Senate Passes and President Signs Second Coronavirus Emergency Spending Bill
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 90-8 to pass H.R. 6201, the $2.5B Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The President signed it into law (P.L. 116-127). Voting no in the Senate were Sens. Blackburn (R-TN), Inhofe (R-OK), Johnson (R-WI), Lankford (R-OK), Lee (R-UT), Paul (R-KY), Sasse (R-NE), and Scott (R-SC). The bill passed the House last Saturday by a bipartisan vote of 363-40. All 40 no votes were from Republicans.
This is the second bill Congress has passed to respond to the coronavirus global pandemic. It provides free virus testing, gives up to 12 weeks of paid family and sick leave to workers at companies with fewer than 500 employees to deal with virus-related issues (including staying home to care for children whose schools are closed), enhances Unemployment Insurance, strengthens food security programs, and increases federal Medicaid funding to states. The first bill Congress passed provided $8.3B in emergency coronavirus funding and was enacted into law on March 6 (P.L. 116-123).
Summary of paid leave provisions outside the Appropriations Committee’s jurisdiction, incorporating changes made by technical correction
White House Initiates Additional Coronavirus Responses
In addition to enacting the two bills passed by Congress, the President and his administration have taken several other steps to respond to the health crisis and provide Americans with some economic relief, including:
- Invoking the 1950 Defense Production Act to accelerate the production of medical supplies that are in short supply
- Allows the U.S. Government to make contracts with industry, provide loan guarantees or lend money directly to targeted industry, shield industry from anti-trust actions, and give the federal government the right to purchase products above anyone else
- Moving the Tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15, providing taxpayers and businesses with additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties
- Not enforcing standardized testing for K-12 schools
- Allowing federal student loan borrowers suspend payments for at least 60 days without penalty
- Imposing travel restrictions on cross-border non-essential travel between the U.S. and Canada and the U.S. and Mexico
- Halting (temporarily) enforcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), except for efforts to deport foreign nationals who have committed crimes or pose a threat to public safety
- Relaxing the limits on bringing hand sanitizer onto airplanes
- Deploying U.S. Navy hospital ships to New York and the West Coast to take on non-coronavirus patients to free up shore-based hospital beds for COVID-19 cases
- Halting any evictions or foreclosures by HUD, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac until the end of April
- Halting military travel in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan
OMB Memo to Federal Agencies – Updated Guidance for the National Capital Region on Telework Flexibilities in Response to Coronavirus
OMB Memo – Updated Federal Travel Guidance in Response to Coronavirus
Administration Sends Next Funding Request to Congress
On Tuesday, the Administration sent a letter to Congress requesting an additional $45.8B in FY2020 funding to address ongoing preparedness and response efforts. Details on the Administration’s request can be found in the letter the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent to Congress (see link below).
In addition to the emergency supplemental funding, the Administration amended its FY2021 budget request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases (NIAID). The administration requested an additional $1.33B for CDC for a total of $8.33B and an additional $439.6M for NIAID bringing total funding for NIH to $5.89B for FY2021. This is a reversal for OMB Acting Director Russ Vought who told House appropriators last week that the administration did not plan to alter its FY2021 budget request.
The request also included three requests from the Judiciary totaling $7.5M.
OMB March 17, 2020 Letter to Congress
Senate Introduces Third Coronavirus Response Bill
On Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released the next stimulus bill for responding to the coronavirus. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act focuses on four major priorities:
- Direct financial help for the American people;
- Relief for small businesses and their employees;
- Steps to stabilize the economy and protect jobs; and
- Support for healthcare professionals and coronavirus patients
Direct Financial Help
- Provides recovery checks to most taxpayers, providing cash immediately to individuals and families. Individuals are eligible for checks up to $1,200 and married couples filing jointly are eligible for checks up to $2,400, with an extra $500 for each child. So that relief is focused on those who need it most, eligibility for recovery checks is reduced starting at $75,000 in 2018 income for individuals and $150,000 in 2018 income for joint filers. Individuals with 2018 income exceeding $99,000 and joint filers with 2018 income exceeding $198,000 are ineligible.
- Extends the traditional April 15thtax filing deadline to July 15th and allows individuals required to make estimated tax payments to postpone them until October 15th.
- Waives penalties for early withdrawal from qualified retirement accounts for coronavirus-related purposes of up to $100,000.
- Allows the Secretary of Education to defer student loan payments and allows students who were forced to drop out of school due to coronavirus to keep their Pell grants.
- Grants colleges and universities flexibility to continue work-study payments to students who cannot work due to coronavirus closures.
Small Business Relief
- Provides cash-flow assistance through federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. If employers maintain their payroll, the loans would be forgiven, which would help workers to remain employed and affected small businesses and our economy to quickly snap-back after the crisis.
- Expands the allowable uses for certain small business loans to permit payroll support, including paid sick leave, supply chain disruptions, employee salaries, mortgage payments, and other debt obligations to provide immediate access to capital for small businesses who have been impacted by the coronavirus emergency.
- Changes regulations in the paid leave mandate for small businesses.
- Makes unemployment insurance applications more easily accessible.
Steps to Stabilize the Economy and Protect Jobs
- Provides loans that must be repaid to the government.
- Up to $50 billion for passenger air carriers
- Up to $8 billion for cargo air carriers
- Up to $150 billion for other eligible entities
- Allows the Treasury Secretary to provides loans and loan guarantees to passenger air carriers, cargo air carriers, and other major industries severely impacted by government health restrictions to combat the coronavirus.
- Prohibits companies receiving assistance from increasing executive pay or providing “golden parachutes” for two years.
- Directs the Treasury Secretary to ensure the U.S. government is compensated for the loans to these industries.
- Provides tax relief to businesses affected by the coronavirus emergency. Allows deferred payments on estimated taxes and some payroll taxes, increased deductibility for interest expenses, immediate expensing of qualified property improvements, especially for the hospitality industry, and corrects errors in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that inadvertently affected certain businesses.
Support for Healthcare Professionals and Coronavirus Patients
- Addresses supply shortages for drugs and critical equipment, including ventilators and medical masks.
- Expands testing and ensures coronavirus tests are free for patients.
- Speeds the development of new vaccines and treatments, such as reducing barriers to work with the private sector.
- Permits patients to use health savings accounts to cover telehealth services and expands telehealth access for Medicare beneficiaries.
- Increases Medicare payments to hospitals treating a patient admitted with coronavirus.
Majority Leader McConnell has acknowledged that the legislation is likely to change over the course of discussions with the White House, Senate Democrats and House leaders. Some Senate Republicans want to hold off on sending a second check until they see that they get the first check right and see that there is still a need. And other Republicans prefer boosting unemployment insurance benefits instead of sending out checks to those who haven’t lost a job. On the Democratic side, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized McConnell for drafting a bill without Democratic input. While the Senate bill does come with some “strings attached,” Schumer called for additional requirements for companies that get federal aid, such as not cutting the number, salary, pensions, and benefits of their workers. The bill does not include any of the $45.8B requested by the Administration earlier this week.
A vote on this third bill is likely early next week. Discussions on a fourth bill have already started in a general way. That bill could include a major infrastructure package.
Senate Appropriations Committee Press Release
Senate Finance Committee Press Release
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Press Release
Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Press Release
Section-by-Section of Health Provisions
Section-by-Section of Finance Committee Provisions