Highlights of the Coronavirus Federal Stimulus Bill for Community Partners

The $2.2 trillion stimulus package – S. 3548 The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act – passed in the Senate on Wednesday, March 25th and will be voted on by the House on Friday, March 27th.  The bill contains measures directed toward providing relief to workers, including stimulus checks, expanded unemployment insurance benefits, and loans available for small businesses, among other provisions.  Below is a high-level overview of the bill.  Implementation details will become clearer after action is taken in the House.  However, in the interest of helping local community members prepare to access relief, several key provisions are summarized here.

Key Items for Community Partners:

Direct payments to households.  The bill provides for direct payments of $1,200 to individual taxpayers earning up to $75,000 annually.  Payments are reduced for individuals who earn more than $75,000 and payments do not apply to those who earn more than $99,000. Couples who file joint tax returns are eligible for a payment of up to $2,400 per household and $500 per child.   The amount is reduced for couples who earn more than $150,000 a year.  Payments are structured as tax refunds to allow the IRS to distribute the funds quickly.  Eligibility for the benefit would be determined by a taxpayers’ 2019 or 2018 tax returns.

Expansion of unemployment insurance.  The bill provides $250 billion in unemployment insurance making it available to more categories of workers and extending the duration of benefits to 39 weeks from the typical 26 weeks.  Self-employed workers, including independent contractors, freelancers, and other nontraditional workers who are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable to work because of Covid-19 will be eligible. The legislation also provides a $600-a-week increase above current unemployment benefit levels for four months.

Loans to small business.  The bill provides $349 billion in loans to small businesses which convert into grants that do not have to be repaid for amounts spent on payroll, rent, or utilities. Businesses and nonprofits with up to 500 workers in a single location can apply through qualifying banks for loans backed by the Small Business Administration.  The loans cover wages up to $100,000 a year. For information on how to apply, the SBA has set up a new webpage with information and an application available here: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19

Tax benefits for businesses. The bill provides $221 billion in a variety of tax benefits for businesses, including allowing businesses to defer payroll taxes for the rest of the year.

Supports for children and families. The bill provides $3.5 billion in Child Care and Development Block Grants to states for assistance to child care providers to prevent them from going out of business and to otherwise support child care for families, including for healthcare workers, first responders, and others playing critical roles during this crisis. An allocation of $750 million is directed to grants for Head Start programs to help them respond to coronavirus related needs of children and families, including making up for lost learning time.

Food assistance.  The bill provides $450 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which supplies food banks. Some $350 million would buy additional food, and $100 million would be used for distribution. The bill includes $15.5 billion in additional funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and $8.8 billion in additional funding for Child Nutrition Programs in order to ensure children receive meals while school is not in session.

Community Services Block Grant.  The bill provides $1 billion in direct funding to local community-based organizations to provide a wide-range of social services and emergency assistance. CSBG contact information for state officials and program coordinators is available here: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ocs/resource/state-officials-and-program-contacts

Affordable housing and homelessness.  The bill provides more than $7 billion for affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs to help low-income and working-class Americans avoid evictions and minimize any impacts caused by loss of employment, and child care, or other unforeseen circumstances related to COVID-19.  It includes $1 billion for continuation of housing assistance contracts with private landlords for over 1.2 million Project-Based Section 8 households, $65 million for rental assistance, service coordinators, and support services related to housing for the elderly and persons with disabilities.

Aid to states and localities. The bill provides $150 billion in direct aid to states, distributed according to population size.  $5 billion is provided for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to enable nearly 1,240 states, counties, and cities to rapidly respond to COVID-19 and the economic and housing impacts caused by it, including the expansion of community health facilities, child care centers, food banks, and senior services. Of the amounts provided, $2 billion will be allocated to states and units of local governments that received an allocation under the fiscal year 2020 CDBG formula, $1 billion will go directly to states to support a coordinated response across entitlement and non-entitlement communities, and $2 billion will be allocated to states and units of local government, cities and counties based on the prevalence and risk of COVID-19 and related economic and housing disruption.