Sinema-Backed Coronavirus Response Package Providing Relief for Arizona Advances

Dec 21, 2020

Package includes Sinema’s priorities boosting resources for Arizona hospitals and health care workers; immediate assistance for Arizona families, small businesses, and workers; investment in broadband for Arizona students—
Relief legislation was shaped by Sinema and her colleagues’ bipartisan negotiations

WASHINGTON – A coronavirus response bill supported by Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema, which includes investments in Arizona’s hospitals and health care workers and immediate economic assistance for Arizona families, workers, and small businesses, is advancing toward a final vote. The package was shaped in part by bipartisan negotiations by Sinema and a group of her Senate colleagues.
“Today’s bipartisan agreement is a necessary next step providing critical support to Arizona families, employers, and front line health workers—and more must be done. As I’ve said for months, the only way to stop the spread of the coronavirus and save Arizona jobs is through bipartisan cooperation. I’ll continue working closely with Arizona communities and my colleagues in the Senate to secure additional relief and set Arizona up for a full economic recovery,” said Sinema.

Over the past few weeks, Sinema worked around-the-clock with a group of bipartisan Senators led by Senators Joe Manchin and Susan Collins to find areas of compromise on a coronavirus relief bill, keeping pressure on Congressional leaders to reach a deal. The Senators’ bipartisan proposal was an important step to break through partisan gridlock and deliver critical support to Arizonans. Sinema was also among a group of bipartisan negotiators who reached a final coronavirus relief compromise earlier this week.
Today’s coronavirus relief package includes the following priorities Sinema helped secure:
Increased Testing, PPE, and Vaccine Funding for Front Line Health Care Workers
The bipartisan bill includes $69 billion in health funding overall for vaccines, public health, and support for health care workers, with most funds going to states and localities to prioritize local needs such as: nursing home, congregate care settings, and home based care.
Vaccines: Nearly $20 billion is provided for the procurement of vaccines and treatments and $8.75 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lead efforts to distribute, monitor, and track coronavirus vaccine efforts, including $4.5 billion in direct aid to states, localities, and tribes. This includes $300 million specifically directed to ensure coronavirus vaccines reach high-risk and underserved rural and minority communities. 
PPE: More than $3 billion to restock the Strategic National Stockpile with personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensure Arizona has the masks, gloves, gowns, and other PPE to keep front line health workers and patients safe.
Testing/Tracking: More than $22 billion to states is included for testing, infection tracking, and other measures to slow the spread of the virus. $2.5 billion will be included specifically to meet the needs of underserved communities.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse: $4.5 billion will be dedicated for mental health programs and substance abuse programs, including for fighting the opioid epidemic.
Health Care Providers: The package includes $9 billion in support of health providers, including $3 billion for the Provider Relief Fund, to delay harmful cuts to providers caring for vulnerable populations (including Medicare sequestration and Disproportionate Share Hospital payments), and to increase payments to physicians.
Protecting Arizonans from Surprise Billing: Sinema also worked with a bipartisan group of colleagues to ban surprise medical bills, and provide a pathway for providers and insurers to work out disputed payments, without putting patients in the middle. A separate provision also eliminates Medicare copays for certain colorectal cancer screenings, which mirrors a bill Sinema has supported, the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act. The bill also extends Medicare coverage for immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplant patients, policy similar to the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act.
Extending Crucial Health Programs: Three year funding extensions for Community Health Centers, Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education, the Special Diabetes Program, the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, and the National Health Service Corps are included.
Addressing Arizona’s Provider Shortages: The legislation creates 1,000 new Graduate Medical Education (GME) slots nationwide to increase the number of physicians training in the United States. Sinema has championed a similar bill, the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act, which increases the number of medical training positions in areas with a physician shortage. Also included are provisions to support Arizona’s rural hospitals and providers, including promoting rural hospital GME opportunities to encourage new physicians to stay and practice in rural communities where they trained, and expanding access to rural health care and mental telehealth services (similar to provisions from the Sinema-backed CONNECT for Health Act).
Renewed Support for Small businesses
$325 Billion for small businesses: The legislation includes $284 billion for the PPP and set asides for very small businesses, $20 billion for new EIDL Grants for businesses in low-income communities, $3.5 billion for SBA debt relief, $15 billion for grants for shuttered venue operators, and $2 billion for enhanced SBA lending.
Expanded PPP eligibility: The bill makes 501(c)(6) nonprofits, including destination marketing organizations, local newspapers, and TV and radio broadcasters eligible for the PPP.
Second Draw PPP loans: The relief bill allows second draw loans for small businesses with 300 or fewer employees that suffered a decrease in revenues in any quarter of at least 25 percent.
Expands covered expenses: The bill includes operations, property damage, supplier costs, and worker and customer protections under covered expenses.
