$2T CARES Act Moves Toward Enactment
House and Senate lawmakers have passed “Phase 3” of the federal government’s efforts to address the coronavirus national emergency in the U.S. (additional information on Phase I and Phase II are available here).
H.R. 748, the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act,”was approved by the Senate by a vote of 96-0 just before midnight on March 25. The House passed the measure by voice vote this afternoon, sending the bill to the President for his signature.
The CARES Act is the largest federal effort of its kind in history, designating $2 trillion to alleviate economic strife, providing assistance for medical workers and the nation’s healthcare system, and addressing other hardships caused by the coronavirus. The agreement was the result of days of contentious negotiations between Senate Republicans and Democrats, as well as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The legislation includes funding for emergency economic relief to many sectors of the economy. When signed into law, the bill will allocate more than $350 billion for grants and low-interest loans for small businesses, expand unemployment insurance for the duration of the crisis, and direct cash payments to qualified individuals of up to $1,200 ($2,400 for qualified married couples) and $500 for each child under 17. In addition to economic relief, the bill also covers the implications of coronavirus for the healthcare sector by expanding telemedicine, providing over $100 million to hospitals and healthcare centers, fast-tracking regulatory actions on treatments and vaccines, funding FEMA aid to assist states and localities with their medical response, and increasing Medicare payments for coronavirus patients. Despite efforts to include an extension of renewable energy tax credits and airline emission standards during negotiations, the bill excludes nearly all renewable energy or climate initiatives proposed in alternative draft legislation released by House Democrats earlier this week.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) emphasized Congress must extend “a wartime level of investment” in effort, time, and federal money to alleviate the hardships the nation faces, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi compels “urgent action . . . to address this threat to the lives and livelihood of the American people,” calling the coronavirus outbreak “the worst pandemic” the nation has faced “in over fifty years.”
With the CARES Act poised for immenent enactment, Congress is expected to quickly turn to the development of legislation to help maintain employment and bolster the economy. Future packages will likely promote efforts to spur economic growth, including sector-specific provisions focused on infrastructure, energy, and climate.
Below please find a section by section summary of the CARES Act.
CARES Act Summary
TITLE I —KEEPING AMERICAN WORKERS PAID AND EMPLOYED ACT
The stimulus includes close to $350 billion in funding for the creation and oversight of a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The program would provide small businesses and other entities with up to $10 million of zero-fee loans. A business that retains its employees and their salary levels would be eligible for up to 8 weeks of forgiveness for average payroll and other costs. This benefit would be temporary emergency assistance through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Treasury. The SBA Administrator would be required to set a maximum on bank earnings for processing loan applications. The Administrator would be instructed to prioritize rural communities, minorities, women, veterans, and other disproportionally underserved borrowers. Find more details on the PPP from the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee here.
Small Business Relief
The bill would deliver $265 million in grants for SBA resource partners for assistance in responding to the effects of coronavirus on small businesses. $10 billion would be provided to support expanded access to SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for entities suffering economic harms as a result of coronavirus in the form of emergency EIDL grants. $17 billion would be provided for SBA to pay principal, interest, and fees on all existing SBA loan products for six months on behalf of all small businesses hindered by the coronavirus. This Title also provides paid leave for employees working on small business contracts with the federal government. Find more details on small business relief and the full list of direct appropriations from the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee here.
TITLE II—ASSISTANCE FOR AMERICAN WORKERS, FAMILIES, AND BUSINESSES
Under the leadership authority of the Secretary of Labor, the bill would create a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program through December 31, 2020, for independent contractors, self-employed people, and others who are without work as a result of coronavirus. An additional $600 per week of payments will go to each recipient of unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for up to a third of a year. The bill would extend unemployment benefits to an additional 13 weeks through December 31, 2020, to assist individuals who remain unemployed after their state unemployment benefits lapse. Find details on unemployment measures from the Senate Finance Committee here.
The bill would give U.S. residents with adjusted gross incomes of up to $75,000 an immediate cash rebate of $1,200. Married couples who fall below $150,000 would get a combined total of $2,400. People with children would receive an additional $500 per child. For those making more than $75,000 ($150,000 for a married couple), the rebate amount would reduce by $5 for each $100 of gross income that exceeds the $75,000 ($150,000 for a married couple) threshold.
