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Article Updated: 29 Dec 2020

$900 Billion Pandemic Relief Package: What to Know

Includes $15 billion Save Our Stages Act. 

On December 21, the U.S. Congress passed one of the largest pieces of legislation in history (5,593 pages) to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY2021 ($1.4 trillion) and to provide more pandemic relief to businesses, nonprofit organizations, states, local governments, schools, families, and individuals ($900 billion). The president signed the bill on December 27.

The pandemic relief package extends many of the relief programs and incentives established under the CARES Act passed in March.

Key Programs

Review the key programs that support opera companies and artists, including frequently asked questions below.

Aid to Small Businesses

$325 billion, including $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program

Extends the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to March 31, 2021, and provides $284.45 billion for a “second draw” of forgivable loans for smaller and harder-hit businesses, with a maximum amount of $2 million.


  • To receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan under this section, eligible entities must:
    • Employ no more than 300 employees;
    • Have used or will use the full amount of their first PPP; and
    • Demonstrate at least a 25 percent reduction in gross receipts in the first, second, or third quarter of 2020 relative to the same 2019 quarter, and provides applicable timelines for businesses that were not in operation in Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4 of 2019. Applications submitted on or after January 1, 2021, are eligible to utilize the gross receipts from the fourth quarter of 2020.
  • Eligible entities must be businesses, certain nonprofit organizations, housing cooperatives, veterans organizations, tribal businesses, self-employed individuals, sole proprietors, independent contractors, and small agricultural cooperatives.
  • Eligible entities that receive a grant from Save Our Stages grant program are prohibited from obtaining a PPP loan at the time of the bill’s passage.

Loan Terms

  • Borrowers may receive a loan amount of up to 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs in the one year prior to the loan or the calendar year. No loan can be greater than $2 million.
  • Seasonal employers may calculate their maximum loan amount based on a 12-week period from February 15, 2019, through February 15, 2020.
  • New entities may receive loans of up to 2.5 times the sum of their average monthly payroll costs.
  • Businesses with multiple locations that are eligible entities under the initial PPP requirements may employ no more than 300 employees per physical location.
  • An eligible entity may only receive one PPP second-draw loan.
  • Fees are waived for both borrowers and lenders to encourage participation.
  • For loans of not more than $150,000, the entity may submit a certification attesting that the entity meets the revenue loss requirements on or before the date the entity submits its loan forgiveness application, and nonprofit and veterans organizations may utilize gross receipts to calculate their revenue loss standard.

Loan Forgiveness

  • Borrowers of a PPP second-draw loan would be eligible for loan forgiveness equal to the sum of their payroll costs, as well as covered mortgage, rent, and utility payments, covered operations expenditures, covered property damage costs, covered supplier costs, and covered worker protection expenditures incurred during the covered period.
  • The 60/40 cost allocation between payroll and nonpayroll costs to receive full forgiveness will continue to apply.
  • The prior requirement that borrowers deduct an Economic Injury Disaster Loan amount from their forgivable PPP loan is repealed.
  • The bill requires the Small Business Administration to establish a streamlined loan forgiveness process for borrowers with loans of $150,000 or less.
Save Our Stages Grant Program

The bill establishes a $15 billion grant program to be administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to support “shuttered venue operators,” including “live performing arts organization operators.” The SBA will establish rules to implement the program within 10 days after the bill is signed into law.


  • “Live performing arts organization operators” are defined as an individual or entity, for-profit and nonprofit, that “as a principal business activity, organizes, promotes, produces, manages, or hosts live concerts, comedy shows, theatrical productions, or other events by performing artists.”
  • Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 25% decline in gross earned revenue in one calendar quarter of 2020, compared to the same quarter in 2019, to qualify to apply.
  • Applicants should have no less than 70% of earned revenue related to a live event generated through ticket sales, production fees or reimbursements, nonprofit education initiatives, and the sale of event beverages, food, or merchandise.
  • An applicant can have secured a PPP forgivable loan from the CARES Act, but now must choose whether to seek an SOS grant or to apply for a second PPP loan after the new bill is signed into law.

Grant Amounts

  • Applicants will calculate their grant amount based on 45% of an entity’s earned revenue in 2019.
  • Total grants received by an eligible entity are capped at $10 million per recipient.
  • After receiving an initial grant, qualifying applicants that are experiencing a 70% revenue decline as of April 1, 2021, can receive a supplemental grant equal to half of their initial grant award.
  • Supplemental grant awards will only be awarded after applications received in the first 60 days of the program have been processed.

 Eligible Costs

  • Grants may be used for costs incurred from March 1, 2020, through December 31, 2021 (and supplemental grants may be used from March 1, 202,0 to June 30, 2022).
  • Allowable expenses include payroll (including payments to independent contractors), rent, and fixed costs like mortgage and debt payments, as well as maintenance expenses, administrative costs, and other expenses.

