New stimulus bill: What is different from the previous COVID-19 relief fund?

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — There’s more money on the way to Coloradans’ schools and pockets, but not as much as March and not by the same means.

U.S. Senators and representatives approved a $900 billion stimulus package they struck after months of negotiations.

The new stimulus bill is less than half the size of the $2.3 trillion CARES Act but more direct. The new package skips the $150 billion to state and local governments the CARES Act provided, and instead increases the amount going directly to schools. And while it does give direct payments of only $600 instead of $1,200, it also includes things like direct rental assistance, though this is only a fraction of the direct payments.

The most notable difference between this bill and the CARES Act concerns state and local government funding. The CARES Act included $150 billion of such funding to be doled out to states based on population. This bill has none at all.

That isn’t to say Colorado itself will lose funding it had previously under the CARES Act. It’s more accurate to say the funding is shifted under the new bill’s structure.

The CARES Act was broken into a dozen different spending brackets. Each targeted a different public or economic section.

The direct payments of $1,200 totaled $290 billion, nationally. Only small business loans and big business protections were larger sections of the CARES Act.

By contrast, state spending was a smaller portion of the CARES Act than other brackets. States and local government only got $150 billion.

Colorado received about $2.2 billion of this and spent over half on K-12 and higher education – about $1 billion in total.

This money is absent from the new bill, but Colorado schools could potentially see the same amount. The only difference is it will be direct from the federal government instead of the state.

The new bill includes $82 billion in direct education funding. If Colorado gets a share of that in proportion to its percentage of U.S. population, it will come out to $1.2 billion – roughly equal to the CARES Act.

Direct-to-American payments are smaller than in March. The new bill does cut direct payments to Americans making less than $75,000, or $166 billion total. It also cut federal unemployment payments in half, from $600 a week to $300 a week.

Other items stay the same. The bill revives $284 billion for small business grants and loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, which now includes more business types than under the CARES Act.

The cuts make room to fund the pandemic’s end game with $69 billion for vaccine procurement and distribution, already under way across the country.

Also new to COVID relief spending is $25 billion the federal government will give to state and local governments for rent assistance. Earlier protections against evictions will expire. The extent of rent protection’s will remain to be seen, as Colorado’s share of the total would amount to $375,000,000.

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