Congress Struggles to Complete COVID-19 Aid Package for Inclusion in Multi-Trillion Omnibus Funding Bill
Congressional leaders will work through the weekend in an effort to reach agreement on an omnibus bill that would attach approximately $900 billion in coronavirus relief to a $1.4 trillion bill to fund the government until Oct. 1, 2021 – the final piece of legislation in the lame-duck session. Another short-term stopgap measure needs to be passed before midnight tonight to extend current funding, prevent a partial government shutdown and allow more time for Congress to complete the omnibus negotiations. (BGov, Dec. 18 and Deloitte Tax News and Views, Dec. 18)
- Republicans and Democrats have inched toward a deal on a coronavirus relief package this week that currently includes $600 in direct payments for individuals, $300 for enhanced weekly unemployment benefits, aid to small businesses, distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine and other measures. (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 18 and Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 11)
- A bipartisan group of US Senators on Dec. 14 released text of the Bipartisan Emergency COVID Relief Act of 2020, which is under negotiation by House, Senate and White House policymakers – see section-by-section summary and draft text of the bill.
- The Act includes $25 billion for residential rental assistance, augmented unemployment insurance benefits, a scaled-down Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – as well as money for vaccine development, supply, and testing and tracing programs.
- The bill also provides for emergency rental assistance, which may soften the impact of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) moratorium that expires Dec. 31.The Act would also extend the moratorium through Jan. 31, 2021. Landlords/owners could assist or apply for rental assistance on behalf of renters.
- Politico reported this week that state and local funding and a business liability shield would be excluded from the final bill, although talks remain in flux. (Politico, Dec. 16)
- Extended troubled debt restructuring (TDR) relief is also currently not included in the package. (Roundtable Weekly, Nov. 13)
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KT) said today, "I am even more optimistic now than I was last night that a bipartisan, bicameral framework for a major rescue package is close at hand. Like I’ve said, the Senate will be right here until an agreement is passed, whenever that may be." (NBC News, Dec. 18)
- Disagreements continue among policymakers about the Fed's emergency lending programs, stimulus check eligibility and the use of disaster relief funds. (Politico, Dec. 17 and CQ, Dec. 18)
The Roundtable and 12 national real estate organizations this week sent President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris several policy options for COVID-19 relief, as well as recommendations aimed at long-term challenges – see story below for details.
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Real Estate Industry Congratulates Incoming Biden Administration, Offers Policy Recommendations
The Roundtable and 12 national real estate organizations this week congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their historic election and submitted detailed policy recommendations to the incoming administration in the areas of COVID-19 relief, sustainability, housing, immigration, tax policy, and infrastructure, as well as others.
- The industry's Dec. 16 letter acknowledges the many economic and social challenges confronting the country as President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris prepare to take office, including the national response to COVID-19. The letter and supporting policy memo were also sent to every congressional office on Capitol Hill.
- The economic impact of commercial real estate is far-reaching, wrote the organizations. America’s commercial real estate is worth between $14.4 and $17 trillion, and directly supports 13.6 million jobs. The ownership and transfer of real estate generates over 70% of local tax revenue. Pension funds, schools, and charities have invested nearly $800 billion in real estate.
- The submission describes how struggles caused by COVID-19 are affecting real estate-related workers and putting pressure on small businesses, financial institutions, property values, retirement savings, and local governments. At the same, time, the organizations noted how the real estate industry is contributing to the reopening process and is prepared to help lead the economic recovery. “We pledge the support, collaboration, and collective ‘on the ground’ experience of our members so that, together, we can get past the immediate crisis and continue building healthy communities for generations of Americans,” wrote the 13 organizations.
- The organizations’ letter offers several recommendations for COVID-19 relief (direct relief, state and local fiscal assistance, rental assistance, liability safeguards, debt restructurings, and others) as well as recommendations aimed at long-term challenges (pandemic risk insurance, infrastructure investment, retrofitting aging buildings to optimize energy efficiency, housing affordability, immigration reform, etc.). The recommendations are then described in greater detail in the supporting policy memo accompanying the letter.
- “We also recognize that the pandemic has magnified systemic inequalities, and are committed to ‘build back better’ in a manner that addresses the disproportionate hardships endured by minority and low-income households and communities from the fallout of COVID-19,” the organizations stated.
- The letter emphasized that the industry is committed to a “nonpartisan approach to public policy” that is “focused on contributing data and fact-based analysis that improves policymakers’ understanding of how their decisions will affect real estate, jobs and communities, and the overall economy.”
The industry’s policy agenda, and its anticipated initiatives with the new Administration and Congress, will be a focus on Jan. 26-27 at The Roundtable’s State of the Industry Meeting and Policy Advisory Committee Meetings (all virtual).
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