December bill to bring COVID-19 relief to Florida

Florida families and businesses will soon receive COVID relief funds, thanks to a $900 billion package signed into law Dec. 27 by President Trump. The state also stands to get money to offset the economic strife brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

 

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The COVID relief bill is headlined by direct payments to Americans and the expansion and extension of unemployment benefits. Many Floridians have already received a stimulus payment of $600 from the Federal government. Any U.S. citizen or resident whose 2019 earnings were $75,000 or less — or $150,000 or less if a part of a jointly filing married couple — is eligible for the direct payment. They will also receive an additional $600 payment for any dependent under the age of 17.

Extended unemployment benefits from March’s CARES Act ended on Dec. 26. The newly passed COVID relief bill extends unemployment benefits and provides an additional $300 a week in benefits up to March 14. The additional federal benefits will be added to Floridians’ weekly benefit from the state, which maxes out at  $275 a week. Over 650,000 Floridians currently receive unemployment benefits.

At the federal level, the bill includes public health funding aimed at preventing further spread of coronavirus. The bill allocates $23 billion towards the purchase of vaccines, $9 billion in aid to local governments to fund vaccine distribution and $22 billion allocated to expand testing and contact tracing programs. Congress also transferred $3 billion from the U.S. Treasury to Medicare’s Supplementary Medical Insurance to fund a 3.75 percent increase in payments to physicians who provide services through Medicare.

The bill allocates over $280 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The program offers loans and grants to companies in an effort to prevent layoffs. Over 42,000 companies in Florida received $150,000 or more in loans through the PPP program in 2020.

Additional provisions will provide relief to many Florida-based farmers. For example, citrus and specialty crop farmers have been allocated over $200 million in supplemental payments. Florida’s yearly citrus production is second in the nation, behind California.