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There’s a hidden benefit in the new stimulus bill you might not know about

Published Dec 22nd, 2020 8:03PM EST
New stimulus package
Image: Jason Raff/Adobe

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  • Congress finally approved a new stimulus package Monday that President Trump was expected to sign on Tuesday.
  • The new stimulus package includes benefits such as funding to support $600 stimulus checks, as well as more money for small business loans and unemployment aid.
  • The unemployment aid included in the new stimulus bill includes an extra $300/week in the federal benefit, and some workers may qualify for another $100 on top of that.

It’s finally here, after months of delay and disagreement, gridlock and inaction. Congress late Monday finally passed a $900 billion new stimulus package, packed with everything from funding for new stimulus checks to small business loans and funding to help with the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

Among the features of the bill that’s understandably getting some of the most attention is the funding for new direct payments to millions of Americans. These are the $600 stimulus checks you’ve probably heard about by now, which are a lot smaller than the $1,200 stimulus checks that were made possible by the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that Congress passed back in March. Nevertheless, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a CNBC interview on Monday that these checks would start to be distributed to Americans next week. And there are other benefits to be aware of, such as the additional aid for unemployed workers.

For the millions of Americans who’ve been filing for unemployment, likely as a result of a job change stemming from the ongoing pandemic, the COVID relief bill provides an extra $300 weekly federal benefit, as well as another $100/week boost for workers in states that choose to supply that extra money.

That extra help is meant to support workers who have wage income as well as self-employment earnings.

The fine print: If you earned at least $5,000 in self-employment income in 2019, you’re eligible for the extra $100. That benefit is effective starting December 27 through March 14 of next year.

There are somewhere between 10.5 million and 15 million independent contractors in the US right now, according to the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, told CNBC it’s not yet clear how states will decide who’s eligible for these new unemployment payments nor how they’ll be administered. “Workers affected by this will definitely need to reach out to their state agencies to find out the process,” she said.

What else is in the new stimulus package: Another key element of the bill is $284 billion for more Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses. Of that money, $15 billion will go to struggling live music venues as well as independent movie theaters, plus another $12 billion to minority-owned businesses. PPP eligibility has also been expanded to include nonprofits as well as local newspapers.

Also worth mentioning is $25 billion earmarked for rental relief, with the bill also extending the nationwide moratorium on rental evictions through January 31.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.