Legislative Responses: Phases I-III
To date, the United States Congress has passed three legislative packages that have been signed into law in response to the coronavirus. As our country continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has worked to ensure that the necessary resources are being provided to hospitals, doctors, nurses, first responders, and everyone working on the frontlines to fight the pandemic. Congress will provide new resources as necessary, and discussions for a Phase IV legislative package are already underway. Below, you will find outlines of the three legislative responses that have already been signed into law and information about how they may affect you.
The first response to the COVID-19 pandemic came in H.R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Acts, 2020, which was signed into law on March 6, 2020. The legislation provided $8.6 billion in emergency funding for the purpose of treating the illness and preventing widespread transmission, and included:
- $2.2 billion in public health funding for prevention, preparedness, and response, including $950 million to support state and local health agencies on the front lines of the pandemic;
- $3.3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics for COVID-19 illness;
- $1 billion for medical supplies, health care preparedness, and medical surge capacity;
- $7 billion in low interest loans to affected small businesses; and
- $1.25 billion to secure American’s health by addressing coronavirus overseas, specifically bolstering USAID funding for evacuations and emergency preparedness at embassies across the globe.
Two weeks later, H.R.6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was enacted. This Phase II legislation sought to bolster the federal government’s response to the coronavirus and included the following:
- Free testing for coronavirus, inclusive of those with private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, VA, FEHBP, and TRICARE, as well as the uninsured;
- Paid emergency leave, including two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of job-protected leave, to allow workers to follow quarantine recommendations and care for their family members impacted by the virus;
- Enhanced unemployment insurance to help cover workers who are furloughed or quarantined due to an outbreak in their workplaces;
- Food security through the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program, food banks, Meals on Wheels, and SNAP, as well as electronic benefit transfer amounts to families who would usually receive free and reduced-price meals at school; and
- Health security through additional federal funding into Medicaid to give states the option to expand Medicaid coverage for COVID-19 testing.
The third coronavirus response bill, H.R.748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is the largest economic stimulus bill in American history. Signed into law on March 27, 2020, this legislation provides more than $2 trillion in economic assistance to bolster the economy and support families. While not an exhaustive list, some of the key provisions of the CARES Act are listed below:
- $200 billion for hospitals, health systems, and health research, including funding for personal protective equipment like ventilators, n95 masks, gowns, and gloves
- $1.32 billion for fiscal 2020 for supplemental awards to community health centers to prevent and treat Covid-19
- $200 million for improving telemedicine
- Suspends automatic Medicare payment cuts to hospitals and doctors (sequestration) through the end of 2020
- Reauthorizes and funds several health workforce programs, providing $255 million annually for nursing workforce development programs, $51.5 million annually for scholarships for disadvantaged students, $48.9 million annually for primary care training and enhancement, $41.3 million annually for area health education center, $40.7 million for geriatrics education and training, $79.5 million annually for grant programs related to rural health care, and $29 million annually for telehealth network and resource centers grant programs
States, Local Government, and Tribes
- $500 billion for loans and assistance to companies and state and local governments, plus an additional $150 billion for state, local, and tribal governments
Families and Individuals
- Fully refundable advance tax rebates of $1,200 for individual taxpayers and $2,400 for married couple filing jointly, plus $500 per child (phased out when incomes exceed $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples)
- $48.5 billion for transportation and housing assistance, including $25 billion for public transit operators, $5 billion is provided for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, $4 billion for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and $3 billion in rental assistance protections
- $3.5 billion for childcare and an additional $750 million for Head Start
- Americans who lose their job during the crisis can receive an additional $600 per week for up to 4 months on top of state unemployment insurance benefits and receive an additional 13 weeks of federally funded benefits
- A new, temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program will help gig workers, contractors, and self-employed individuals
- $32 billion for financial assistance to the aviation workforce
Small Businesses and Economic Provisions
- $379 billion in small business relief, including $349 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees and keep them on the payroll, $17 billion for debt relief for current and new SBA borrowers; and $10 billion to expand the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) disaster loan program
- $29 billion for loans to U.S. airlines and related businesses
- Deferment of the payroll and railroad retirement tax payments through the end of 2020, providing businesses with about $300 billion in cash flow
- $31 billion in emergency education funding to students, schools, institutions, and states across the country
- Suspends loan payments and prevents interest from accruing on all federal student loans and halts all involuntary collection of federal student loan debt, including wage garnishment and tax refund offset, through September.
- $19.7 billion for the Department of Veteran Affairs, including $14.4 billion for essential medical and protective equipment, $2.1 billion to support increased demand for care in the community; and $2.25 billion to bolster telehealth capabilities
- 180 days of protection against foreclosure for federally backed home loans and 120 days of eviction protection for renters in federally supported housing
- Allows the U.S. Postal Service borrow as much as $10 billion in additional funds from the Treasury Department to cover operating expenses during the Covid-19 emergency.
