Special E-Lines: December 27, 2020
December 27, 2020
President Trump Signs Emergency Relief & Government Funding Bill after Delay
On Sunday evening, President Donald Trump signed the coronavirus emergency relief and government funding bill into law averting a government shutdown that was set to begin on Tuesday, and extending billions of dollars in emergency coronavirus aid to millions.
His signature on the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package extends unemployment benefits for millions of jobless workers as well as the long-term unemployed.
There are an estimated 12 million people in two key unemployment programs resulting from the pandemic and most were facing their last payment this weekend. Those impacted will now potentially receive benefits for another 11 weeks. Additionally, those collecting jobless payments will receive a $300 weekly federal boost through mid-March.
Unemployment benefits and eviction protections extended
The relief package extends two programs that were part of the historic expansion of the nation's unemployment system that Congress enacted as part of the $2 trillion CARES Act in late March.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. The Emergency Unemployment Compensation provided an additional 13 weeks of federally paid benefits to those who run out of state payments, which typically last 26 weeks. The programs technically would have expired on December 31.
The new stimulus deal extends the two pandemic programs for up to 11 weeks. Each will close to new applicants on March 14, but continue through April 5 for existing claimants who have not yet reached the maximum number of weeks.
The relief package also extends eviction protection to January 31 and provides $25 billion in rental assistance for those who lost their sources of income during the pandemic.
A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order halting some evictions was set to expire at the end of the year. Since the order does not cancel or freeze rent, all of a tenant's back rent would have been due January 1 if the moratorium had been allowed to expire. Without rent relief or an extension of the protection, many struggling renters would again face eviction.
AFA Payroll Support Program Extension Question & Answer
QUESTION: What is the Payroll Support Program?
When the pandemic was declared a national emergency in March, Congress acted quickly to rush relief to the American people. In aviation, we are 80% union and we had the political power to shape a #WorkersFirst relief package like no other in American history. The Payroll Support Program (PSP) provided airlines with 70% of the payroll (30% of the PSP was turned in loans by the Treasury Secretary - essentially making the grant 50% of the payroll) for six months, but with strict conditions.
- The money could only be used for worker pay and benefits, with a prohibition on furloughs and separations.
- No reduction to worker hourly rates of pay
- Continued service to all communities, helping to keep critical infrastructure in place to fight the virus and retain the ability to support recovery once the virus is contained.
- Capped executive compensation for two years beyond the expiration of the relief
- Banned stock buybacks and dividends for a year after the relief.
Chairman Peter DeFazio, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader Schumer championed the #WorkersFirst Payroll Support Program and fought as the last item on the table to ensure it was part of the CARES Act in March. At that time, everyone hoped our country would be on the road to recovery by the fall, but the opposite happened and instead the virus and economic hardship spiked. Congress failed to get COVID relief done in August, or before the payroll support expired on October 1. Many people thought it wasn’t possible to get relief to people until the next administration was in place. But that was unacceptable and our union didn’t stop fighting for #ReliefNow.
QUESTION: I heard the airlines won’t take the money. Is that true?
ANSWER: No, that is not true. All the major carriers have agreed to accept additional PSP funds as provided by Congress. Airlines for America said. “We enthusiastically support the Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020. If passed, this legislation will extend the Payroll Support Program (PSP), which will provide direct payroll support to U.S. airlines and protect the jobs of flight attendants, pilots, gate agents, mechanics and others.”
QUESTION: I’m furloughed. Will my paycheck and benefits start again when this passes?
ANSWER: Yes, all Flight Attendants who were furloughed on or after October 1, 2020 will be recalled. The bill is an extension of the job protections that were in place effective March 27 through September 30, but the full bill is only a four month emergency relief bill. For this reason, pay and benefits will be restored as of December 1, and all rights and protections will be restored back to September 30 as if never furloughed. For example, there will be no impact on seniority for bidding or pay/benefits.
QUESTION: I heard this extension only for four months?
ANSWER: Yes, the extension is funded for a four-month period, effective December 1 thru March 31, 2021, once signed.
QUESTION: There won’t be enough vaccine to make it safe to return to normal in four months. What do we do when this expires?
ANSWER: This is emergency relief for the whole country, but it’s not enough to fully recover from this pandemic and more relief will be necessary in the New Year. Our union will continue working to extend this program as long as necessary, as we do our part in aviation to help distribute the vaccine and contain the virus. Getting all of us active is an important step to this process and working to extend protections that keep us all on the job.
QUESTION: We are getting paid as of December 1, but will contractual recall procedures stay the same?
ANSWER: The law will provide for pay and benefits for all aviation workers as of December 1, including no cuts to hourly rates of pay. The airlines will have everyone on payroll, even as the recall and return to active status takes time to implement. This crisis is bigger than ever imagined and the conditions here are unique. We will all have to work together and recognize there may be issues that arise during the process of recall. We will work through them together. Contact your AFA Local Council or MEC Office with specific questions for procedures at your airline.