Much has happened on a Federal level over the course of the last two months. In his most recent update David Block did a wonderful job outlining the federal legislative priorities of NAHU in detail. Unfortunately, due to the challenges our country is facing as a result of COVID – 19, all these items have been temporarily moved to the back burner by the federal government.
Four major bills have been passed over the course of March and April.
The first billed that was passed, or Phase 1 was an immediate response aimed at funding public health measures, vaccine development and the CDC. The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act provided $8.3 billion emergency funding bill designed to treat and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The House and Senate overwhelmingly passed the legislation on March 5th.
The second bill, or Phase 2 was the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), was the result of a hard-fought negotiation between Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. This legislation focused on targeted relief for both individuals and businesses, as well as an expansion of coverage for COVID-19 testing. The package includes two weeks of qualified sick leave wages for those employees who must self-quarantine or seek treatment due to the virus, employer tax credits for paid sick and paid family and medical leave, guaranteed coverage of testing by public and private payers and additional health provisions regarding Medicare and Medicaid. The bill passed the house initially on March 14, and a technical corrections package passed by unanimous consent on March 17th. The Senate went on to pass the bill on March 18 and it was signed by the President the same day.
The third bill, or Phase 3 was the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stimulus act, or CARES Act. It was signed into law on March 27th. The $2 trillion stimulus package is the largest economic stimulus measure in modern history. The bill is a $2 trillion combination of tax provisions and other stimulus measures, including emergency business lending.
Significant Provisions in the CARES Act Affecting Businesses The tax package itself is broad, with tax payment relief and significant business tax incentives. Here is a list of the most significant provisions affecting businesses:
• $367 billion will be made available in loans for small businesses and $150 billion for state and local governments. The loans will be forgiven so long as businesses pledge not to lay off their workers. • Small businesses forced to suspend operations or that have seen gross receipts fall by 50% from the previous year will be eligible for a tax credit worth up to 50% of wages paid during the crisis, so long as they keep their workers employed throughout. • The Treasury Department will distribute $500 billion in loans to struggling industries (e.g., passenger airlines and businesses critical to maintaining national security). Additionally, an oversight board and inspector general will be created to oversee loans to large companies. • Health care providers will receive $100 billion in grants to help fight the coronavirus and make up for revenue lost by delaying elective surgeries and other procedures. • $200 million will be carved out for the Federal Communications Commission to provide health care providers with connected devices to facilitate telemedicine services, with the goal of freeing up hospital beds. Another $25 million will go to a grant program that helps rural communities purchase broadband equipment for telemedicine. • The Commodity Credit Corporation, an institution that USDA uses to stabilize the farm economy, would see its spending authority increased to $14 billion. The package also sets up a $9.5 billion emergency fund for producers, including fresh fruit • and vegetable growers, dairy farmers and cattle ranchers, along with local food systems like farmers markets. • Colleges and universities, as well as school districts, will receive more than $30 billion. • State and local governments will receive $150 billion, with $8 billion set aside for local governments. • The package will provide the U.S. Postal Service with a $10 billion Treasury loan to stave off insolvency. Retailers, restaurateurs and hotels will be able to immediately deduct from their taxes what they spend on property improvements. • Employers can defer the 6.2% tax they pay on wages used to fund Social Security.
Significant Provisions in the CARES Act Affecting Individuals • Single Americans will receive $1,200, married couples will get $2,400 and parents will receive $500 for each child. • Unemployed individuals, including freelancers and furloughed employees, will get an extra $600 per week for up to four months, on top of state unemployment benefits. • The package also calls for a new pandemic unemployment assistance program, which will provide jobless benefits to those who are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable to work because of COVID-19 and don't qualify for traditional benefits. • The Department of Education will suspend payments for student loan borrowers without penalty through September 30. • There will be housing protections against foreclosures on mortgages and evictions for renters.
The fourth bill passed is called “The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act”. The total price tag of the bill is approximately $484 billion. It was signed into law on April 24th. Some are calling this bill phase 3.5 because it is technically providing more funding to the original phase 3 bill, the CARES Act. The bill will authorize the Paycheck Protection Program to spend an additional $310 billion. The bill will also provide $75 billion for hospitals and health care providers and an additional $25 billion to facilitate and expand COVID-19 testing ($11 billion will go to the states and localities). There will also be $10 billion for grants under the Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, $50 billion for disaster recovery loans and $2.1 billion for additional salaries and expenses for the Small Business Administration.
NCAHU will continue to keep a close eye on the rapidly evolving legislative landscape and keep all our members up to date.