- $10.5 billion for the Department of Defense, primarily for the protection of members of the Armed Forces, their families, and military retirees from coronavirus.
- $400 million for states to help prepare for the 2020 elections, to increase the ability to vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration, and increase the safety of voting in-person by providing additional voting facilities and more poll-workers.
- $45.9 billion in funding with a focus on helping people, communities, and frontline personnel prepare for and recover from COVID-19 under the Department of Homeland Security, including $200 million for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program and $45 million to FEMA for response and recovery activities and reimbursement of state and local governments
- Extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program through November 2020 at its previous annual level of $16.6 billion.
- $9.5 billion for the United States Department of Agriculture to support agricultural producers impacted by coronavirus, including producers of specialty crops, producers that supply local food systems, including farmers markets, restaurants, and schools, and livestock producers, including dairy producers.
After first being passed in the U.S. Senate, H.R.266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act was passed in the House of Representatives and signed into law on April 24, 2020. The bill is an emergency supplemental appropriations bill that advances the U.S. Government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak by providing additional funding for small business loans, health care providers, and COVID-19 testing. Among other provisions, the legislation provides:
- $310 billion for loans under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program
- $50 billion in loan subsidies to fund approximately $350 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program
- $10 billion for Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Grants, which can be used for an advance of up to $10,000 on a disaster loan and do not need to be repaid
- $75 billion to reimburse hospitals and health care providers for health care related expenses or lost revenues attributable to COVID-19.
- $25 billion to increase testing for COVID-19, including:
- $11 billion for States, localities, territories, and Tribes
- $1 billion for CDC for surveillance, epidemiology, contact tracing, and other activities to support testing
- $1.8 billion for NIH to accelerate development of point-of-care and rapid diagnostic technologies
- $1 billion for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to accelerate development of point-of-care and rapid diagnostic technologies
- $22 million for FDA for its role in accelerating development and approval of point-of-care and rapid diagnostics
- $600 million for Community Health Centers to support COVID-19 testing
- $225 million for Rural Health Clinics to support COVID-19 testing, and
- up to $1 billion to cover the cost of testing the uninsured
- A requirement that the Department of Health and Human Services submit to Congress a COVID-19 strategic testing plan
Additional Legislative Resources
Below, please find a list of resources compiled by select standing Committees of the House of Representatives on our nation’s response to the coronavirus. These resource pages are updated regularly to provide timely information, fact sheets, and guidance for the resources included in each piece of legislation responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Agriculture – The Agriculture Committee works to keep food safe and affordable, build and maintain quality of life in rural areas, and ensure the competitiveness of American agriculture. Please check here for resources pertaining to food assistance, farming, commodities, and the Food and Drug Administration.
Education and Labor – The Education and Labor committee and its five subcommittees oversee education and workforce programs that affect all Americans, from early learning through secondary education, from job training through retirement. Please check here for resources pertaining to education and workforce benefits.
Energy and Commerce – The Energy and Commerce Committee has the broadest jurisdiction of any authorizing committee in Congress, including healthcare and medical insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, biomedical research and development, food and drug safety, energy and conservation, electronic communications and the internet, travel, tourism and sports, and interstate and foreign commerce. Please check here for resources related to these issues.
Financial Services – The Financial Services Committee has jurisdiction over banks and banking, Federal monetary policy, economic stabilization (including defense production, rents, and services), public and private housing, insurance, financial aid, and international finance. Please check here for resources related to housing, homelessness, student loan borrowing, and financial oversight.
Homeland Security – The Homeland Security Committee performs oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other U.S. security legislation. Please check here for resources related to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), DHS. and border control, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Natural Resources – The House Committee on Natural Resources oversees federal conservation and species protection programs and insular affairs. Please check here for resources related to Indian Country and insular territories, energy and mineral resources, and public lands.
Oversight and Reform – The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the main investigative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. It has authority to investigate the subjects within the Committee’s legislative jurisdiction as well as “any matter” within the jurisdiction of the other standing House Committees. Please check here for information relating to our nation’s preparedness for, and response to, the outbreak.
Small Business – The Committee on Small Business is charged with aiding and protecting small business, including financial aid, regulatory flexibility, and paperwork reduction. Please check here for information about the hundreds of billions of dollars in assistance Congress has allocated for small businesses across the country, including the SBA Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and other emergency debt relief.
Veterans’ Affairs – This Committee has jurisdiction over veterans’ measures generally, including veterans’ hospitals, medical care, treatment compensation, pensions, vocational rehabilitation, and education. Check here for resources related to veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Ways and Means – The U.S. Constitution requires that all bills regarding taxation must originate in the House of Representatives. The Committee of Ways and Means is the chief tax-writing committee of the House, and has jurisdiction over all taxation, tariffs, and other revenue-raising measures, as well as several other programs. Check here for resources related to tax rebates, the IRS, and Unemployment Compensation.