US Senate Passes $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Package
President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan would have far-reaching effects on society as the country tries to turn the corner on a pandemic that has killed more than half a million people in the United States.
The mammoth bill approved by the Senate on Saturday would provide direct payments to Americans, extend jobless benefits and provide a huge financial infusion to states and local governments as well as to schools to help them reopen. It provides funding for priorities like coronavirus testing and vaccine distribution. And it amounts to an ambitious antipoverty program, offering significant benefits for low-income people.
Here’s a guide to what’s included in the plan, which is scheduled to go before the House for final approval on Tuesday and then would head to Mr. Biden for his signature.
The bill would give out $1,400 stimulus checks.
Individuals making under $75,000 and married couples making under $150,000 would receive direct payments of $1,400 per person. The bill would also provide $1,400 per dependent.
The payments would gradually decrease above those income levels and disappear entirely above an income cap: $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for married couples.
Those caps were lowered from the thresholds in the House’s version of the stimulus plan, which set the cutoffs at $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for married couples.
The current $300-per-week boost to unemployment benefits would continue.
The Senate bill extends unemployment programs through early September, including the $300-per-week federal supplement provided in the last stimulus plan passed in December.
Mr. Biden had proposed bumping up that supplemental benefit to $400 per week, which the House agreed to, but the Senate kept it at $300 weekly.
The Senate bill also includes a provision intended to avert surprise tax bills for people who lost jobs, waiving federal income taxes for the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020 for households earning under $150,000.
The child tax credit would become more generous, among other benefits.
For 2021, the bill would temporarily expand the child tax credit, which is currently worth up to $2,000 per child under 17. Under the legislation, the tax credit would be as much as $3,600 for children up to age 5 and as much as $3,000 for children 6 to 17.
The bill would make the full value of the credit available to low-income people who are currently ineligible or receive only a portion. And for the second half of this year, it would have the federal government send advance payments of the credit to Americans in periodic installments, akin to a guaranteed income for families with children.
The legislation would also expand the child and dependent care tax credit for 2021, and it would expand the earned-income tax credit for workers without children for this year as well. Through 2025, it would exempt student loan forgiveness from income taxes.
Money would go to fight the pandemic and to help states, local governments and schools.
The bill would provide funding for vaccine distribution as well as coronavirus testing, contact tracing and genomic sequencing. It would give money to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well.
It would provide $350 billion for states, local governments, territories and tribal governments, and it contains about $130 billion for schools. It also includes funding for colleges and universities, transit agencies, housing aid, child care providers and food assistance.
In addition, the bill contains funding to help businesses, including restaurants and live venues, and it includes a bailout for multiemployer pension plans that are financially troubled.
The Affordable Care Act would get a boost.
The bill would temporarily increase subsidies for people purchasing health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces. It includes billions of dollars for public health programs and veterans’ health care.
It also seeks to help those who have lost jobs keep the health insurance coverage they had through their employer, covering the full cost of premiums through a federal program called COBRA through September.
One thing missing: a minimum wage hike.
As part of the stimulus plan, Mr. Biden wanted to raise the federal minimum wage, which is now $7.25 per hour, to $15 per hour.
The stimulus bill passed by the House would increase the wage to $15 per hour by 2025, but the Senate parliamentarian said the provision violated the strict rules that Senate Democrats had to follow to pass the bill through a special process that shielded it from a filibuster and allowed for its approval with only Democratic support. A vote in the Senate on Friday to add the wage increase back to the bill failed.
The Senate bill also dropped funding for a rail project in Silicon Valley in Northern California and a bridge between upstate New York and Canada, two provisions that were included in the House bill and drew criticism from Republicans.
Nigeria Borrows $4 Billion Through Eurobonds as Order Book Peaked at $12.2 Billion
The Federal Government of Nigeria has raised a fresh $4 billion through Eurobonds, according to the latest statement from the Debt Management Office (DMO).
Nigeria had set out to raise $3 billion but investors oversubscription peaked at $12.2 billion, enabling the Federal Government to raise $1 billion more than the $3 billion it announced.
DMO said “This exceptional performance has been described as, “one of the biggest financial trades to come out of Africa in 2021” and “an excellent outcome”.
