Coronavirus - Stimulus - Federal Aid

How Disability Rights California Can Help You

 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Stimulus - Federal Aid

*This page will be updated as more information is made available

What’s in the $2 Trillion Coronavirus Aid Package

On the afternoon of March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed the House of Representatives by a voice vote. The President then signed the bill into law on the same day. It is a $2 trillion bill that builds upon earlier versions of the CARES Act and intended to be a third round of federal government support in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis and associated economic fallout, succeeding the $8.3 billion in public health support passed two weeks ago and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It is the product of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans for a bipartisan response to the crisis.

Unfortunately, given the $2 trillion size of the overall package there is very little directed specifically to needs of persons with disabilities as they confront the COVID-19 surge. Ongoing advocacy on issues important to the disability community will be critical in what will surely be the next Congressional virus package.

Individuals

Cash payments: Estimated to total $300 billion. Most individuals earning less than $75,000 can expect a one-time cash payment of $1,200. Married couples would each receive a check and families would get $500 per child. That means a family of four earning less than $150,000 can expect $3,400.  The checks start to phase down after that and disappear completely for people making more than $99,000 and couples making more than $198,000.  Social Security and SSI recipients are eligible even if they did not file a 2018 or 2019 tax return through a match with the Social Security Administration.

Extra unemployment payments: This bill adds $600 per week from the federal government on top of whatever base amount a worker receives from the state. That boosted payment will last for four months. The $260 billion estimated cost is subject to change based on the number of people filing for unemployment. For example, if an out-of-work person is receiving the national average of about $340 per week, under the new federal program their take-home pay will be $940. The legislation also adds 13 weeks of additional unemployment insurance. People nearing the maximum number of weeks allowed by their state would get an extension.

Gig workers and freelancers: Typically, self-employed people, freelancers and contractors can't apply for unemployment. This bill creates a new, temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program through the end of this year to help people who lose work as a direct result of the public health emergency.

Tax returns: The filing deadline for 2019 has been extended to July 15, 2020.

Student loans: Employers can provide up to $5,250 in tax-free student loan repayment benefits. That means an employer could contribute to loan payments and workers wouldn't have to include that money as income.

Insurance coverage: The bill requires all private insurance plans to cover COVID-19 treatments and vaccines and makes all coronavirus tests free.

Small Businesses

Emergency grants: The bill provides $10 billion for grants of up to $10,000 to provide emergency funds for small businesses to cover immediate operating costs.

Forgivable loans: There is $350 billion allocated for the Small Business Administration to provide loans of up to $10 million per business. Any portion of that loan used to maintain payroll, keep workers on the books or pay for rent, mortgage and existing debt could be forgiven, provided workers stay employed through the end of June.

Big Businesses

Loans and credits: The bill sets aside roughly $500 billion in loans and other money for big corporations. These companies will have to pay the government back and will be subject to public disclosures and other requirements including $58 billion for airlines. Any company receiving a loan under the program is barred from making stock buybacks for the term of the loan plus one year.

All businesses: The bill establishes a fully refundable tax credit for businesses of all sizes that are closed or distressed to help them keep workers on the payroll. The credit covers to 50 percent of payroll on the first $10,000 of compensation, including health benefits, for each employee. For employers with more than 100 full-time employees, the credit is for wages paid to employees when they are not providing services because of the coronavirus. Eligible employers with 100 or fewer full-time employees could use the deduction even if they aren't closed.

Public Health

Hospitals: There is $100 billion for hospitals responding to the coronavirus.

Community health centers: The bill provides $1.32 billion in immediate additional funding for community centers that provide health care services for roughly 28 million people.

Drug access: There is $11 billion for diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. The bill also includes $80 million for the Food and Drug Administration to prioritize and expedite approval of new drugs.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: CDC programs and response efforts are getting $4.3 billion.

Medicaid

Money Follows the Person: Extends the Money Follows the Person and spousal impoverishment provisions through November 30, 2020.

Providers: Allows non-profit Medicaid providers to take advantage of the small business loans, unlike in earlier versions of the bill that excluded them.

Social Security

The Social Security Trust Funds will be held harmless in an amount equal to any losses caused by the Act.

Nutrition

Child nutrition: There is $8.8 billion to give schools more flexibility to provide meals for students.

Food stamps: $15.5 billion is going to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. The money will help cover the expected cost of new applications to the program as a result of the coronavirus.

Food banks: There is $450 million more for food banks and other community food distribution programs.

State and Local Governments

The legislation designates $339.8 billion for programs that will go to state and local governments. It is divided up to put $274 billion toward specific COVID-19 response efforts, including $150 billion in direct aid for those state and local governments running out of cash due to high numbers of cases. It also includes $5 billion for Community Development Block Grants, $13 billion for K-12 schools (which can also be used for special education at the discretion of the schools), $14 billion for higher education and $5.3 billion for programs for children and families, including immediate assistance to child care centers.

Education

Temporary student loan relief: All loan and interest payments would be deferred through Sept. 30 without penalty to the borrower for all federally owned student loans.

Work study funds: It allows schools to turn unused work-study funds into supplemental grants and continue paying work study wages while schools are suspended.

Students who are forced to drop out: Students who drop out of school as a result of the coronavirus wouldn't have that time away from school deducted from their lifetime limits on subsidized loan and Pell grant eligibility. Those students would also not be asked to pay back any grants or other aid they've already received.

Special Education

Waiver report: Though the CARES Act does not include a waiver of requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it does direct the Secretary to provide Congress (within 30 days) with a list of the waivers that will be needed for states to implement IDEA. These waivers would free local educational agencies (LEAs) from their legal obligations, such as completing evaluations for students with disabilities, designing and implementing individualized education plans (IEPs), and providing equal educational access to students with disabilities. While it falls short of issuing these blanket waivers right now, in 30 days it will effectively open the door to dangerous and damaging changes to the most important federal protections for students with disabilities.

Housing for Persons with Disabilities

$15,000,000 for Housing for Persons with Disabilities, to remain available until September 30, 2023, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including to provide additional funds to maintain normal operations and take other necessary actions during the period that the program is impacted by corona virus.

Administration for Community Living, Aging and Disability Services

Provides additional funding for Aging and Disability Services Programs to respond to coronavirus; Older Americans Act including nutrition services; family caregivers; long-term care ombudsman; and independent living centers.

Home and Community Based Services (HCBS)

Provides for HCBS in acute care hospitals.

 

*This is a preliminary review and will be updated as the legislation is reviewed and implementation details become known.