Additionally, the bill would alter standing regulations allowing individuals to tap into their retirement funds up to $100,000, penalty-free, to address financial hardships associated with coronavirus. The bill goes further by modifying charitable contribution deduction limits to encourage contributions in 2020. Also, the legislation would allow employers to provide student loan repayments for employees on a tax-free basis. Find details on aide from the Senate Finance Committee here.
Payroll Tax Credit
Among other provisions, the bill would provide a refundable payroll tax credit for half of the wages employers pay to employees through the duration of the coronavirus crisis. Eligible employers would be those whose operations were wholly or in part suspended in relation to coronavirus or those employers whose gross receipts fall by more than 50 percent in comparison to the same quarter in 2019. CARES would also allow employers and those who are self-employed to defer the payment of the employer share of the Social Security tax through December 31, 2020. Further, the bill would accelerate the use of a company’s net operating losses (NOL) by allowing NOLs from 2018, 2019, and 2020 to be carried back five years and temporarily removing the taxable income limitations. Find more information on business provisions from the Senate Finance Committee here.
TITLE III —SUPPORTING AMERICA’S HEALTH CARE SYSTEM IN THE FIGHT AGAINST THE CORONAVIRUS
The bill would direct the National Academies to provide Congress with study-based recommendations to strengthen the U.S. drug and medical device supply chain. It would also explicitly allow the Strategic National Stockpile to compile personal protection equipment and other medical supplies that address the coronavirus such as supplies for testing and administering drugs and vaccines. CARES would afford liability protections for specific personal respiratory protective equipment in the event of a public health emergency. The bill would require manufacturers of medical devices and pharmaceuticals to notify the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in advance of any supply chain disruptions. Disruptions could include discontinuances or interruptions of manufacturing that would be likely to lead to a meaningful disruption in supply; the manufacturer would also have to provide a reason for the discontinuance or disruption. Further, the bill would require the FDA to prioritize and expedite inspections and reviews to prevent or mitigate drug and medical device shortages. Find details on supply shortages from the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee summary here.
Medical Product Supplies
The bill includes several provisions that address potential supply chain issues that could result in a shortage of therapies and supplies needed for the coronavirus crisis. The bill clarifies that personal protective equipment (PPE) and swabs can be added to the Strategic National Stockpile. Additionally, the proposal identifies respiratory protective devices as covered counter-measures and ensures that manufacturers of these products are not liable during the crisis. The bill requires a report on the medical supply chain in the U.S., which should focus on drugs and equipment that is manufactured abroad. Find details on the medical supplies portion of the bill from the Senate HELP Committee summary here.
Coverage of Testing and Preventative Services
The bill ensures that patients will have access to diagnostics and care related to the coronavirus, including a future coronavirus vaccine being covered under Medicare Part B without cost-sharing and coverage for testing authorized by the FDA under an emergency use authorization (EUA), as well as tests approved by states. It would require health insurers to cover coronavirus vaccines and other preventative treatments soon after they are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Also, community health centers are given $1.32 billion in funding to address the costs associated with testing and other diagnostic services and treatment. The Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) grant program will be reauthorized to support telemedicine services and rural healthcare. It also addresses the staffing needs of the coronavirus crisis by releasing volunteer healthcare workers from liability and allows National Health Service Corps workers to be reassigned to areas of need. Find details on coverage testing and preventative services from the Senate HELP Committee summary here.
The bill would reauthorizes and updates Title VII of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA), which supports training programs for the education of practitioners in family medicine, general internal medicine, geriatrics, pediatrics, and other specialties. It also directs the Secretary of HHS to develop a plan for health workforce programs, which should identify gaps between existing programs and workforce needs. The CARES Act reauthorizes and updates Title VIII of the PHSA, which pertains to nurse workforce training programs. Find more information on the healthcare workforce from the Senate HELP Committee summary here.
The bill provides multiple forms of support for students and educational institutions including allowing unused work-study funds to roll over as supplemental grants, allowing institutions to provide additional funding to students impacted by the coronavirus, and allowing students that dropped out due to coronavirus -related circumstances to not lose that term of eligibility for federal aid, including Pell grants. For HBCUs, the Secretary of Education is authorized to defer payments on their Capital Financing loans during the crisis period. For federal student loan account holders, payments and interest will be deferred for six months without penalty. Find details on the education provisions from the Senate HELP Committee Summary here.