Priority Periods and Non-Priority Reserve

  • $2 billion of overall funding will be reserved for grants to entities with 50 or fewer employees, using a full-time equivalent calculation.
  • The first 14 days will limit access to applicants that demonstrate a revenue decline of 90% or more from April 1 to December 31, 2020, compared to the same time period in 2019.
  • The second 14 days will be limited to those with a revenue decline of 70% or more.
  • Relief funds already accessed through the CARES Act will not count as revenue for this calculation, and seasonal organizations will use an alternate time period for the comparison.
  • 20% of funds will be reserved for availability after the conclusion of the priority period.


  • Eligible applicants must submit a good faith certification that “the uncertainty of current economic conditions makes necessary the grant to support the ongoing operations,” and certain applicants must abide by requirements that the recipient “will not abrogate existing collective bargaining agreements” and “will remain neutral in any union organizing effort.”
Other Pandemic Relief
  • Federal Unemployment Benefits — $120 billion
    The bill provides an additional $300 per week for all workers receiving unemployment benefits, through March 14, 2021. This bill also extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, with expanded coverage to the self-employed, gig workers, and others in nontraditional employment, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which provides additional weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits to individuals who exhaust their regular state benefits. Additionally, the bill increases the maximum number of weeks an individual may claim benefits through regular state unemployment plus the PEUC program, or through the PUA program, to 50 weeks. The bill also provides an extra benefit of $100 per week for certain workers who have both wage and self-employment income, but whose base UI benefit calculation does not take their self-employment into account.
  • Direct Payments — $166 billion
    The bill provides another round of Economic Impact Payments of $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year and $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000 per year, as well as a $600 payment for each child dependent.
  • Vaccines, Testing, and Tracing Efforts — $69 billion
    The bill provides $20 billion for vaccine procurement and distribution, nearly $9 billion to the Centers for Disease and Prevention and states for vaccine distribution, and more than $3 billion for the strategic national stockpile. This includes $300 million specifically directed for vaccine distribution to high-risk and underserved areas, including communities of color. The bill provides more than $22 billion, all sent directly to states, for testing, tracing, and COVID mitigation programs. Of this total, $2.5 billion will be sent out as grants specifically targeted at needs in underserved areas, including both communities of color and rural communities. The bill provides $4.5 billion in mental health funding, $9 billion in support for health care providers, more than $1 billion for the National Institutes of Health to conduct research, and more than $1 billion in direct funds to the Indian Health Service.
  • Extension of the Employee Retention Tax Credit
    The bill extends the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) through July 1, 2021, and significantly expands the credit from 50% to 70% of qualified wages. The value of the credit will increase from up to $10,000 in wages/year to $10,000 in wages/quarter per employee for the first two quarters of 2021, amounting to up to $14,000 in refundable payroll tax credits per employee. Employers that receive Paycheck Protection Program loans will qualify for the ERTC for wages that are not paid for with a forgivable PPP loan.
  • Charitable Giving Incentives
    The bill extends and expands the universal charitable deduction for non-itemizers that was created under the CARES Act to apply throughout the 2021 tax year: $300 for individual filers and $600 for joint filers that were limited to a $300 deduction in 2020 for cash contributions in 2021. Also extended through 2021, the limitation on the percentage of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) eligible for the charitable deduction has been lifted for those who itemize their tax returns, and the limit on deductions for corporate contributions is raised to 25% of taxable income.
  • Relief for Self-Insuring Nonprofits for Unemployment Purposes
    Many nonprofit organizations self-insure unemployment benefits rather than pay state unemployment taxes. Nonprofit liability was reduced by 50% under the CARES Act, and this form of relief is now extended through March 14, 2021.
  • Paid Sick and Family Leave
    The refundable payroll tax credits for paid sick and family leave that were established in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act are extended through March 31, 2021.
  • Education Funding
    The bill provides an $82 billion Education Stabilization Fund to support the educational needs of states, school districts, and institutions of higher education and the students they serve in response to the coronavirus.
  • Broadband Funding
    The bill provides $7 billion for broadband, including funding for low-income families unable to afford internet access, $1 billion for broadband on tribal lands, and $300 million for rural broadband deployment.
FY2021 Omnibus Appropriations

The FY2021 omnibus appropriations bill provides $167.5 million each to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, a $5.25 million increase over FY2020-enacted levels. The bill permits grant funds appropriated this year and in FY2019 and FY2020 to be used for operating expenses. The bill provides $475 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in 2023 advance funding, an increase of $10 million above the FY2020 enacted level. The bill includes $20 million for the interconnection system and system-wide infrastructure, the same as the FY2020 enacted level. The bill provides funding for the U.S. Department of Education’s Arts in Education program fund at $30.5 million.

Please note that this is not an all-inclusive list of programs and provisions included in the entire package that provides FY2021 omnibus appropriations and additional pandemic relief. OPERA America will continue to provide further detailed information over the coming days and weeks as various federal agencies implement programs. Further inquiries can be directed to Tony Shivers, OPERA America's director of government affairs, at TShivers@operaamerica.org.

Frequently Asked Questions