Bids were received from investors in Europe, America, Asia and several local investors. The statement noted that the quality of investors and the size of the Order Book demonstrated confidence in Nigeria.
The Eurobonds were issued in three tranches, details, namely seven years–,$1.25 billion at 6.125 per cent per annum; 12 years -$1.5 billion at 7.375 per cent per annum as well as 30 years -$1.25 billion at 8.25 per annum.
The DMO explained that the long tenors of the Eurobonds and the spread across different maturities are well aligned with Nigeria’s Debt Management Strategy, 2020 –2023.
The Eurobonds were issued as part of the New External Borrowing stipulated in the 2021 Appropriation Act. DMO noted that the $4 billion will help finance projects state in the 2021 budget.
Nigeria’s total debt stood at $87.239 billion as at March 31, 2021. However, with the $4 billion new borrowing, the nation’s debt is now $91.239 billion. A serious concern for most Nigerians given the nation’s weak foreign revenue generation and rising cost of servicing the debt.
CIBN Banking and Finance Conference 2021: Structural Transformation and Growth
Today we highlight one of the sessions, ‘Economic Recovery’, at the recently concluded CIBN Banking and Finance conference. This was a hybrid event in Abuja, Lagos and partially virtual last week. The Covid-19 disruptions have created demand and supply shocks in the global system while unlocking new opportunities for growth.
Given the pre-existing financing challenges and growing spending needs, many developing countries are in dire need of financial support. As a result of the pandemic, the financing gap for the sustainable development goals increased by 70% (over USD4.2bn). The speaker on this session, Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group focused on structural transformation, technology, finance and sustainability.
Recent developments such as the allocation of the USD650bn in Special Drawing Rights (SDR) were highlighted during the session. Although the SDR offers improved liquidity into the system, Africa is set to receive only USD32.2bn (or 6.4% of the total amount). Therefore, it is important that the funds are channeled towards well-targeted sectors that can contribute to sustainable development.
The banking and finance sector plays a crucial role. The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) agreement offers an opportunity for the financial sector to work within a continental market of 1.2 billion people. According to Amina J. Mohammed, three main actions areas will reshape the financial sector and support stronger recovery.
The first, better customer engagement with a dynamic range of relevant products and services that go beyond bank-based financing mechanisms and offer innovative financial products tailored to specific needs of business ecosystems. Second, the adoption of new operating models to drive efficiency and inclusion. Third, a deliberate focus on enabling sustainable development investing.
Furthermore, Nigeria’s banking and finance industry is well positioned to drive specific UN sustainable development goals such as inclusive and affordable credit, especially for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. The industry can also provide support towards climate change.
Technology also featured in the discussion points. Undoubtedly, technology is a catalyst for growth across economies and the pandemic has further exposed the deficit within the sector across developing countries. Investments in digital infrastructure need to be rapidly expanded and scaled up to boost socio-economic development.
The speaker commended the FGN’s efforts on its push towards sustainable economic recovery. Some policy and regulatory reforms highlighted include, regulation of fintechs and related services to strengthen payment systems and regulate data protection; the green bonds which Nigeria first issued in 2017 in support of green projects, including solar energy and the modernisation of the Nigerian stock exchange that has given rise to a new operational structure and leadership.
These are laudable steps. However, we note that there is still room for improvement. To achieve double-digit GDP growth and sustainable development, structural transformation should remain on the FGN’s priority list.
FG Plans To Deliver 15 Projects Across The Country With $4B Foreign Loans
Nigeria’s Presidency has explained that a total of 15 projects, spread across the six geo-political zones of the country, are to be financed with more than $4 billion from multilateral institutions.
Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity stated on Saturday in Abuja that the loan is under the 2018-2021 medium-term (rolling) external borrowing plan.
He revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari had already requested the Senate to approve sovereign loans of $4.054billion and €710million as well as grant components of $125million for the proposed projects.
He quoted the letter by the president as saying that the sovereign loans will be sourced from the World Bank, French Development Agency (AFD), China-Exim Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Credit Suisse Group and Standard Chartered/China Export and Credit (SINOSURE).
