Monday | December 21, 2020

More Than A Dozen Scott Provisions Included in COVID Relief, Year End Funding, and Tax Bills

Health care, education, broadband, tax, housing and trade provisions all work to help American families and workers

Washington – More than a dozen provisions authored by U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) to help American families, students and workers are included as part of major COVID-19 relief, government funding, and tax packages currently before Congress.

“I am thrilled to have secured more than a dozen provisions helping South Carolina families and small businesses in the COVID-19 relief, government funding, and tax extender packages,” Senator Scott said. “Whether it’s improving educational access for students during the pandemic, providing more resources for small businesses to stay open and their workers to stay employed, increasing broadband access to aid with telehealth, or a number of other solutions, this is a great step forward. I will continue working to ensure access to opportunity for all through the pandemic and into the future.”

A summary of each provision, along with statements from Senator Scott, is below.

Health Care and the Fight Against COVID

The pandemic relief package provides the following resources for the fight against COVID-19:

  • $20 billion for the purchase of new vaccines
    • This will make the vaccine available at no charge for anyone who wants it
  • $8 billion for vaccine distribution
  • $20 billion to assist states with testing
  • $600 stimulus checks for both adults and dependents
  • Temporarily extends a number of CARES Act-created unemployment programs
    • Additional $300 a week for 10 weeks (through March 14, 2021)
    • Extends PUA through April 5, 2021
  • $10 billion to childcare centers to help with reopening
  • $4 billion to aid the fight against substance abuse, which has spiked during COVID-19
  • $25 billion in temporary and targeted rental assistance
    • Extends the eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021
  • $45 billion in transportation funding
  • $13 billion to support farmers and the agricultural sector

 
“The first wave of vaccines is here, and it is critical that we ensure their safe and speedy distribution,” Scott said. “We have billions directed to that goal, as well as relief for struggling American families through stimulus checks, expanded unemployment programs and rental assistance. The cavalry is coming, and this relief package provides an important bridge to the widespread distribution of vaccines as we enter 2021.”

Better Tools For Healthy Living Act (Scott provision)

Included in the government funding omnibus. Studies estimate more than 20% of medical spending in the United States can be attributable to obesity. This provision instructs the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to create a guide for effective strategies to help states and localities ramp up their efforts to prevent and combat obesity. The guide will emphasize initiatives with a track record of success in lowering health care costs and preventing harmful diseases. The legislation also instructs the CDC to provide technical assistance to state and local health departments, along with Indian tribes and tribal organizations, as they implement these strategies.

The Better Tools For Healthy Living Act is supported by the South Carolina Hospital Association and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.

“In order to truly improve our nation’s health care system, we must work to lower costs and strengthen preventive medicine,” Scott said. “Nearly 40 percent of American adults are obese, which shows just how important tackling this issue truly is.”

Increases Medicare beneficiary access to mental health services via telehealth (Scott provision)

Included in the government funding omnibus. Senator Scott wrote last week on the importance of telehealth access. From that column – “Unfortunately, even as we continue working to improve home broadband infrastructure, outdated federal laws and regulations continue to constrain patient access to telehealth services, especially for our older and more vulnerable populations. More than one million South Carolinians are enrolled in Medicare, where extensive restrictions on geographic location, distant and originating sites, provider-type, and services covered limit many seniors’ ability to take advantage of telehealth offerings.”


Secures relief from Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payment cuts for three years, protecting South Carolina's providers from grave reductions that would impede patient access to care (Scott priority)

Included in the government funding omnibus.

A provision to ensure continuity of access to home infusion drugs and biologics for seniors covered by Medicare. (Scott provision)

Included in the government funding omnibus.

Support for K-12 and College Students

The COVID-19 relief package contains $81.9 billion in total education-related relief.

Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund (GEER) and School Choice (Scott priority):

Included in the COVID-19 relief package. The package includes $4.1 billion for the Governors Emergency Relief Fund, specifically:

  • $1.35 billion for an overall GEER to aid schools
  • $2.75 billion specifically for non-public schools
    • Supplies to sanitize, disinfect, and clean school facilities;
    • Personal protective equipment
    • Improving ventilation systems, including windows or portable air purification systems to ensure healthy air in the non-public school
    • Training and professional development for staff on sanitation, the use of personal protective equipment, and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases
    • Physical barriers to facilitate social distancing;
    • Expanding capacity to administer coronavirus testing to effectively monitor and suppress coronavirus, to conduct surveillance and contact tracing activities, and to support other activities related to coronavirus testing for students, teachers, and staff at the non-public school;
    • Educational technology (including hardware, software, connectivity, assistive technology, and adaptive equipment) to assist students, educators, and other staff with remote or hybrid learning;
    • Redeveloping instructional plans, including curriculum development, for remote learning, hybrid learning, or to address learning loss;
    • Leasing of sites or spaces to ensure safe social distancing to implement public health protocols, including guidelines and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    • Reasonable transportation costs;
    • Initiating and maintaining education and support services or assistance for remote learning, hybrid learning, or to address learning loss

“COVID has left too many parents and their children without access to the educational environment they need,” Scott said. “The GEER provisions will ensure states have the ability to aid their students as they see necessary, which I believe will help more students find the best possible educational environment in these challenging times. Public, private, parochial, charter, virtual or homeschool – whatever is best for our students is where our resources should go, period.”

