The $2 trillion stimulus package that now appears headed for congressional approval contains a variety of provisions that would offer help to Maryland, from unemployment benefits to small business loans, from extended unemployment benefits to direct payments to taxpayers.
The package also would help hospitals that are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and several hard-hit industries, such as the hotel business and the airline industry, welcome news for companies like Marriott and Southwest Airlines that are economic mainstays of the state.
Here’s a look at some of the key components:
Help for individuals
The package would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. Amounts begin phasing out at $75,000 for individuals, $150,000 per couple.
It also provides $260 billion for emergency unemployment insurance, a godsend for states like Maryland that expect their unemployment insurance funds to be swamped. The package includes extra weeks of coverage for people who have exhausted existing benefits, covers part-time, self-employed, gig economy workers and contains a weekly benefit increase of up to $600.
The plan also extends federal deadline for people getting driver’s licenses with enhanced security features, called REAL ID, from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021.
Some $350 billion in aid is included in the package for small businesses. For companies with 500 employees or fewer, loans may be forgiven if company retains workers. There’s also $17 billion to help small businesses repay existing loans and $10 billion for grants up to $10,000 for small businesses to pay operating costs.
Michael O’Halloran, state director of National Federation of Independent Business, said he’s optimistic the stimulus package will keep small businesses afloat. What’s proposed by Congress, he said, will help address the largest challenge faced by small businesses during the outbreak.
“The single biggest issue for small businesses right now is cash flow,” O’Halloran said.
An important detail included in the bill, he said, is the payroll protection provision that makes small business loans in the package forgivable. Arguably as important, he said, is the allowance for loan funds to be used to pay expenses like vendors and rent.
“Which is frankly just as important as keeping people on the payroll” he said.
State, local government
There’s $150 billion for state and local government plus a $45 billion provision for a disaster relief fund to reimburse state and local governments for medical response, community services, other safety measures.
While Maryland officials are still examining the details of the stimulus package, Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday he has concerns that it is shortchanging the states.
“We still need more resources directed to the states, who are on the frontlines of this crisis,” Hogan said. “It’s not enough for us or for other states.”
Hogan said governors plan to push the Trump administration to provide more aid, and he said he would seek approval for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse the Maryland National Guard for the costs incurred in responding to the coronavirus.
There’s up to $50 billion for passenger airlines, $8 billion for cargo carriers and $17 billion for “businesses critical to maintaining national security.”
Companies accepting loans may not repurchase outstanding stock and must maintain their employment levels as of March 13, 2020 “to the extent practicable.” The proposal would bar raises for two years to executives earning over $425,000 annually.The governor said that the package out of the senate this morning had about $150 billion in it to help states cover what they have already laid out.
Southwest Airlines, which in 2018 captured nearly 67% of the market share at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, declined to comment on the stimulus package that reportedly includes $50 billion in funds to bailout passenger airlines.
“We have not seen the final language, so it would be premature to offer comment on the ramifications to our industry and our company. We appreciate our federal leaders in Washington for coming together to provide assistance to our country and those who need it in this time of crisis,” a spokesman wrote in an emailed response to a request for an interview, and deferred to the tradegroup Airlines for America.
Last week Airlines for American issued a letter addressed to leaders in Congress urging them to pass a bipartisan stimulus measures to protect the jobs of 750,000 employees who work directly for the nation’s airlines.
“Unless worker payroll protection grants are passed immediately, many of us will be forced to take draconian measures such as furloughs. The breadth and immediacy of the need to act cannot be overstated. It is urgent and unprecedented,” ” according to the letter signed by the heads of the nation’s major airliners including Southwest’s CEO and Chairman Gary Kelly.
The sprawling, 500-page-plus measure is the third coronavirus response bill produced by Congress and by far the largest. It builds on efforts focused on vaccines and emergency response, sick and family medical leave for workers, and food aid.
To provide transparency, the package is expected to create a new inspector general and oversight board for the corporate dollars, much as was done during the 2008 bank rescue, officials said.
While many provisions of the package have yet to emerge, congressional leaders and staff identified these highlights:
Other provisions include:
- Education: $31 billion. Includes $13.5 billion for states to distribute to local schools and programs, $14 billion to help universities and colleges.
- Coronavirus treatments: $27 billion for research and development of vaccines and treatments, stockpiling medical supplies.
- Transportation: Includes $25 billion for public transit systems; $10 billion for publicly owned commercial airports, intended to sustain 430,000 transit jobs; $1 billion for Amtrak.
- Veterans: $20 billion, including $16 billion for treating veterans at VA facilities; $3 billion for temporary and mobile facilities.
- Food and agriculture: $15.5 billion for food stamps; $14 billion for supporting farm income and crop prices; $9.5 billion for specific producers including specialty crops, dairy and livestock; $8.8 billion child nutrition. Money for food banks, farmers’ markets.
- Defense: $10.5 billion for Defense Department, including $1.5 billion to nearly triple the 4,300 beds currently in military hospitals; $1.4 billion for states to deploy up to 20,000 members of National Guard for six months; $1 billion under Defense Production Act to help private industry boost production of medical gear. Money cannot be used to build President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along Mexican border.
- Social programs: Includes $3.5 billion in grants for child care and early education programs; $1 billion in grants to help communities address local economic problems; $900 million in heating, cooling aid for low-income families; $750 million for extra staffing for Head Start programs.
- Economic aid to communities: $5 billion in Community Development Block Grants to help state and local governments expand health facilities, child care centers, food banks and senior services; $4 billion in assistance for homeless people; $3 billion for low-income renters; $1.5 billion to help communities rebuild local industries including tourism, industry supply chains, business loans; $300 million for fishing industry.
- Native American communities: $2 billion for health care, equipment schools and other needs.
- Diplomacy: $1.1 billion, including $324 million to evacuate Americans and diplomats overseas; $350 million to help refugees; $258 million in international disaster aid; $88 million for the Peace Corps to evacuate its volunteers abroad.
- Elections: $400 million to help states prepare for 2020 elections with steps including expanded vote by mail, additional polling locations.
- Arts: $150 million for federal grants to state and local arts and humanities programs; $75 million for Corporation for Public Broadcasting; $25 million for Washington, D.C., Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
- Congress: $93 million, including $25 million for the House and $10 million for the smaller Senate for teleworking and other costs; $25 million for cleaning the Capitol and congressional office buildings.
The Associated Press and Daily Record reporters Adam Bednar and Bryan P. Sears contributed to this story.