Congress Passes Major COVID Relief Bill

Dec 22, 2020

Last night (Monday, December 21), Congress passed a $900-billion COVID relief bill in combination with the $1.4 trillion FY 2021 budget. The House and Senate voted 359-53 and 92-6, respectively, in favor of the bill. It now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it.

The legislation includes vital support for Illinois’ creative sector during this challenging time of COVID. Examples of major provisions:

  • $15 billion dedicated to grants to eligible live venue operators, live performing arts organizations, and museums. The funding prioritizes those with the largest revenue losses first but ensures that at least 20% of the funds are open to all eligible grantees.
  • $284 billion for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans to help creative small businesses and arts nonprofits meet payroll and other operating costs. The PPP funding includes a set aside for loans through community financial institutions, which serve particularly hard-hit communities.
  • Extension of pandemic unemployment benefits – both regular (Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation) and for gig workers (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) – by 11 weeks, to March 14, 2021.
  • Reinstatement of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) for 11 weeks, December 26, 2020 to March 14, 2021, providing $300/week (previously $600/week) in additional, federally funded unemployment benefits.
  • Direct stimulus payments up to $600 per adult and $600 per child.
  • Extension of the eviction moratorium until January 31, 2021, as well as $25 billion in new funding for rental assistance.
  • $82 billion for colleges and schools, as well as $7 billion to help millions of students and families access broadband internet.
  • FY 2021 budget of $167.5 million each for the NEA and NEH, an increase of $5.25 million per agency. The Institute of Museum and Library Services receives a $5 million increase to a FY 2021 budget of $257 million.

The bill does not, however, provide any funds to state and local governments to help offset COVID-caused revenue losses. Without this aid, Illinois will likely need to make additional major budget cuts, potentially including cuts to state arts funding.

There is still much more work ahead. The above provisions will provide vital support urgently needed by Illinois artists, creative businesses, and arts nonprofits; but we know it is not nearly enough. Arts Alliance Illinois is committed to advocate for additional, stronger relief under the new administration.

Stay tuned for more information. We are reviewing the details of the 5,593-page bill and look forward to providing you further explanation at the January 7th webinar! Sign up here. 

– Jonathan VanderBrug, Deputy Director of Civic Engagement