March 23, 2020
The President and Congress are working to put aside partisan differences to advance a legislative package in response to the impacts of COVID-19. These efforts are proceeding in three phases:
- Phase I, the “Coronavirus Supplemental”, is primarily a series of supplemental appropriations.
- Phase II, the “Families First Coronavirus Act”, focuses on targeted relief for both individuals and businesses and an expansion of coverage for COVID-19 testing.
- Phase III, currently dubbed the “CARES Act”, will primarily address liquidity issues, financial assistance for individuals and assistance for distressed industries.
Both Phase I and Phase II have passed both houses of Congress and have been signed by the President. Phase III is still in negotiations.
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (H.R. 6074), is an $8.3 billion emergency funding bill designed to treat and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Large portions of the appropriations went to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop vaccines and testing kits for local communities, for staffing increases and additional lab equipment at the state and local levels, and to the federal government to assist in the international containment of COVID-19.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), includes an expansion of coverage for COVID 10 testing and a variety of other benefit requirements. The bill expands unemployment benefits, requires employers over 50 employees to provide paid sick leave for self-quarantine, family medical leave and virus treatment as well as offsetting employer tax credits. The bill also provides supplemental appropriations for nutrition and assistance programs.
Chamber members have raised questions about the process and timing for claiming reimbursement for newly authorized medical leave provision. We understand that IRS guidance is pending and will update when more information is available.
Currently, the revised “CARES Act”, as proposed by Senate Majority Leader McConnell, contains numerous provisions intended to strengthen the economy, including relief for small businesses, loan programs and credit facilities, business tax relief provisions and banking relief. The bill proposes relief to individuals, including direct payments of up to $1,200 per individual and an additional $600 per week in unemployment compensation benefits. An additional appropriation of $242 billion would assist hospitals, veteran’s health care, vaccines, therapeutics, CDC, infrastructure and FEMA disaster relief.
The U.S. Chamber has an excellent summary for those who wish for additional detail.
Senate Minority Leader Schumer has a counter proposal which includes emergency appropriations and benefit increases to federal safety net programs.
When legislation is passed, we will provide a more detailed summary.