I believe that this outbreak calls for thorough, robust, and bipartisan action. I’m proud of Congress for mobilizing quickly and passing a smart, bipartisan bill that provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding for prevention, preparedness, and response efforts. The House passed an additional bill to implement paid sick leave and emergency unemployment benefits, provide free coronavirus testing, and expand food security programs.
This is a rapidly evolving situation that we know now will unfortunately not be resolved quickly. Over the coming weeks and months, we will continue to pass legislation to keep our communities safe and healthy. We will also need to more broadly address the growing economic crisis that has resulted from the coronavirus pandemic. Congress is already hard at work on a stimulus package to support the industries most affected by the crisis and we will continue to develop legislation to ensure that hard-working Americans who are facing reduced hours or even layoffs aren't left out in the cold.
Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act
On March 6, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, $8.3 billion in supplemental funding for state and local efforts to curb the spread of the disease. This bill was the first step Congress took to address the unprecedented challenge COVID-19 poses, funding our initial response by funding research and development, building capacity and protecting small business owners.
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act:
- Provides support to local and state health agencies, on the frontline of the emergency response effort
- Funds vaccine and treatment development
- Offers loans to small businesses affected by social distancing policies and mandated closures
Specific provisions include:
- $61 million to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop treatments, therapies, devices, and vaccines
- Allows SBA to access loan subsidies to provide an estimated $7 billion in small business disaster loans
- $2.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to support federal, state and local public health departments
- A total of $3 billion across government agencies like the National Institute of Health (NIH) and Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to research and develop vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics
- $1 billion for procurement of drugs and supplies
- Direct support to Community Health Centers to help build surge capacity
- Direct support to our global health programs to help curb spread abroad
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
On March 14, the House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, putting the health, safety and financial security of working Americans first. This bill builds on the $8.3 billion emergency supplemental and is the second in a series of steps Congress must take as we continue to respond to this crisis. On March 18, the Senate went on the pass the House bill and the President immediately signed it into law.
Specifically, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:
- Guarantees free coronavirus testing
- Establishes 2 weeks of paid leave for those affected
- Enhances unemployment insurance for those industries hardest hit by social distancing policies
- Expands food security programs for seniors, students, and working families
- Increases Medicaid funding to states
Specific provisions include:
- $500 million for WIC
- $400 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program
- $15 million for the Internal Revenue Service to implement tax credits for paid sick and paid family and medical leave
- $250 million for senior nutrition programs
- $1 billion for testing including reimbursement for uninsured
- Maintenance of school lunch programs
- Suspension of the work and work training requirements for SNAP
- $1 billion for unemployment compensation
- Coverage for testing in all public health programs, such as VA, DOD, Indian Health & Medicare
- Temporary increase the Medicaid federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP)
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
On March 27, Congress passed a historic $2.2 trillion economic stimulus and relief package aimed at continuing our coronavirus public health response and stabilizing our economy. This third bill is the largest and most comprehensive step Congress has taken yet to address the crisis and prioritizes our healthcare delivery system, small businesses, workers, students and provides direct monetary assistance to most Americans as the country continues to social distance. Importantly Democrats fought to ensure this bill includes real transparency and accountability measures so that these crucial taxpayer dollars get into the hands of those who need the most help.
The CARES Act:
- Provides $130 billion to hospitals, community health centers, and nursing homes
- $1,200 direct assistance to most Americans; $2,400 for married couples plus $500 for each child
- 4 months of expanded unemployment insurance for all workers, which acts as “paycheck replacement” with an additional $600 per week
- $377 billion in relief for small businesses
Specific provisions include:
- $150 billion in assistance to state and local governments
- $25 billion in support for public transit systems
- Over $7 billion in Housing assistance
- Small Business Support:
- $349 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses to pay employees and keep them on the payroll
- $17 billion for debt relief for current and new SBA borrowers
- $10 billion in immediate disaster grants
- $260 billion for Unemployment Insurance:
- Additional $600 unemployment compensation onto of other unemployment benefits
- 13 weeks of emergency unemployment compensation for workers who exhaust regular benefits
- Expanding Access: Allow part-time, self-employed, and gig economy workers to access UI benefits
- $400 million in election assistance for the states
- $200 million for the FCC Connected Care Pilot Program for help with telehealth
- $19 billion for our nation’s veterans, including funds for direct medical care, telemedicine, and retirement homes
- Creation of Treasury Department Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery to provide oversight of Treasury loans and investments and a Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to protect taxpayer dollars
- Creation of a Congressional Oversight Commission to enhance legislative oversight of pandemic response
- Includes tax relief encouraging employers to implement student loan repayment programs that will exclude up to $5,250 in qualifying student loan repayments paid by the employer on behalf of the employee.