Protects deductibility of businesses expenses: The legislation instructs the IRS that small businesses can write off costs paid for with PPP loans.
Creates a grant program for shuttered venue operators: A new grant program will provide needed capital to live entertainment venues, performing arts centers, museums, and movie theaters forced to close or limit operations.
Streamlined forgiveness for Arizona’s smallest businesses: The legislation limits the forgiveness application to one page for those businesses with loans up to $150,000.
Continued Unemployment Insurance Assistance and Direct Payments to Arizona Families
The bill contains $286 billion to boost Unemployment Insurance and direct payments to ensure all eligible Arizonans get needed support to pay their bills and stay in their homes. 
Unemployment Insurance: The bill includes an extension of pandemic-related unemployment assistance, including the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUAA) program which provides UI benefits to the self-employed, freelancers, gig workers, and other part-time workers. It provides an additional $300 per week to supplement unemployment benefits, starting after December 26, 2020 and ending March 14, 2021. Both FPUC and PUA benefits will be available for a total of 50 weeks, instead of the previous maximum of 39 weeks.
Direct Payments: Eligible adults making up to $75,000 a year will receive a second round of stimulus payments of $600 each, couples making up to $150,000 a year will receive $1,200, and child dependents will be eligible for $600. Payments will phase out for higher incomes. Individuals with Social Security numbers in mixed status households will be newly eligible for stimulus payments, including those from the CARES Act. Importantly, the bill includes provisions similar to a bill championed by Sinema, the Automatic Cash Assistance Act to allow recipients of Social Security, railroad retirement, and veterans disability benefits to automatically receive stimulus payments.
Other Assistance: The package also includes $25 billion in rental assistance to help struggling Arizonans stay in their homes, $13 billion for emergency food assistance (including for food banks and senior meal programs), $10 billion to child care providers that working families depend upon, and $250 million for Head Start providers to safely serve low-income families.
Targeted Tax Relief for Arizona Businesses and Families:
Deferred Payroll Taxes: The legislation ensures that federal employees and servicemembers who had their payroll taxes temporarily deferred in 2020 according to the President’s executive order, will now have until December 31, 2020 to repay deferred amounts. 
Preventing Tax Increases for brewers, distillers, and wineries: Sinema was successful in including provisions of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act to protect Arizona small business owners, including the over 90 registered breweries in the state supporting nearly 44,000 Arizona jobs.
Investing in Distressed and Rural Communities: The bill includes a five year extension of the New Markets Tax Credit that Sinema supported (New Markets Tax Credit Extension Act).
Helping Workers Pay Back Student Loans: Includes provisions from the Sinema-backed Employer Participation in Repayment Act, to allow employers to provide student loan repayment benefits through 2025.
Extending Solar Credits: The legislation extends the 26 percent investment credit for solar projects that began construction by the end of 2022, and a 22 percent rate for solar projects that began construction by the end of 2023.
Expanding the ERTC: The relief bill extends and expands the CARES Act Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) to help more workers stay connected to the workforce and help more small businesses and nonprofits across the country.
Tax Relief for Families: Many families faced a significant drop in income or job loss in 2020, putting at risk money they had saved for health and child care expenses, as well as certain family tax benefits. The bill includes provisions from proposals supported by Sinema, the Dependent Care Expense Relief Act and the Fair FSAs Act to allow families to roll-over remaining funds from Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Dependent Care FSAs. The bill also allows eligible families to use their 2019 reported earned income to calculate their 2020 Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit in order to maximize their benefits.
Expanded Broadband Service for Arizona Students, Telehealth, Low-Income Families, and Rural and Tribal Communities
Increase Broadband Access and Affordability: The bill includes $7 billion to expand broadband access and help Arizonans stay connected.
Help Low-Income Arizonans Stay Connected: The legislation includes $3.2 billion for low-income families through a $50 or $75 monthly benefit to stay connected.
Supports Telehealth: The relief bill stablishes a $250 million grant program at the FCC to increase capabilities for telehealth providers.
Address Tribal Connectivity Challenges: The bill creates a $1 billion fund dedicated solely to address the significant challenges of connectivity for tribal communities.
Rural Broadband Expansion: The legislation establishes a $300 million for rural broadband expansion through public/private partnerships.
Supporting Arizona Transportation Workers and Strengthening State and Local Transportation Systems
Federal Investment for Transportation: The bill includes $45 billion for transportation priorities across multiple modes of transportation.
Rehire Aviation Workforce: Extends a federal CARES Act program that will allow employers to rehire aviation workers and protect aviation jobs through at least March 31, 2021.
Provides Support for Struggling Transit Systems: Dedicates $14 billion to support transit priorities and continue service for transit systems with fewer riders during the pandemic.
Airports and Airport Businesses: The bill dedicates $2 billion to support airports and airport concessionaires struggling due to decreased passenger traffic.
Continues State Highway Projects: The bill directs $10 billion to support state highways projects to improve infrastructure and boost employment.