What is the Federal Government Doing to Help People Impacted by Coronavirus?

June 29, 2020
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Editor’s Note: This blog has been updated on December 22, 2020​

If you are a person impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), are living with cancer, or are immunocompromised, one important way to maintain some sense of control in what might be an anxiety-provoking time is to understand what is being done from a policy perspective to help respond to the pandemic, and how these changes have the potential to actually impact you and your community.

Background

In October 2020 the Trump administration renewed the public health emergency for COVID-19, ensuring that critical resources to fight the pandemic can continue across the United States. Congress had undertaken legislative action to respond to the crisis with emergency coronavirus stimulus packages. These bills were aimed at funding research, treatment, and vaccine development, increasing access to certain health care provisions and lessening the economic suffering for individuals and businesses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Fourth Stimulus Package (December)

Bill: Omnibus Appropriations and Emergency Coronavirus Relief
Passed: December 21 (U.S. House and Senate)
Focus: Broad Economic Stimulus
Funding: $900 Billion

An end-of-year relief package focused on broad economic stabilization was passed by Congress on December 21, 2020. This bill provides assistance to individuals, businesses, and infrastructure, including:

Direct Payments (Economic Impact Payments)
The bill provides a one-time, direct deposit payment to individuals and families based on the income levels below:

  • $600 for individuals ($75,000 income cap)
  • $1,200 for couples ($150,000 joint income cap)
  • $600 for each qualifying child

Direct payments could be issued as early as the week of December 28.

Expanded Unemployment Insurance
The bill provides an additional $300 per week for all workers receiving unemployment benefits, through March 14, 2021, and extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (created in the CARES Act) to provide payment to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, and gig economy workers).

The bill further expands unemployment insurance to recipients of unemployment insurance and individuals in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program by:

  • Increasing the maximum number of weeks an individual may claim benefits through regular state unemployment, plus the federal program, to 50 weeks
  • Providing an extra benefit of $100 per week for certain workers who have both wage and self-employment income but whose base Unemployment insurance benefit calculation doesn’t take their self-employment into account

Small Business Relief
$325 billion is set aside in this package to help small businesses, including minority-owned businesses, and nonprofits recover from the pandemic, including:

  • $284 billion for first and second forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans
    • Expands PPP eligibility for 501(c)(6) nonprofits
  • $20 billion is included for new Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) grants for businesses in low-income communities
  • $3.5 billion for continued Small Business Administration debt relief payments
  • $15 billion in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions

Food and Housing Assistance
The bill establishes a first-ever emergency federal rental assistance program for families impacted by COVID-19 that are struggling to make the rent. These families will be able to utilize this assistance for past due rent, future rent payments, as well as to pay utility and energy bills to prevent shutoffs. The funding for this program will be distributed by state and local governments.

It also includes an extension of the existing CDC eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021.

The bill also includes additional food and agriculture assistance, including:

  • $13 billion to:
    • Increase SNAP benefits by 15%
    • Provide additional funding for food banks and senior nutrition programs
    • Ensure college students have access to SNAP
  • $13 billion for direct payments, purchases and loans to farmers and ranchers who have suffered losses due to the pandemic

Emergency Assistance
The bill also provides emergency assistance:

  • $45 billion in transportation aid
  • $~65 billion in funding for vaccines, testing and tracing, and research:
    • $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines
    • Nearly $9 billion to the CDC and states for vaccine distribution
    • $22 billion to help states with testing, tracing, and Covid-19 mitigation programs
    • $4.5 billion in mental health funding
    • $9 billion in support for health care providers
    • More than $1 billion for NIH to research COVID-19
  • $82 billion in funding for states, K-12 schools, and institutions of higher education that have all been significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic
  • $10 billion in emergency funds for the childcare sector through the Child Care & Development Block Grant program
  • $7 billion in broadband support:
    • $3.2 billion in emergency funds for low-income families to access broadband through an FCC fund.
    • $1 billion tribal broadband fund
    • $250 million dollars in telehealth funding
    • $300 million grant program to fund broadband in rural areas
  • $12 billion in funding for Community development financial institutions and the creation of a new Neighborhood Capital Investment program to help low-income and minority communities withstand the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Interim Stimulus Package (April 24) 

Bill: Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act
Passed: April 24
Focus: Small businesses, hospitals, and testing
Funding: $484 Billion

A fourth stimulus package, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (PPP & HCE Act), was signed into law on April 24 to deliver more pandemic aid to small businesses and hospitals, in addition to coronavirus testing. 

