Congress and the Trump Administration have enacted three phases of legislation providing resources to support the fight against the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Most recently, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed, and President Trump signed into law, Phase 3 of emergency coronavirus response legislation, the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Details are rolling out about how to access the support provided through the CARES Act.  The intent of this column is to help get information about some of the CARES Act assistance to Idahoans. Additional information can also be accessed on my website, at www.crapo.senate.gov/services/covid19.

 

Support For Individuals

The CARES Act provides direct financial help to the American people through recovery rebates.  Rebate information is available on the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) website, at www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know. Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes (AGI)s less than $75,000 (and $150,000 for married couples) may be eligible for the full $1,200 rebate and an additional $500 per child. Taxpayers with AGIs that exceed $75,000 can receive reduced rebates, and the rebates are phased-out completely for single filers with incomes exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers without children. The IRS explained, “Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples. Parents also receive $500 for each qualifying child.” Additionally, the U.S. Treasury Department and IRS announced Social Security beneficiaries who are not typically required to file tax returns will not need to file an abbreviated tax return to receive the payments, which instead will be automatically deposited into their bank accounts.

The CARES Act extended this year’s April 15, 2020, deadline for filing 2019 tax returns to July 15, 2020, to coincide with the extended deadline previously announced by the IRS. The Idaho State Tax Filing deadline is June 15, 2020.

The CARES Act also creates a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program through Dec. 31, 2020, to provide unemployment payments to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits. This includes the self-employed, independent contractors and those with limited work history who are unable to work due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The new law also provides an additional $600 per week payment to each recipient of unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for up to four months. The U.S. Department of Labor (https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus) is tasked with implementing these provisions.

Support For Small Businesses

The CARES Act includes rapid relief for small businesses and incentives to keep employees on payroll. This includes support through Paycheck Protection Program loans to support small businesses, nonprofits, veteran’s organizations, tribal businesses, sole-proprietors, independent contractors, and other self-employed individuals with no more than 500 employees. Through the program, funds are provided in the form of a loan that will be forgiven when used to cover the first eight weeks of payroll costs, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest. To learn more about the Paycheck Protection Program visit https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/top-priorities/cares-act/assistance-for-small-businesses or https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program-ppp.

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) website, at www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources, also has information for small businesses seeking assistance under the CARES Act. Idaho Commerce, in conjunction with Governor Little’s office, the SBA, and other state and federal agencies, is working to provide resources and information to Idaho business and communities as they become available.  

Support for Health Care Professionals and Patients

The CARES Act provides more support for the brave health care professionals and the patients fighting the coronavirus on the front lines through measures such as providing $1.32 billion in supplemental funding to community health centers.

It bolsters telehealth capabilities and additional flexibilities by reauthorizing grant programs that promote the use of telehealth technologies for health care delivery, education and health information services. 

The law ensures patient access to any future COVID-19 vaccine by waiving cost-sharing requirements in private and federal health insurance programs and clarifies that all testing for COVID-19 is to be covered by private insurance plans without cost sharing.

The law increased support provided for health care services at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities.

It also expands and increases funding for the Strategic National Stockpile to include personal protective equipment.

Support For Agriculture

The CARES Act includes $9.5 billion to provide assistance to impacted agriculture producers.

The law also includes $14 billion for the Commodity Credit Corporation, which funds agricultural programs to strengthen commodity and income support programs, natural resources conservation and disaster assistance. 

Additionally, producers who are sole proprietors with 500 employees or less may be eligible for small business loans of up to $10 million. 

Economic Stabilization

I also led negotiations on a provision that designates $500 billion to the Exchange Stabilization Fund housed within the U.S. Treasury Department. The Federal Reserve will use $454 billion of this fund to stabilize markets and provide broad-based loans to eligible businesses, states, municipalities and Tribes that have incurred losses related to this coronavirus. Importantly, the Federal Reserve can leverage this money to inject many times that amount into the marketplace, unleashing upwards of $4 trillion into the economy. 

The legislation also states that the Federal Reserve has discretion to establish a Main Street Lending Program or similar facility that supports lending to small and mid-size businesses. This will be a critical tool as Main Street businesses seek funding to stay open and keep their employees on payroll until this crisis has passed.

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There is far more support provided through the CARES Act than can be detailed in one column.  These are some of the main provisions of the law that may be of specific importance to many Idahoans.  A summary of the CARES Act can be found at https://www.banking.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Title%20IV_Section%20by%20Section_FINAL.pdf.  Please contact me if I can be of assistance navigating these and other federal programs. Contact information can be accessed through my website, at www.crapo.senate.gov.

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