Federal COVID Relief Bill

December 22, 2020

- By Jonathan Schreiber

On December 21, Congress passed the latest COVID-19 relief bill. NAR has worked hard advocating for several of the key provisions of the bill and has a detailed breakdown of the bill available online. Here are brief explanations on some of the key elements and their impact on Massachusetts:

Direct Stimulus Payments

$600 direct stimulus payments to most Americans and dependents.

Unemployment Add-On

An additional $300 weekly unemployment benefit from December 26, 2020, through March 14, 2021.

Unemployment for Independent Contractors

Program Continued – The new law increases the number of eligible weeks from 39 to 50 and moves the end date from December 26, 2020, to March 14, 2021. There is also a phase-out period where individuals who apply for the program before March 14 and have not yet received benefits for their total number of eligible weeks can continue receiving benefits through April 5, 2021.

Income Documentation – The new law requires PUA claimants to provide income documentation rather than self-attestation. New claimants after January 1, 2021, will have 21 days to provide this information. Continuing claimants will have 90 days from enactment to provide this documentation. PUA recipients, keep an eye out for updates from the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance on how to provide this documentation.

Eviction Moratorium Extension

The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) eviction moratorium that was set to expire on December 31, 2020, has been extended through January 31, 2021. This moratorium prevents evictions for non-payment by qualified tenants who submit a written declaration to their property owners. It is expected that Massachusetts courts will continue to accept filings, process cases, and enter judgments, but will not issue orders of execution until after the CDC order expires, now on January 31, 2021.

Emergency Rental Assistance

$25 billion for a state and local grant program to assist with residential rental assistance and promote housing stability. Massachusetts is expected to receive $458 million under the program which can help cover rent and utility arrearages and limited prospective rent and utility costs. This will be a strong bolster to the $171 million in state funds currently allocated for this purpose through the Governor’s Eviction Diversion Initiative.

Eligibility – Aid under the program is available to households with incomes up to 80% of the area median, at least one member who lost their job or experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19, and at least one member who can demonstrate a risk of homelessness or housing instability. Priority will be given to households at up to 50% area median income and with at least one member who was unemployed for at least 90-days prior to the date of the application.

Application Process – Both property owners and renters can apply for assistance under this program. Property owners who apply on behalf of renters are required to have their renters sign the application and provide documentation that payments are being used to satisfy their obligations. Funds are generally paid directly to property owners on behalf of renters.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

$284.5 billion in new funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to provide loans for first- and second-time applicants.

Second Round Loan Eligibility – To qualify for a second PPP loan, applicants must have less than 300 employees (down from 500 for first-time applicants) and experienced revenue reductions of at least 25%. The loan amount for second-time applicants is capped at $2 million (down from $10 million).

Simplified Loan Forgiveness – The new law creates a simplified loan forgiveness application for loans of less than $150,000.

Eligible Expense Expansion – The new law expands the list of eligible expenses from payroll, rent, mortgage, and utility costs to include covered operations expenses such as software and cloud computing costs, property damage not covered by insurance due to public disturbances that occurred in 2020, certain supplier costs, and personal protective equipment (PPE) costs.

Tax Deductions – Another provision of the law permits businesses that receive PPP loans to take tax deductions for the expenses the loans cover.

Interaction with EIDL Program – The law removes the negative impact of the EIDL on PPP forgiveness, removing the requirement that PPP borrowers deduct their EIDL advance grant amount from their PPP forgiveness.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)

$20 billion in funding and an extension of the application period through December 31, 2021, for EIDL loans. The new law also gives existing EIDL advance grantees who received less than the maximum allowable amount of $10,000 to reapply for the difference between the amount they received and that cap.

Community Development Investment

$12 billion to support small lenders focused on low- and moderate-income and minority communities.

Broadband Expansion

$7 billion for broadband expansion.