COVID-19 aid package includes tax breaks for business lunches and foreign aid

WASHINGTON – The $ 2.3 trillion spending program The overwhelming majority of Congress passed last week has it all.

Merged from two major bills – a $ 900 billion coronavirus assistance program to deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic and a $ 1.4 trillion spending measure to fund the government until September 30 – the legislation includes money for direct payments to millions of families, vaccine distribution efforts and salary increases for the military.

It also includes controversial provisions that would expand tax breaks for racetracks and business lunches, millions for venues that are not open, and the requirement that carbon monoxide detectors be installed in public housing. . It includes billions in foreign aid, which conservatives often anger, and money for President Donald Trump’s border wall, which infuriates the Liberals.

Trump has signaled that he could veto the bill, saying certain provisions, such as foreign aid and money for cultural institutions, have no place in a bill to help the countries overcome the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 332,000 and closed thousands of businesses.

In a video he tweeted on Tuesday nightTrump called the bill a “shame” for not providing enough direct payments to Americans and for spending too much money on foreign aid (although the budget he submitted to Congress this year calls for roughly the same funding levels).

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Many of the tax breaks and controversial provisions are included in the $ 1.4 trillion spending bill attached to the relief bill. Government watch groups said this did not excuse what Congress had approved.

It is “a privileged deal for defense contractors, guarantees high levels of agricultural subsidies until 2021 and (spikes) on dozens of other special interest provisions that will only be found within days or weeks. after lawmakers leave Capitol Hill, “said Steve Ellis, chairman of Taxpayers for common sense, a non-partisan watchdog group that tracks government spending.

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Here are some of the most controversial sections of the second-largest relief program in U.S. history.

Foreign aid programs

In his surprise late-night speech denouncing the package passed by Congress, Trump denounced billions of dollars in funding for programs in foreign countries.

All of the funding proposals the president complained about were at or slightly lower than the budget allocations Trump proposed during negotiations.

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Some of the inflows include $ 505 million in aid to Central American countries; $ 25 million for programs to promote gender equity and democracy in Pakistan; $ 1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt; and $ 219.5 million in aid to Southeast Asian countries.

Expanded military budget, defense subcontracts

The negotiated omnibus bill includes increases in military spending and contracts until 2021.

Lawmakers approved $ 696 billion in military appropriations, including $ 23.3 billion to build 10 warships and $ 9.6 billion for 96 F-35 fighters. The Liberal Democrats opposed the budget increases, arguing for provisions that “would cut Pentagon spending to prevent waste, fraud and abuse while maintaining support for staff and families.”

The federal spending bill includes nearly $ 10 billion for F-35 fighter jets.

The White House initially opposed parts of the military spending bill, arguing that they allowed military conflicts abroad.

“Three martinis” deductions

Democrats opposed a provision that would allow companies to deduct two full years of business meals when filing income tax, calling the measure “three martini lunches” for the wealthy.

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The tax code allows half of these costs to be deducted. The cost of the new benefit, which the White House says would help restaurants affected by the pandemic, is estimated at $ 6 billion in tax relief for businesses over the next decade.

Keep live sites afloat

Aid of around $ 15 billion is intended for performing arts centers, independent cinemas and other cultural institutions particularly affected by the imposition of social distancing measures designed to limit the spread of the virus.

The Save Our Stages law aims to help only sites that have closed or are at risk of closing.

Supporters of the bipartisan effort said the grants would provide the financial support needed to keep sites afloat, pay employees, and preserve a vital economic sector for communities across America.

Aid to cultural institutions

Over $ 40 million has been approved for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington’s cultural gem, many of whose directors are appointed by the president.

The money includes $ 26 million for operations, maintenance and safety, plus $ 14 million for upgrades.

The Kennedy Center is often on questionable spending lists, but it’s not the only cultural organization reportedly receiving help under the program. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum ($ 61.4 million), the National Endowment for the Arts ($ 167.5 million) and the Smithsonian Institution (over $ 1 billion) will also receive taxpayer funds.

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The money was also donated to the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the government’s funding agreement. Trump opposed the measure.

Money for the border wall

The spending bill includes funds to keep one of Trump’s most important election promises: building a partition on the US-Mexico border.

The $ 1.375 billion for the border wall isn’t as much as the nearly $ 2 billion Trump wanted, but it’s more than what his critics want taxpayers to cover. The inclusion of the money undermines its campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the structure.

A fight with Congress over funding for the border wall in December 2018 led to a 35-day government shutdown. There is no indication that the Wall’s lack of funding this time around is one of the reasons Trump might veto the bill.

A “NASCAR tax break”

The package would extend a tax benefit to racetrack owners.

The federal spending bill includes tax benefits for racetrack owners.

As part of the “NASCAR tax break,” homeowners could get up to $ 224 million over 10 years to cover construction and renovation costs.

Establishment of the Smithsonian Museums of Women’s and Latino History

Legislation related to the government financing bill approved the establishment of Smithsonian Museums for the history of Latinos and women. Like all Smithsonian programs, museums would be funded by dividing private donations and public money.

Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, opposed the move.

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“The last thing we need is to further divide an already divided nation within a separate but equal set of museums of severed identity groups,” he said this month.

Tax breaks for the liquor industry

The liquor industry was the big winner of the bill, which would permanently guarantee billions in tax breaks, even though studies show alcohol consumption has increased sharply during the pandemic.

Among the measures are a reduction in the excise tax on beer, which would likely entail a cost of $ 1 billion over 10 years; excise tax relief for domestic wine producers worth $ 2.2 billion; and tax relief for distilled spirits manufacturers worth $ 5.7 billion.

Presidential transition costs

The package includes $ 9.9 million set aside for presidential transition expenses. This funding would help President-elect Joe Biden’s administration take office in the coming year. The bill includes at least $ 8 million earmarked for the Trump administration to facilitate the process.

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Trump would essentially fund the discharge from office which he fought in courts and Congress by challenging the election results.

Funding of the postal service

The aid plan includes a provision that would convert a $ 10 billion loan to the US Postal Service in direct help. The funds would be used to support logistics and provide workers with personal protective equipment and other necessary aids.

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The bill would preserve six-day postal delivery and prevent the consolidation or closure of rural post offices and other small post offices, measures the president opposed.

About Aldrich Stanley

Aldrich Stanley

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