New COVID Relief Bill Passes Congress, AGA Says More Needed
Posted on: Dec 22, 2020, 4:49 a.m.
Last update on: December 22, 2020, 9:36 a.m.
In the space of a few hours Monday night, Congress did what it had not done in months – adopt another federal COVID-19 relief program. By a 359-53 vote in the House and a 92-6 vote shortly thereafter in the Senate, the more than $ 900 billion spending program will now go to President Trump to become law.
However, as several lawmakers have noted throughout the negotiating process, additional help will be needed once President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Democrats and Republicans will seek agreement on issues such as additional unemployment and direct stimulus payments, as well as corporate liability protection.
“It does not go all the way, but it takes us on the path, a first step”, said Monday the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
In a statement sent after the Senate vote, American Gaming Association president and CEO Bill Miller said Congress urgently needs to act on additional measures for businesses across the country.
The gaming industry in particular needs help, he said. This includes protecting businesses from COVID-related lawsuits and providing incentives to boost travel and tourism.
Gaming communities, businesses and employees across the country have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic – by enduring mandatory closures and operating restrictions, investing heavily in health and safety protocols, and gambling a key role in stopping the community spread of COVID, ”he said. “We have met these challenges with determination and resilience.
Miller said the business group was also eager to work with the new Biden administration on these issues.
COVID Bill Extends PPP, Unemployment Programs
There is nothing specifically for the gaming industry in the nearly 5,600 page bill. There are many items that could benefit casinos, other gaming companies, and their employees.
For currently unemployed casino employees, they could – like other eligible workers – claim a weekly subsidy of $ 300. This funding will be available until mid-March.
The relief bill also allows claimants to receive benefits for up to 50 weeks instead of the traditional 26 weeks of unemployment. The CARES law passed in March allowed beneficiaries to receive aid for 39 weeks.
For small businesses, the new relief bill offers an additional $ 284 billion in paycheck protection program (PPP) loans, eligible entities may apply for a second loan.
Gaming state lawmakers touted PPP loans for small gaming businesses when the CARES Act became law. However, the Small Business Administration initially imposed rules that prevented most gaming companies from applying. This interpretation prevented at least one casino from getting help and decide to shut down for good.
About a month later, at the end of April, small casinos were finally allowed apply for loans intended to help companies not to lay off workers.
Horse Racing Safety Bill Included in Spending Plan
In addition to passing a COVID relief bill, lawmakers have included an omnibus spending program that keeps the federal government lights on until the end of the fiscal year in September. This is one of the main reasons the bill is 5,593 pages long.
Omnibus expense bills are known to become ships where many bills are included, hence the name. This one is no different, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced that his Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act has been put into law.
The Kentucky Republican introduced the bill in late August. It took legislation calling for nationalized doping standards and the creation of an independent agency to oversee those standards in thoroughbred racing, and added track safety measures.
U.S. Representatives Paul Tonko (D-New York) and Andy Barr (R-Kentucky) had proposed the article on pharmaceutical standards for years in their Horse Racing Integrity Act.
“With the passage of HISA in Congress today, we are on the home stretch of achieving the most transformational and significant reform to the thoroughbred horse racing industry since the enactment of the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978. ” Barr said in a statement. “For nearly a decade, I have worked with industry stakeholders and my colleagues in Congress to build consensus around reforms that will protect equine athletes and build confidence and international competitiveness in sport. “
The measure received strong support from major racing players, including Churchill Downs, as well as animal welfare groups.
“Passage of the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act is the biggest news for horses in Congress in half a century, will put horse welfare at the center of the business and put the sport” on a par that aligns with world standards, ”said Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action.