While these bills didn't include COBRA subsidies to help employees continue their job-based coverage after being laid off due to COVID-19, under current law individuals who lose their jobs are able to sign up for a health plan on the state marketplaces or could qualify for Medicaid. Learn more on Healthcare.gov

Third Stimulus Package- CARES Act (March 27) 

Bill: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)
Passed: March 27
Focus: Broad Economic Stimulus
Funding: $2 Trillion

A third stimulus package focused on broad economic stabilization, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, was signed into law on March 27. This bill provided assistance to individuals, businesses, and infrastructure, including:

Direct Payments (Economic Impact Payment​)
The bill provided a one-time, direct deposit payment to individuals and families, who are not a dependent of another taxpayer and have a valid social security number, based on certain income levels. You can check on the status of your Economic Impact Payment on the IRS website.

Expanded Unemployment Insurance
The CARES Act created a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to provide payment to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, and gig economy workers). For more information about filing for unemployment insurance, visit the Department of Labor website to learn more. 

Payroll Taxes
The bill included a provision that enables individuals to defer payment of 2020 taxes until 2021 or 2022.

Student Loans
The bill requires the Department of Education to suspend monthly payments on all federally held student loans, without interest, through September 30, 2020. An Executive Order directed the Department to extend the suspension until December 31, 2020. Borrowers with those loans would not have their credit dinged for the suspended payments and the postponement would not interrupt their progress toward any federal loan forgiveness programs. The bill also created a provision that enables employers to provide a student loan repayment benefit to employees on a tax-free basis.

Emergency Relief
The bill includes over $330 billion in emergency relief funding, including $100 billion for hospital, public and not-for-profit entities, and Medicare and Medicaid providers to cover costs related to crisis. The bill also provided emergency assistance to various other programs, systems and institutions, and agencies.

Second Stimulus Package (March 18) 

Bill: Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Passed: March 18, 2020
Focus: COVID-19 Testing Access, Emergency Sick and Family Leave, Unemployment Insurance, and Nutrition Assistance
Funding: $104 Billion, according to Joint Committee on Taxation estimates

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law to provide rapid assistance on many fronts including:

Free COVID-19 Testing

The bill allowed for free COVID-19 testing, including emergency room visits and doctor’s fees, for all patients, regardless of insurance type or status. The bill also provided $1 billion to the National Disaster Medical System to reimburse providers for the costs of COVID-19 testing for uninsured individuals.

Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave

The bill provided funding for paid time off to allow some symptomatic or exposed workers, or parents of children with school closures, to stay home through Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. Additionally, employees unable to work because they are caring for a child due to COVID-19 related school or childcare closures, can receive family leave pay for a month (up to three months) at a rate not less than two-thirds of their usual pay, capped at $200 per day (up to a total of $10,000).

The bill directs that the provisions of the emergency paid sick leave and emergency paid family leave take effect through December 31, 2020. For more information about whether this provision applies to you, please visit the Department of Labor.

Expanded Unemployment Insurance

The bill directed $2 billion to state unemployment insurance programs that see spikes in unemployment enrollment due to COVID-19. View your state unemployment insurance program to learn more.

Food Assistance

The bill provided emergency funding to ensure the nutrition assistance programs have adequate resources to help those impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency, including the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC), senior nutrition programs, and food banks. The bill also suspends the work and work training requirements for SNAP (formerly known as the food stamp program) during this crisis. For more information about these nutrition assistance programs, please visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

First Stimulus Package (March 6)

Bill: The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act
Passed: March 6, 2020
Focus: Research and Vaccine Development, Small Business Relief, and Telehealth Flexibility
Funding: $8.3 Billion

The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 was signed into law to help fund research and vaccine development. This $8.3 billion aid package provided emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, including for COVID-19 testing, and provided loans and loan subsidies to small businesses.

Telehealth Flexibilities

The bill also included a waiver removing restrictions on Medicare providers to allow them to offer telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries regardless of whether they are in a rural community or not. The provision allows beneficiaries who are covered by Medicare to receive telehealth services from home, reducing the potential risk of COVID-19 exposure associated with visits to medical facilities.

Other Advocacy Actions

Visit our Policy Comments webpage to learn more about the issues that we are advocating for during the public health emergency, including access to care, cost of care, non-profit relief, and patient protections.

CSC will continue to update this information and reach out to you with breaking news. In the meantime, please visit our website to learn more about what people impacted by cancer need to know regarding COVID-19. Sign up for our Grassroots Network to ensure that you receive all policy updates on issues that will impact people with cancer.

Please note that Coronavirus policy updates are quickly evolving. We are providing this content for informational purposes only and updating it as quickly as possible. If you have questions or concerns, please contact action@cancersupportcommunity.org.