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Key Support Provided for Educators, Students, and Small Business Owners

December 22, 2020

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 133), which passed Congress yesterday, included $900 billion in further COVID-19 relief. ASHA worked to ensure that this legislation included key provisions to support K-12 schools and higher education institutions, enact reforms for student aid, and provide economic relief to audiologists and speech-language pathologists.

Key Schools Provisions

The bill includes $82 billion in grants for states and local districts, colleges and universities, and for governors to disburse to hard hit communities. The funding is part of an Education Stabilization Fund that includes:

  • $54 billion dedicated to K-12 education, which can be used for special education;
  • $23 billion dedicated to higher education; and
  • $4 billion for the CARES Act Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund.

The bill also includes $11 million each for Gallaudet University and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Student Aid Reforms

The bill will make reforms to the student aid system by reducing the number of questions on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) making it easier for students to apply—and qualify—for federal student aid and expanding outreach and awareness activities to encourage FAFSA completion, with a focus on low-income students and families. H.R. 133 also expands the Pell Grant Program making it easier for students to predict their eligibility. It is estimated this expansion will make more than 500,000 additional students eligible for Pell grants each year, and more than 1.5 million additional students will qualify to receive the maximum award.

Relief for Providers, Small Businesses, Independent Contractors, and Individuals

The bill requires the Treasury Department to clarify in guidance or regulation that educators can deduct the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE) they purchased as part of the $250 annual deduction for educators. The expansion to include PPE and “other supplies used for the prevention of the spread of COVID–19” will be retroactive to March 12, 2020, under the bill.

The bill provides $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), for both new loans and a second round of loans. The legislation includes language to simplify the loan forgiveness process and extend PPP eligibility for 501(c)(6) nonprofit organizations. It clarifies that forgiven PPP loans are not taxable, and that business expenses covered by PPP loans remain eligible tax deductions.

The bill includes $7 billion in funding for broadband connectivity, including $3.2 billion in emergency funds for low-income families to access broadband through a Federal Communications Commission fund. Under the program, eligible households may receive a discount of up to $50, or up to $75 on Tribal lands, off the cost of internet service and a subsidy for low-cost devices such as computers and tablets. The legislation adds $250 million for the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program that was created through the CARES Act.

The bill will renew the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program to provide an extra $300 per week to unemployed workers, through March 14th. The bill provides an extra $100 per week for individuals with both wage and contractor income whose base unemployment insurance benefit does not account for their contractor income.

The bill includes another round of direct economic impact payments of $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year and $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000 per year, as well as a $600 payment for each child dependent. The Treasury Department estimates that payments may begin as soon as the week of December 28th.

The bill will extend emergency paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave programs enacted under Families First Coronavirus Response Act through the end of March 2021.

Questions?

For questions related to schools, student aid, and providers and small business, please contact Eric Masten, ASHA’s director of federal affairs, education, at emasten@asha.org.


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