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

March 11, 2021

Editor's Note: This blog was updated on March 30, 2022.

If you are a person impacted by cancer, one important way to maintain some sense of control during the pandemic 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 impact you, your family, and your community.


In January 2021 the Administration renewed the public health emergency for COVID-19, ensuring that critical resources to fight the pandemic can continue across the United States.

Since March 2020, Congress has undertaken legislative action to respond to the pandemic with emergency coronavirus stimulus packages. These measures have been aimed at funding COVID-19 research, testing, treatment, and vaccine development, increasing access to certain health care provisions, and lessening the economic suffering for individuals and business, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In March 2022 the Administration launched COVID.gov, a new one-stop shop website to help people gain access to lifesaving tools like vaccines, tests, treatments, and masks. Visitors to the website can also get the latest updates on COVID-19 in their area.

Below, we have outlined the provisions that are most important for people impacted by cancer.


Fifth COVID-19 Relief Package - American Rescue Plan (March 2021)

Bill: The American Rescue Plan
Passed: March 11, 2021
Focus: Addresses COVID-19 Health & Economic Crisis
Funding: $1.9 Trillion

The American Rescue Plan is a broad-based effort to further address the health and economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to creating a national COVID-19 vaccination program and expanding testing, this sweeping federal recovery effort aims to deliver more help directly to people and relieve the suffering that the pandemic has created.

This pandemic relief package provides assistance to individuals and families, expands federal social safety-net programs, and addresses health disparities. This package also expands access to health care and strengthens the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with some significant changes to health insurance affordability.


Access to Health Care

The American Rescue Plan expands the ACA Marketplace premium tax credits to cover more middle-class people for 2021 and 2022. Specifically, the bill:

  • Removes the current cap that makes any family with income above 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL) ineligible for any tax credits
  • Provides that individuals below 150% of the FPL pay no premiums for an ACA silver plan

Visit Healthcare.gov to learn more. You can learn more about the FPL here.

Additionally, individuals receiving unemployment benefits during the pandemic can also access ACA premium tax credits regardless of income. As a result, people can purchase an ACA silver plan for a $0 premium.

The American Rescue Plan also provides a 100% subsidy for individuals who have lost their jobs and choose to use Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) to continue their existing employer-sponsored health coverage through September 30, 2021. COBRA allows workers who experience layoffs or reduction in hours to continue with their job-based health coverage for a limited period of time to avoid a disruption in care.

Additionally, the bill provides a new incentive for states to expand Medicaid by temporarily increasing the federal medical assistance percentage by 5%. This provision encourages the adoption of Medicaid expansion. If all 12 remaining states were to expand Medicaid, more than 2 million people would gain access to Medicaid.


National COVID-19 Vaccination Program

The American Rescue Plan establishes a national COVID-19 vaccination program to improve vaccine administration and distribution by:

  • Funding the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund to ramp up the vaccination program
  • Funding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prepare, promote, distribute, monitor, and track COVID-19 vaccines
  • Providing funding to the Indian Health Service (IHS) for vaccine-related activities

The bill aims to increase COVID-19 testing and contact tracing by providing funding for testing, variant sequencing, contact tracing, manufacturing, and personal protective equipment (PPE).


Direct Payments (Economic Impact Payments)

The bill provides direct payments to individuals and families based on the income levels below:

  • $1,400 for individuals, including children and dependents ($80,000 income cutoff)
  • $2,800 for couples ($160,000 joint income cutoff)

Visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website to learn more.


Unemployment Benefits

The American Rescue Plan provides an additional $300 per week for all workers receiving unemployment benefits, through September 6, 2021.The bill also makes the first $10,200 in unemployment payments nontaxable for households with incomes under $150,000.

For more information about filing for unemployment insurance, visit the Department of Labor website to learn more. 


Child Tax Benefits

The American Rescue Plan would temporarily expand the child tax credit by increasing the amount to $3,000 for children ages 6-17 and $3,600 for children under age 6. Families eligible for the full credit would get payments of up to $300 per child per month from July 2021 through the end of the year.


Food and Housing Assistance

The American Rescue Plan provides additional funding for the 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 and future rent payments, as well as to pay utility and energy bills to prevent shutoffs. The funding includes emergency housing vouchers for people experiencing homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, and victims of human trafficking.

The bill temporarily boosts the value of cash vouchers for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) up to $35 per month for women and children for a 4-month period during the pandemic. Additionally, it extends Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) maximum benefits by 15% through September 30, 2021.


Additional Health-Related Provisions

The American Rescue plan includes other health-related provisions aimed toward decreasing the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic such as:

  • Funding to support community health centers, nursing home infection control, and services that support care for disabled and elderly individuals in their homes.
  • Addressing health disparities, including $7.6 billion in funding for community health centers, including Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), which are community-based health care centers that provide comprehensive care services in underserved areas.
  • Funding for health care services for people with disabilities and those individuals requiring assistance at home.
  • Expanding behavioral and mental health services, including programs that support mental and behavioral health training for health care providers and funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA)—an agency that works to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on people and communities.
  • Funding for the Indian Health Service, with a focus on equitable and urgent access to vaccines, testing, tracing, and mental health resources.


Fourth COVID-19 Relief Package (December 2020)

Bill: Coronavirus Relief and Omnibus Funding Bill
Passed: December 27
Focus: Broad Economic Stimulus
Funding: $900 Billion

An end of year Coronavirus Relief and Omnibus Funding Bill was signed into law on December 27, 2020. In addition to funding the Federal government, the bill delivered coronavirus emergency response and relief to individuals, businesses, and infrastructure, including:

  • Direct Payments (Economic Impact Payments)
  • Expanded Unemployment Insurance
  • Small Business Relief
  • Food and Housing Assistance
  • Emergency Assistance


Interim Relief Package (April 2020) 

Bill: Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act
Passed: April 24, 2020
Focus: Small businesses, hospitals, and testing
Funding: $484 Billion

A fourth stimulus package, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, delivered more pandemic aid to small businesses and hospitals, in addition to coronavirus testing. 


Third COVID-19 Relief Package - CARES Act (March 2020) 

Bill: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)
Passed: March 27, 2020
Focus: Broad Economic Stimulus
Funding: $2 Trillion

A third stimulus package focused on broad economic stabilization, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, provided assistance to individuals, businesses, and infrastructure, including:

  • Direct Payments (Economic Impact Payment​)
  • Expanded Unemployment Insurance
  • Defer Payroll Taxes
  • Suspended Payments on Federal Student Loans
  • Emergency Relief to various other programs, systems and institutions, and agencies


Second COVID-19 Relief Package - Families First Coronavirus Response Act (March 2020) 

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
  • Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave
  • Expanded Unemployment Insurance
  • Food Assistance


First COVID-19 Relief Package (March 2020)

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 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.


CSC COVID-19 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, nonprofit relief, and patient protections.

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. Let us know if you have any questions or concerns at [email protected].