In just a matter of months, the U.S. federal government has passed trillions of dollars’ worth of relief packages aimed at helping citizens and businesses to better navigate the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. So much has happened so fast, in fact, that it can be confusing and frustrating trying to keep up.
Here’s a quick summary of the first 3+ phases of coronavirus-related relief programs.
Phase 1: The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074)
Washington’s initial response was a relatively small $8.3 billion bill passed on March 5, 2020. This bill provided emergency funding for vaccine and test kit development, as well as for state and local health departments to ramp up preparations for the spread of the virus.
Phase 2: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201)
Passed on March 18, the next relief package provided two weeks of qualified sick leave and temporary expansions to Family and Medical Leave. The bill enacted employer tax credits to pay for its provisions. The bill was designed to enable employees sick with, or at risk for, COVID-19 to self-isolate without fear of losing their jobs, while assisting employers in paying for the leave. The bill also ensured that coronavirus testing would be covered in full by major health carriers.
Phase 3: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748)
Passed on March 27, the $2.2 trillion CARES Act provided for direct financial relief to individuals and small businesses suffering from the economic crisis. It expanded state unemployment insurance programs throughout the United States, provided for a one-time payment as high as $1,200 to individuals, and established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP was designed to provide potentially forgivable loans to small businesses to incentivize keeping employees on the payroll.
Phase 3.5: The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (H.R. 266)
With only $349 billion appropriated for the PPP in the CARES Act, the program ran out of funds by April 16. H.R. 266 is a $484 billion interim relief measure passed on April 24 to provide over $300 billion in additional funding for the small business lending program. The new measure also included funding for expanded COVID-19 testing.
What happens next?
It’s unlikely that the United States government has finished passing relief measures. The U.S. House of Representatives, for example, passed a $3 trillion measure on May 15, though it has yet to be taken up by the Senate and has faced steep opposition. Items under discussion include extended support for state and local governments – which are suffering potentially disastrous revenue losses from the economic collapse – as well as extending previous provisions for economic relief and strengthening coronavirus testing and tracing. The Senate has said it won’t consider further measures until June.
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