision in the package offers tax credits for employers who voluntarily provide paid sick and family leave pay for people who are sick, quarantined or caring for a sick relative or child. 

Reauthorizes state Small Business Credit Initiative Act of 2010: Provides $10 billion to support small business financing to be expended by September 30, 2030. 

Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA): Provides $3 billion for competitive technical, planning, and public works and infrastructure assistance to regions experiencing adverse economic impacts. Available until September 30, 2022.

Payroll Support Program (PSP): Provides $14 billion to air carriers and $1 billion to contractors. 

Extended and expanded unemployment benefits: Unemployed workers will receive an additional $300 to their weekly benefit through Sept. 6. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program in the plan also provides benefits not only to traditional W-2 workers but also to independent contractors, gig workers and freelancers affected by the pandemic. 

Tax-free unemployment benefits: The first $10,200 of benefits is non-taxable for households with incomes under $150,000. Additionally, the act provides a 100 percent subsidy of COBRA health insurance premiums to ensure that the laid-off workers can remain on their employer health plans at no cost through the end of September.

Families and individuals: The bill provides direct payments of $1,400 to individuals earning up to $75,000 a year and families earning up to $150,000. Individuals who make under $80,000 and families that earn under $160,000 also will receive a smaller amount. 

Tax credits for children: Qualifying families with children 6 and under will be able to claim a larger tax credit of $3,600 per child and $3,000 for each child under 18 for 2021. 

Housing assistance and mortgage and rent relief: Approximately $40 billion will go for housing assistance, including $21.5 billion to be divided up among state and local governments to help low-income households with rent and mortgage assistance and utility bills.

The plan also provides $350 billion in aid to state and local governments; $170 billion for K-12 schools, colleges and universities to reopen; and over $100 billion for health care, including COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution. 

What’s not in the package

Minimum wage hike: A controversial measure to raise the minimum wage did not survive an earlier version of the rescue plan. The measure would have more than doubled the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 in increments over the next four years. The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the proposal did not meet requirements for a reconciliation bill. Expect the issue to come up in a separate bill later on. 

Arizona to receive an estimated $12 billion in aid 

An analysis by the Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) estimates that  the state should receive about 2 percent of the stimulus package, or $12.3 billion, excluding the extended unemployment benefits.

Included is funding for projects that will help economic development across the state, including rural communities that have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, said Carrie Kelly, executive director of the Arizona Association for Economic Development.

“There’s $690 million in transportation and $145 million in broadband and connectivity funding for Arizona that will help bridge the digital divide and create infrastructure jobs,” Kelly said. “Additionally, the $2.6 billion that Arizona local governments will receive helps those rural communities that need it most.”
To read the bill in full, visit: The American Rescue Plan

Victoria Harker

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