FAFSA Simplification, Support for HBCUs and Restoring Pell Grants (Scott provision with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Doug Jones (D-AL)):

Included in the government funding omnibus. 

  • Simplifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid:
    • Reduces total questions on the FAFSA from 108 questions to a maximum of 36 questions, building on last year’s FUTURE Act
    • Greatly reduces the Department of Education’s lengthy financial data verification process by instead using data from the Internal Revenue Service
    • Creates simpler Pell Grant eligibility guidelines for maximum and minimum awards, so many applicants will know if they will get a maximum or minimum grant to go to college
    • Enable san additional 555,000 students qualify for Pell grants each year; and enables an additional 1.7 million students to qualify to receive the maximum Pell grant award each year
  • Restores the ability for incarcerated individuals to get a Pell grant
  • Forgives outstanding debt of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with loans under the federal Capital Financing Loan Program
  • Repeals a requirement that limits how long students can borrow under the subsidized student loan program

“As we lay the groundwork for life after the pandemic, it is vital that we open every opportunity for every student to succeed,” Scott said. “Whether it be codifying a simpler FAFSA application or strengthening our nation’s HBCUs, building upon the FUTURE Act will pave the way for millions of low-income students to reach their full potential.”

Providing support to financial aid administrators as they assist families affected financially by the pandemic (Scott provision)

Included in the COVID-19 relief bill. 

  • Adds a “Special Rule Regarding Professional Judgment During a Disaster, Emergency, or Economic Downturn” that provides rules for financial aid administrators on how to adjust financial aid for students with zero income earned from work or unemployment in the family during specified time periods. This includes adjustments to program review selection by the Secretary during such time periods.
  • Prohibits institutions from maintaining a policy that denies all requests for adjustments under professional judgement.
  • Requires institutions to publicly disclose the option for a student to pursue a professional judgement.

Significant resources for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) (Scott priority)

Included in the COVID-19 relief bill. Approximately $1.7 billion is allocated for direct assistance to HBCUs as they continue to respond to the pandemic. 

Relief for Small Businesses and Non-Profits

The COVID-19 relief package contains:

  • $325 billion in relief for small businesses
    • $284 for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
      • Businesses previously receiving a PPP loan can apply for a second draw if they show revenue losses
    • $20 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)
    • $15 billion for live venues, movie theaters and concert venues
  • Streamlined PPP loan forgiveness for loans smaller than $150,000
  • $15 billion for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs)
  • Increased PPP loan calculations for the hospitality industry
  • Expansion of PPP eligible expenses to include PPE, operational costs and supplier costs

“Ensuring continued support for our small businesses is the most important thing we can do for our economy right now,” Scott said. “By increasing PPP funding, streamlining loan forgiveness and setting aside specific amounts for community-oriented financial institutions, countless jobs will be saved and small business owners will have more security through the winter.”

Resources for the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) (Scott provision)

Included in the COVID-19 relief bill. Approximately $25 million is included specifically for the MBDA, which provides grants to minority business centers to assist and provide guidance to all types of minority business enterprises.

“Minority-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs of color have been hit disproportionately hard during the pandemic,” Scott said. “This provision will provide the MBDA with critical resources to help folks get back on their feet.”

Extended and Expanded Charitable Giving Deduction (Scott provision)

Included in the tax package. This provision extends the deduction for 2021 and doubles the amount married couples filing a joint tax return can deduct for charitable giving from $300 to $600 for 2021. Additionally, this restructures the non-itemizer charitable deduction such that, although it can be claimed by non-itemizers, the deduction does not reduce adjusted gross income.

“Our non-profits, houses of worship, and community organizations have done amazing work through tremendously challenging circumstances this year,” Scott said. “We needed to step up and help them. By extending and increasing this new charitable giving deduction, these selfless folks will get more of the resources they need to continue their efforts to help those most in need.”

Codifying Houses of Worship Eligibility for PPP (Scott provision)

Included in the COVID-19 relief package. The Department of Treasury has released guidance providing a framework for houses of worship to access PPP loans, and this provision writes that guidance into law. This will also aid parochial schools.

“Our churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship are pillars of our communities,” Scott said. “Ensuring they are treated the same as other non-profits will help not just save jobs at these institutions, but provide emotional and faith-based support for families struggling with the effects of the pandemic.”