- Halt all payments on student loans as long as six months
- $13.5 billion for elementary and secondary education
- $14.2 billion for higher education
- $100 million for correctional officer overtime, PPE, and inmate medical care
- $850 million for state and local law enforcement and jails
Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act
On May 15, the House passed the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package, which would provide another round of stimulus checks to millions of eligible Americans and extend expanded unemployment benefits. The bill also includes critical provisions to support frontline workers and their families, expand coronavirus testing and tracing, as well as increased funding for election security. House Democrats passed an updated version of the bill on October 1, 2020.
Despite the bipartisan passage of these essential measures in the House, Senate Republicans have failed to take action and continue to block the HEROES Act from coming to the Senate floor for a vote.
The HEROES Act:
- Provides $75 billion in funding for coronavirus testing and containment measures
- Gives a second round of stimulus checks of $1,200 directly to Americans
- Establishes a $200 billion “Heroes’ Fund” to support frontline workers, including assistance for childcare and family care for essential workers
- Extends $600 weekly unemployment benefits to January 2021
Specific provisions include:
- $10,000 loan cancellations for student loan debt forgiveness to “economically distressed borrowers”
- Housing protections:
- $100 billion to low-income renters to protect them from eviction
- $75 billion to homeowners to assist with mortgages and avoid foreclosure
- $25 billion in funding to support the U.S. Postal Service
- Funding for State and Local Governments:
- $500 billion to state governments
- $375 billion to local governments
- $20 billion to U.S. territories
- $20 billion to tribal governments
- $3.6 billion to states to prepare for upcoming elections and to increase election security
- Support for Farmers:
- $50 million to support farmers, farmers markets, and local food producers
- $50 million to fledgling farmers and ranchers
Other Federal Action
On March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. By officially declaring a national emergency, the federal government has unlocked important response tools and resources that can more easily be accessed at the state and local level. House Democrats had been calling on President Trump to declare an emergency since the beginning of March. While overdue, this declaration is helping to respond to initial failures on testing, equipment shortages, hospital readiness, and virus spread.
Under authorities from the National Emergencies Act (NEA) and the Stafford Act, Departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Treasury and other federal agencies the ability to exercise their respective emergency responses.
Specifically, the COVID-19 emergency declaration:
- Unlocks the $42 billion FEMA emergency fund account and allows for personnel to mobilize more quickly to help states and localities
- Loosens certain restrictions from Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP to better facilitate telehealth capabilities
- Encourages states to utilize their State Emergency Centers, in coordination with FEMA
- Instructs the IRS to relax certain tax-related deadlines
- Gives permission to states to declare a major disaster, making it easier for state and tribal governments to request federal assistance
On March 18, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that they will be suspending foreclosures and evictions for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration until the end of April. The Federal Housing Finance Agency also ordered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend foreclosures and evictions for any single-family mortgages for the next 60 days.
On March 21, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) updated its guidance and announced that the tax filing deadline has now been extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. Payments on federal taxes can also be deferred until July 15, 2020, regardless of the amount owed or the type of filler. If you are expecting a refund, you can still file today and receive your refund as usual.
On March 28, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that they have extended the grace period to renew flood insurance policies from 30 to 120 days for National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) customers.
This extension will allow additional time for policyholders who may be struggling financially to pay insurance premiums and ensure their policies are not canceled for nonpayment of premium due to circumstances beyond their control. If a policy has an expiration date between February 13, 2020, and June 15, 2020, then the NFIP insurer must receive the appropriate renewal premium within 120 days of the expiration date to avoid a lapse in coverage. Likewise, if a policyholder receives an underpayment notice dated between February 13, 2020, and June 15, 2020, then the NFIP insurer must receive the additional premium amount requested within 120 days of the date of the notice. Policyholders who need additional time to pay their premiums, beyond the 120-day extension, should contact their agent or insurer to inquire about other options the insurer may offer for premium payment.
Last updated November 19, 2020