Finance and Medicare Provisions
The bill includes an expansion of telehealth under Medicare, eliminating a provision requiring providers to have an existing relationship with a patient prior to beginning telehealth visits during the emergency period. Qualified health centers and rural healthcare providers will be permitted to provide telehealth services, and health savings accounts included in high-deductible plans can now cover telehealth services before a deductible is reached. In addition, certain regulatory requirements are waived for post-acute care providers, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, long-term care hospitals, and home health agencies. The bill would also increase the amount paid for durable medical equipment furnished in rural areas. Find more information on finance and Medicare provisions from the Senate Finance Committee here.
This section of the bill determines the limits on paid leave and paid sick leave payments for employers. For paid family and medical leave, the limit is $200 per day or $10,000 total, and for paid sick leave, the limit is $511 per day or $5,100 in total. It also allows an employee who was laid off March 1, 2020, or later access to paid leave in certain instances if their employer rehires them. Additionally, employers can receive an advance tax credit instead of having to be reimbursed for paid leave expenses later. Find details on the labor provisions from the Senate HELP Committee summary here.
TITLE IV— ECONOMIC STABILIZATION AND ASSISTANCE TO SEVERELY DISTRESSED SECTORS OF THE UNITED STATES ECONOMY
Assistance for States, Municipalities, Tribes, and Businesses
The bill contains $504 billion in loan funding for airlines and other companies, and creates lending facilities for states, municipalities, tribes, and businesses. The Treasury Department would be able to issue $50 billion in direct loans with $25 billion allotted for passenger airlines, and $17 billion could be invested in business essential for national security. Such loans are conditioned on limits regarding executive compensation and stock purchases. $454 billion could be used to invest in Federal Reserve facilities to provide protection for banks lending to states, municipalities, and businesses in the form of liquidity. The bill would create strict oversight and disclosure requirements for loan recipients, and mandates the Treasury Secretary and Chair of the Federal Reserve to testify each quarter before Congress with regards to the oversight of such loans. Find details about state, municipality, and business assistance and learn more about oversight from the Senate Banking Committee here.
Protections for Homeowners and Renters
Homeowners with federally-backed mortgages would have the ability to request a forbearance on payments for up to a year— void of penalties, fees, or additional interest. The bill would also allow a 90-day forbearance on loans for owners of multifamily rental properties, with the caveat that the owners may not evict nor charge any penalties on renters who do not pay their rent. Renters who rent from an owner of a federally-subsidized property or a property with a federally-backed mortgage would also be protected from eviction if the renter cannot pay rent for up to 120-days. Find more information about homeowner and renter protections from the Senate Banking Committee here.
TITLE V—CORONAVIRUS RELIEF FUNDS
Relief to Local, State, and Tribal Governments
The bill allocates $150 billion to a “Coronavirus Relief Fund” for state, local and tribal governments, as well as entities of tribal governments. Eligible costs include any additional operating, administrative, or other expenses now being incurred because of the coronavirus. For territories and Washington, D.C., the bill allocated $3 billion in emergency funding. This leaves $139 billion to be distributed between the various states, localities, and tribes that have been impacted, and each state will receive, at minimum, $1.25 billion, which must be paid within 30-days of the bill being signed into law. It is of note that some Governors, including Andrew Cuomo of New York, have indicated that this is not nearly enough relief funding.
TITLE VI—MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS
U.S. Postal Services (USPS)
The package would allow the USPS to borrow up to $10 billion from the Treasury if USPS decides it needs financial assistance for operating expenses as a result of coronavirus. The bill would also alter existing USPS policy to allow it to prioritize medical supply deliveries during the coronavirus emergency and to establish alternate delivery points during the emergency if the USPS cannot reach all addresses as a result of the pandemic.
TITLE I – AGRICULTURAL PROGRAMS
Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The bill would provide $48.9 billion for UDSA, including the FDA. Those funds would go to supporting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), child nutrition programs, food distribution programs on Indian reservations, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, rural development, and more. Find details on the USDA from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
TITLE II – DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, JUSTICE, SCIENCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES
Departments of Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
The bill would provide $3.1 billion to support economic development, investments in science, and law enforcement and incarceration facilities on the federal, state, and local levels. Specifically, part of the funds would go to rebuilding impacted industries such as tourism and manufacturing supply chains through the leadership of the Economic Development Administration (EDA). Additionally, funding would go to assisting small- and medium-sized manufacturers; fishermen; civil legal aid needs for low-income Americans who experience civil or criminal crimes as a result of the coronavirus; and National Institute of Standards and Technology for research and development of coronavirus testing and treatment. Find details on these departments from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
The bill would fund $100 million to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to prevent and prepare for coronavirus internationally and domestically, including funding to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Funding would also go to state and local law enforcement to allow rapid access to personal protective equipment, medical resources, overtime payments, and facility cleanings.
