Relief package includes $600 direct payment

A sub-$150K household family of four would get $2,400

A new federal relief package approaching a long-awaited congressional vote will include direct “stimulus” payments of $600 to qualified adults and $600 per child.

The $900 billion package would invest $284 billion into the Paycheck Protection Program for small business loans, and include funds for loans from small and minority-owned lenders. The PPP is intended to help businesses keep their workforce employed.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin expects direct deposits of $2,400 for a family of four to begin arriving as soon as next week.

The $600 direct payments are to be paid to individuals making up to $75,000 per year and couples making $150,000 per year — with payments phased out for higher incomes —- with $600 additional payments per dependent child, the Associated Press has reported.

Also added would be a $300 federal unemployment supplement and temporary maintenance — until mid-March — of pandemic-era programs that expanded unemployment insurance eligibility.

Some key federal jobless benefits have been nearing expiration, including the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

Natalie Dunlevey, president of National Processing Solutions in Oakwood, called the PPP program a “bait and switch.” The money did help her and others keep employees on board at a difficult time, she said. But many business owners have been dismayed at the program’s tax implications.

The IRS has ruled that expenses covered by PPP loans can’t be deducted on 2020 tax returns. Some observers hope Congress addresses the issue in this latest relief package.

Chris Riegel, chief executive and founder of Dayton digital technology designer and manufacturer Stratacache, said COVID’s economic devastation has been “apocalyptic.”

“Washington expects America to heap praise on them for a $600 check while they give airlines $15 billion on top of the $25 billion already wasted,” Riegel said. “Our grandchildren’s children will be paying for this bailout while the government creates endless debt paving the way to a further economic collapse.”

PUA benefits provide up to 39 weeks of unemployment payments to those who are not usually eligible for regular state aid but lose work, through no fault of their own, in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Gig workers in particular were expected to benefit from PUA payments.

Kim Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), had noted that the state’s lower unemployment rate triggered federally mandated expirations in the federal programs, including PUA.

That unemployment rate had dropped to 5.6% in October from 8.3% in September. But since then, the October jobless rate has been revised upward to 6.1%, and the November unemployment rate of 5.7% has been released.

Questions were sent Monday to an ODJFS spokesman about how the package will affect Ohioans.

Other expected features of the bill: Rental assistance would be extended until Jan. 31, $20 billion would be made available for vaccine payment aid and an increase in SNAP funding — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly the food stamp program — of 15% is planned.

The package, if passed, would also deliver $54 billion to public K-12 schools affected by the pandemic and $23 billion for colleges and universities; with $4 billion awarded to a Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund.

It was unclear when a congressional vote would take place, but the expectation is that it would be Monday.

Bill Adams, PNC Financial senior economist, is forecasting that the unemployment rate will continue to fall in 2021, but at a slower pace than in the summer and fall of 2020.

“This is in part because many workers who exited the labor force due to fear of the virus or childcare pressures will start looking for jobs again when the pandemic abates and schools reopen,” Adams said in a note. “Since those people are not actively seeking jobs right now, they are not counted in November’s 6.7% unemployment rate.”

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and his Problem Solvers Caucus released a statement Sunday praising the relief package.

“Following months of deadlock in Congress while millions of Americans were at risk of losing their lifelines, we put our heads down and worked around the clock for nearly a month to produce a bipartisan, bicameral bill to address the emergency needs of our country,” said the statement released by Portman’s office. “We are relieved Congress has finally agreed on a COVID-19 emergency relief package.

“Our consensus bill was the foundation of this final package and we applaud Congressional leadership for finishing what we started,” the statement added. “Workers, businesses, and families need help right now and we urge our colleagues to quickly pass this bill and President Trump to immediately sign the legislation to provide Americans with relief.”

Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.

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