He said: “The President’s request to the Senate listed 15 proposed pipeline projects, the objectives, the implementation period, benefiting states, as well as the implementing Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
“A breakdown of the Addendum to the Proposed Pipeline Projects for the 2018-2021 Medium Term (rolling) External Borrowing Plan shows that the World Bank is expected to finance seven projects including the $125million grant for ‘Better Education Services for All’.’’
According to him, the Global Partnership for Education grant is expected to increase equitable access for out-of-school children and improve literacy in focus states.
He expressed the hope that the grant, which would be implemented by the Federal Ministry of Education and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), would strengthen accountability for results in basic Education in Katsina, Oyo and Adamawa States.
Other projects to be financed by the World Bank, according to Shehu, are the State Fiscal, Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme for Results as well as the Agro-Processing, Productivity, Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project.
He said the benefiting states for the agro-processing project included, Kogi, Kaduna, Kano, Cross River, Enugu and Lagos with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as the implementing ministry.
The presidential aide stated that the objective of the project was to enhance the agricultural productivity of small and medium-scale farmers and improve value addition along priority value chains in the participating states.
Shehu added that the World Bank would also be financing the Nigeria Sustainable Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project in Delta, Ekiti, Gombe, Kaduna, Katsina, Imo and Plateau States, for the next five years.
According to him, the project, when completed, is expected to improve rural water supply, sanitation and hygiene nationwide towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for water supply and sanitation by 2030.
“Under the external borrowing plan, the World Bank-supported projects also include Nigeria’s COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Project (COPREP), under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
“The project, which has an implementation period of five years, will respond to threats posed by COVID-19 through the procurement of vaccines.
“Furthermore, no fewer than 29 states are listed as beneficiaries of the Agro-Climatic Resilience in Arid Zone Landscape project, which is expected to reduce natural resource management conflicts in dry and semi-arid ecosystems in Nigeria,’’ he said.
He gave the names of the benefiting states for the project to be co-financed by the World Bank and European Investment Bank (EIB) to include: Akwa Ibom, Borno, Oyo, Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Edo, Plateau, Abia and Nasarawa.
Others are; Delta, Niger, Gombe, Imo, Enugu, Kogi, Anambra, Niger, Ebonyi, Cross River, Ondo, Kaduna, Kebbi, Jigawa, Bauchi, Ekiti, Ogun, Benue, Yobe and Kwara.
He said the World Bank would also be funding the Livestock Productivity and Resilience project in no fewer than 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) while the China EXIM Bank is expected to finance the construction of the branch line of Apapa-TinCan Island Port, under the Lagos-Ibadan Railway modernisation project.
Shehu said: “The French Development Agency will finance two projects, which include the National Digital Identity Management project and the Kaduna Bus Rapid Transport Project.
“The digital identity project will be co-financed with World Bank and EIB.
“The Value Chain Development Programme to be financed by IFAD and implemented in Anambra, Benue, Ebonyi, Niger, Ogun, Taraba, Nasarawa, Enugu and the Kogi States will empower 100,000 farmers, including over 6,000 and 3,000 processors and traders, respectively.
“The loan facility to be provided by European ECA/KfW/IPEX/APC will be spent on the construction of the Standard Gauge Rail (SGR) linking Nigeria with Niger Republic from Kano-Katsina-Daura-Jibiya-Maradi with branch to Dutse.
“The specific project title, Kano-Maradi SGR with a branch to Dutse, has an implementation period of 30 months and will be implemented by the Federal Ministry of Transport.
“The Chinese African Development Fund through the Bank of China is expected to provide a loan facility of $325 million for the establishment of three power and renewable energy projects including solar cells production facility Phase 1 & II, electric power transformer production, Plants 1, II, III and high voltage testing laboratory.
“The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) will implement the project aimed at increasing local capacity and capability in the development of power and renewable energy technologies and infrastructure,’’ he further disclosed.
Shehu revealed that Credit Suisse would finance major industrialization projects as well as micro, small and medium enterprises schemes to be executed by the Bank of Industry.
He said the SINOSURE and Standard Chartered Bank would also provide funds for the provision of 17MW Hybrid Solar Power infrastructure for the National Assembly (NASS) complex. “The project, with an implementation period of five years, is expected to address NASS power supply deficit and reduce the higher overhead burdensome cost of running and maintaining fossil fuel generators (25MW installed capacity) to power the assembly complex,’’ he added.
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