TITLE III – DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Department of Defense (DOD)
The bill provides $10.5 billion to the DOD for the National Guard, the Defense Production Act, military medical research programs developing vaccines and anti-viral pharmaceuticals, and military hospital expansion and expeditionary hospital packages to triple the number of beds available in military treatment facilities. Find more details on the DOD from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
TITLE IV – ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT, AND RELATED AGENCIES
Energy, Water Development, and Related Agencies
The bill would provide $221 million to support the Department of Energy’s research into the coronavirus and to agencies to respond to impeded operations that result from coronavirus, such as improving telework capabilities. Specifically, $28 million would go to the Department of Energy (DOE) to respond to coronavirus, $3.3 million to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to respond to coronavirus, and $99.5 million to DOE’s Office of Science to support research on coronavirus. Additionally, millions would go to the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation to assist with equipment, licenses, and IT to support and improve teleworking capabilities and remote access. Find more information on DOE and other related agencies from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
TITLE V – FINANCIAL SERVICES AND GENERAL GOVERNMENT
$1.82 billion would go to Financial Services and General Government agencies to address strains in small businesses. It would also go to protecting U.S. elections, funding new IRS responsibilities, and overseeing federal spending. Relief for the Small Business Administration (SBA) would come in the form of $562 million, which would assist the SBA in funding Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for distressed small businesses in need of financial support. $400 million would go to states to assist in preparing for the 2020 elections, ideally making voting safer for Americans across the country. This bill also would create an oversight committee entitled the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) and would provide $200 million to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support telehealth. Further, it would provide $250 million in additional funding to the Internal Revenue Code (IRS) to administer the new tax credits for paid leave. Find details on Financial Services and General Government agencies from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
The package would also provide $7.5 million for emergency relief funding for the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeals, and District Courts. It would also allow courts to limit in-person proceedings and authorizes courts to conduct certain criminal proceedings by videoconference or through the phone, with the defendant’s consent. F.
TITLE VI – DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
The bill would provide $45.9 billion to DHS. $45 billion would go to the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) to finance medical responses, acquisition of personal protective equipment, deployment of the National Guard, and other community services across the nation. Additional funds would ensure that money is available for state, local, and tribal governments as they increase field test sites, additional hospital capacity, and National Guard Resources. Find details on DHS appropriations from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would receive grant funds to support the critical needs of frontline personnel to total $400 million. $200 million of those funds would go to the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP), another $100 million would be for providing personal protective equipment and supplies to firefighters and first responders as they assist their communities. The last $100 million would be for Emergency Management Performance Grants that focus on emergency preparedness.
FEMA would also receive $45 million to expand information technology and communication capabilities to better facilitate response coordination efforts. The package also includes $9 million to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) for supply chain and information analysis. CISA could also use the funding for impacted critical infrastructure coordination. The bill would provide $100 million for enhanced sanitation at airport security checkpoints for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Notably absent from delineated CARES Act funding are funds for Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to address and manage its coronavirus response for individuals held in detention centers across the country.
TITLE VII—DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Department of the Interior (DOI)
The bill would provide $2 billion to assist Native communities and tribal governments as they respond to coronavirus. $1 billion would go to Indian Health Service (IHS) to support the tribal health system during the pandemic, including but not limited to increased access to care and medical supplies, and expanded telehealth services. The bill would provide $453 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to support welfare assistance and social service programs, expanded telework and emergency response capabilities, and more. Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) would receive $69 million, and the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Secretary would get $158.4 million in centralized, flexible resources for the Secretary of the Interior to use to address coronavirus response needs for national parks, wildlife refuges, and other public lands and bureaus.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be awarded $7.2 million to support coronavirus-related research efforts, telework infrastructure, cleaning facilities m, and other actions related to addressing coronavirus. The Forest Service (FS) would be allocated $70 million across all programs so that the Forest Service may assist in prevention, mitigation, and recovery programs, and other costs related to coronavirus. $12.5 million for critical research funding would go to the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Finally, the Smithsonian Institution would receive $7.5 million, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts would receive $25 million, and the National Endowment for the Art and Humanities would receive $150 million. Find details on the funding allocated to the DOI from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
TITLE VIII – DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES
Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), Education and Related Agencies
The bill would provide $172.1 billion for additional investments in healthcare, vaccine development, state and local coronavirus response efforts, the procurement of essential medical supplies, education, social service programs, and child care. $900 million would go to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help lower-income households heat and cool their homes. $4.3 billion would go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), $945 million to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), $275 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and $200 million to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The Department of Labor would receive $360 million to invest in programs that provide training and supportive services for Americans out of work and ensuring the swift implementation of new Paid Leave and UI benefit programs. Find more on DOL, HHS, and other related agencies from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
TITLE IX—LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
The bill would give $93.1 million to critical funding for the Legislative Branch to go to health, safety, and remote work capabilities. Find details on Legislative Branch treatment from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
The bill would also protect intellectual property rights for coronavirus-affected industries that may not meet deadlines contained in the Copyright Act related to the registration of copyrights and licensing regimes administered by the Copyright office.
