Fiscal 2021 Spending, COVID-19 Relief, and Energy Innovation Package

Jan 11, 2021

by ASME.org

The closing act of the 116th Congress, H.R. 133, provides $1.4 trillion in funding for FY 2021, a roughly 1-2% increase over FY 2020 for most federal agencies and programs, including key R&D funding agencies. The bill also provides more than $900 billion for unemployment, direct payments, and PPP business loans to combat the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Finally, the bill included a number of policy riders that have faced Senate filibusters, most significantly an energy innovation package that authorizes up to $35 billion in new clean energy technology spending over the next several years. Congress will still have to appropriate money to fund these initiatives, but their authorization all but assures significant new funding for many energy innovation and climate change related programs.
 
The main Covid-19 relief components of H.R. 133
  • $600 direct payments to most Americans
  • $300 a week in extra unemployment benefits through March
  • $82 billion for K-12 schools and universities
  • $69 billion for vaccine development, testing and community health.
  • $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program including an extension to March 31, 2021, from August 8, 2020. This round of PPP loans sets aside:
    • At least $15 billion for first and second loans issued by community financial institutions.
    • At least $15 billion for first and second loans issued by insured depository institutions, credit unions, and Farm Credit System institutions with less than $10 billion in assets.
    • At least $15 billion for first loans issued to entities with 10 or fewer employees and for first loans of $250,000 or less issued to entities in low- or moderate-income areas. It also sets aside at least $25 billion for second loans to entities that meet those criteria.
    • At least $35 billion for first loans to entities that haven’t received a loan.
To qualify for a second loan, entities would have to:
  • Employ 300 or fewer workers, instead of the current 500-employee threshold.
  • Demonstrate that they had at least a 25% reduction in gross revenue during a quarter in 2020 compared with the same period in 2019, with some exceptions.
  • Exhaust their first loan before receiving a second one.
Loan Expenditures & Forgiveness: The legislation would expand the use of PPP funds that would qualify for loan forgiveness. Approved expenditures for non-payroll costs would include:
  • Payments for software or cloud computing services that facilitate operations, product delivery, payroll expenses, and other functions.
  • Costs related to property damage, vandalism, or looting due to public disturbances in 2020, if the damage wasn’t covered by insurance.
  • Payments made to suppliers of essential goods under contracts and purchase orders in effect before a PPP loan was issued.
  • Purchases of personal protective equipment.
  • Adaptations such as drive-through windows, ventilation systems, sneeze guards, and screening capabilities to comply with social distancing, sanitation, and other requirements related to Covid-19.
  • Tax Deductions: The measure would stipulate that borrowers could deduct eligible expenses paid for with forgiven PPP loans, effectively reversing guidance from the Internal Revenue Service.
Key Provisions of the Energy Act of 2020
As noted, the final 2020 stimulus-appropriations package included a large portion of the Senate’s bipartisan energy innovation package – the largest energy policy package Congress has passed since 2007, authorizing up to $35 billion in new funding for clean energy technologies like carbon capture, utilization, and storage; energy storage technologies; and tax credits and incentives for innovative technologies. Lawmakers also authorized DOE research and development programs for energy storage, wind, solar, carbon capture, geothermal, hydropower and advanced nuclear programs.
 
The bill also extends tax credits for wind and solar projects, with a particular boost for offshore wind, and includes a bipartisan compromise phasing down the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a class of potent greenhouse gases used in cooling and refrigeration. It also authorizes federally backed demonstration projects for geothermal, advanced nuclear, energy storage and direct air capture, and steadily increases funds and expands the mission for the Energy Department's ARPA-E program.
 
The Energy Act of 2020 includes authorization for substantial new investments in energy technologies at the core of ASME’s expertise. The measure tacks on a provision creating a program aimed at curbing emissions from industrial sources.
 
The bill directs DOE to within 180 days create an ‘Industrial Technology Advisory Committee,’ to advise on the creation of an industrial emissions reduction program that is ‘globally cost-competitive.’
 
Specific funding authorization highlights include: 
  • $1.5 billion for R&D related to various solar technologies.
  • $625 million for wind energy programs overseen by the Department of Energy (DOE).
  • $1 billion to establish a new DOEEnergy Storage System Research, Development, and Deployment Program,” which seeks to advance energy storage technologies, and establishes a grant program for demonstration energy storage systems pilot projects.
  • $933 million to DOE for waterpower research and development, including specific designations for marine energy and hydropower technologies.
  • $2.14 billion for advanced nuclear reactor technology.
  • $4.7 billion for research into fusion energy, also overseen by the DOE.
  • $910 million for a carbon capture research and development program.
  • $1 billion for “large-scale pilot projects” with carbon capture technology.
  • $2.6 billion for a carbon capture demonstration project program.
  • $800 million for efforts on carbon storage validation and testing, and additional appropriations related to a new carbon utilization program.
  • $2.93 billion in funding for DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, which advances high-potential energy technologies. This funding will support projects related to nuclear waste management and clean-up; energy infrastructure resilience, reliability and security; and ARPA-E’s existing goals related to reducing energy imports, reducing energy-related emissions and improving energy efficiency in all sectors of the economy.

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