Local Commerce Revitalization Act (Scott provision)

Included in the COVID-19 relief package. This provision expands PPP eligibility for 501(c)(6) non-profits, such as Chambers of Commerce and Destination Marketing Organizations.

Support for Restaurants

Supporting America’s Restaurant Workers Act (Scott provision)

Included in the tax package. This provision provides a 100-percent deduction for business meal food and beverage expenses, including any carry-out or delivery meals, provided by a restaurant that are paid or incurred in 2021 and 2022. Currently, the deduction is available for only 50% of such expenses. This provision is supported by the National Restaurant Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association, and US Travel.

“The coronavirus pandemic has devastated our nation’s hospitality and restaurant industries, especially in my home state of South Carolina, and we must do everything we can to speed up this economic recovery,” Scott said. “My Supporting America’s Restaurant Workers Act is a pro-worker, pro-restaurant, and pro-small business bill that will lead to increased spending in restaurants and more income for staff. Commonsense solutions like my bill are no-brainers and will help save millions of restaurants across the nation from going under.” 

Broadband Expansion

Increased funding for broadband across the nation (Scott priority)

The COVID-19 relief package includes:

  • $7 billion in broadband funding
    • $300 million to expand rural broadband access
    • $250 million for telehealth
    • $2 billion to strengthen the security of our broadband infrastructure

“The pandemic has shown us just how critical it is that we close our nation’s digital divide,” Scott said. “We need to expand access to telehealth, connect the nearly 17 million students without access to quality internet, and continue to help our small businesses innovate. These investments are a great step in those directions.”

Connecting Minority Communities Act (Scott provision with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS))

Included in the COVID-19 relief package. This provision establishes an Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to focus on broadband access at Historically Black colleges or universities, Tribal colleges and universities, and other Minority-serving institutions, including the students, faculty, and staff of such institutions and their surrounding communities.  It also appropriates $285 million for a Pilot Program to award grants to these institutions and certain businesses and non-profit organizations in the community to support connectivity, and specifies that at least 20 percent of such funds should be used to ensure that students of such institutions have internet service and devices. 

“We must expand access to broadband to help underserved communities bridge the digital divide,” said Scott. “By harnessing the power of our HBCUs and creating partnerships with their surrounding communities, the Connecting Minority Communities Act will be a huge step forward.”

Making Public Housing Safer

CO Alerts Act (Scott provision)

Included in the government funding omnibus. In January 2019, two men tragically died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a public housing complex in Columbia, South Carolina. Senator Scott has worked diligently with HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to prevent this sort of avoidable tragedy from happening again. This provision makes sure families living in federally-assisted housing are safe from carbon monoxide poisoning by requiring: 

  • Carbon monoxide alarms or detectors in federally-assisted housing, including rural housing managed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA);
  • Carbon monoxide alarms in units that have a potential carbon monoxide source like gas-fired appliances, fireplaces, forced air furnaces, and attached garages;
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide guidance to public housing agencies on how to educate tenants on health hazards in the home, including carbon monoxide poisoning and lead poisoning;
  • The appropriation of $101 million annually for Fiscal Years 2021-2023;
  • HUD and USDA, in consultation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, to conduct a public study on requiring carbon monoxide alarms beyond those mandated by the International Fire Code.

“Passage of the CO Alerts Act is a huge step forward towards keeping families safe,” Scott said. “Even one preventable death in our public housing facilities is too many, and this important provision will help put an end to the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning for families across the nation, especially in the higher-risk winter season.”

This provision is supported by the National Association of State Fire Marshalls, the Carolina Council of Housing Redevelopment and Codes Officials, the South Carolina Association of Housing Authority Executive Directors, the City of Columbia, SC, and 27 local Housing Authorities across South Carolina. 

Improving the USMCA

Relief for small businesses and auto suppliers (Scott provision)

Included in the government funding omnibus.

A drafting error in the United States-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA) left auto suppliers and manufacturers on the hook for millions of dollars, jeopardizing small businesses and jobs during these already perilous times. The omnibus fixes this technical error surrounding the merchandise processing fee, known as the MFP.

“Fixing this technical error in the USMCA is a significant win for small businesses across South Carolina and the country,” Scott said. “This will provide a significant boost for auto suppliers and their employees.”

South Carolina Water, Flood and Storm-Related Projects

Water Resources Development Act provisions (Scott priorities)

Included in the government funding omnibus. 

  • A $21 million increase (to $110 million) for the Lakes Marion and Moultrie project
  • Expedites the feasibility study for flood mitigation efforts in Dorchester County
  • Provides tidal and inland-related flood risk management for the City of Charleston
  • Authorizes the Georgetown Harbor navigation project
  • Resources for hurricane and storm damage risk reduction project for Myrtle Beach