Veterans Affairs (VA) and Related Agencies
The bill would give $19.6 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure it has the tests, equipment, and support needed to provide adequate care to veterans and veteran facilities across the nation. It would provide $15.9 billion to direct medical care, $590 million for vulnerable veterans at increased risk of contracting coronavirus, $3.1 billion for IT support and telemedicine, $2.8 billion for staff treating veterans who reside in Armed Forces Retirement Homes (AFRH), and more. Find details on the VA from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
Title XI – Department of State
Department of State (State)
The bill would provide $1.1 billion for the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Peace Corps to support the repatriation of U.S. Government employees and American citizens abroad, including giving additional medical and personal protective equipment and to prevent the increase of humanitarian needs internationally. Additionally, the bill would provide the Department of State, USAID, and other agencies the ability to participate in replenishing international financial institutions to support countries with fragile economies impacted by the coronavirus. Find details on The Department of State from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
United States Agency of International Development (USAID)
The bill would provide $353 million for UASID, including $95 million for operational requirements of USAID, including support for withdrawals and ordered evacuations for overseas staff, surge support, and increased technical assistance for remote operations, along with additional needs. Additionally, the bill would provide $259 million for USAID to help other countries that are ill-equipped to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The monetary support would prioritize groups affected by ongoing humanitarian crises, such as refugees, because of their increased vulnerability, the heightened risk of severe illness in camps and informal settlements, and the anticipated disproportionate mortality in these populations. Find details on USAID from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
Title XII – Departments of Transportation and Housing
Housing and Transportation
The bill would allocate $48.5 billion for housing and transportation issues related to the coronavirus crisis. Federal investment in transportation-related issues would center around workforce protections, including workers that may be furloughed, maintain transportation systems for the public,tribal transportation and housing, and funding for airports and rail lines. Find details on housing and transportation from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
The housing provisions included in the bill would focus on the homeless population and their vulnerability to coronavirus due to living conditions and funding rent and utility payments. Additional spending for Community Development Block Grants would also be included and is funded at the $5 billion level.
Airports would receive $10 billion under this package to help mitigate the impacts of the vast decline in air travel and cargo traffic due to the coronavirus. As airports work to advance infrastructure projects that are already in motion, these funds will help bridge the gap.
For Amtrak, $1.1 billion in funding would be made available to support the losses in income due to decreased passengers. This funding would also allow Amtrak to fulfill its FAST Act obligations and limit interruptions to service on state-supported routes. The Federal Railroad Administration would also receive $250,000 for safety equipment related to the crisis.
Community Development Block Grants
The Community Development Block Grant program’s $5 billion in funding would be allocated to states, cities, and counties to mitigate the housing and economic impacts of the coronavirus. This includes the potential expansion of a variety of different facilities, including health facilities, food banks, and senior services. In total, $2 billion would be allocated to states and local governments that received funding under the fiscal year 2020 formula, $1 billion would go to states to support a coordinated response across the entitlement and non-entitlement communities, and $2 billion would be allocated to states and local government, cities, and counties based on the level of disruption they may experience due to the coronavirus. Find information on community development block grants from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.
Emergency Solutions Grants
The bill would provide $4 billion in Emergency Solutions Grants to provide rehousing, eviction prevention, and homelessness assistance to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus on housing security. There would also be $3 billion available in rental assistance for low-income taxpayers and almost $2 billion to assist public housing agencies with keeping people in their homes. For elderly and disabled Americans, $65 million is allocated for housing security measures and assistance. Additionally, $300 million would go to the Indian Housing Block Grant program and other measures to prevent the potential displacement caused by the coronavirus. Find details on the emergency solutions grants from the Senate Appropriations Committee here.