The following is a summary of current Federal and State action relating to COVID-19 relief. This information is provided by Patrick Swarthout, Chief Policy Advisory for the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber makes every effort to analyze and relate legislation to our members for informational use only. For specific understanding and application of law, please consult your legal professional.
Washington, DC: Congress is responding rapidly to the COVID-19 emergency situation. As of today, March 19, 2020, they have enacted two bills with a third in the works.
Public Law 116-123
The first package was Public Law 116-123 that provided $8 Billion in federal funding for relief efforts. This law was enacted on March 6, 2020.
It provides $6.5 billion for the Health and Human Services Department
- $3.4 billion for Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund
- $2.2 billion for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- $836 million for National Institutes of Health
- $61 million for the Food and Drug Administration
- Waived Medicare telehealth restrictions, which CBO estimated would increase mandatory spending by $490 million
- Provided $1.25 billion for State Department and USAID Includes funds for global health programs, humanitarian and health assistance, diplomatic operations, evacuation and emergency preparedness costs
- Enabled Small Business Administration to provide about $7 billion in disaster loans
A second package, H.R. 6201, was enacted this week and provides paid leave, tax credits, expanded unemployment and nutrition assistance, and free testing.
H.R. 6201, FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT
The legislation provides paid leave, establishes free testing, protects public health workers, and provides important benefits to children and families.
Includes funding to ensure the domestic nutrition assistance programs have adequate resources to help those impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- $500 million to provide access to nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the COVID-19 emergency.
- $400 million to assist local food banks to meet increased demand for low-income Americans during the emergency. Of the total, $300 million is for the purchase of nutritious foods and $100 million is to support the storage and distribution of the foods.
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.
- Includes $5 million for the Department of Labor to administer the emergency paid sick days program.
- Includes $250 million for the Senior Nutrition program in the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to provide approximately 25 million additional home-delivered and pre-packaged meals to low-income seniors who depend on the Senior Nutrition programs in their communities.
Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students Act
- Provides the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to issue nationwide school meal waivers during the COVID-19 emergency, which will eliminate paperwork for states and help more schools quickly adopt and utilize flexibilities.
The COVID-19 Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2020.
- Develop and implement a comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plan to protect health care workers from exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID19.
Emergency Paid Leave Act of 2020
This section defines an “emergency leave day” as a day in which an individual is unable to work due to one of four qualifying reasons related to COVID-19:
- The worker has a current diagnosis of COVID-19.
- The worker is quarantined (including self-imposed quarantine), at the instruction of a health care provider, employer, or government official, to prevent the spread of COVID- 19.
- The worker is caring for another person who has COVID-19 or who is under a quarantine related to COVID-19.
- The worker is caring for a child or other individual who is unable to care for themself due to the COVID-19-related closing of their school, child care facility, or other care program.
- Also creates a new federal emergency paid leave benefit program. Eligible workers will receive a benefit for a month (up to three months) in which they must take 14 or more days of leave from their work due to the qualifying COVID-19-related reasons. Days when an individual receives pay from their employer (regular wages, sick pay, or other paid time off) or unemployment compensation do not count as leave days for purposes of this benefit.
Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020.
- This section provides $1 billion in 2020 for emergency grants to states for activities related to processing and paying unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, under certain conditions.
Paid Sick Days for Public Health Emergencies and Personal and Family Care Act
The emergency paid sick days legislation:
- Requires all employers to allow employees to gradually accrue seven days of paid sick leave and to provide an additional 14 days available immediately in the event of any public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis;
- Requires all employers to provide an additional 14 days of paid sick leave, available immediately at the beginning of a public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis;
- Ensures paid sick leave covers days when your child’s school is closed due to a public health emergency, when your employer is closed due to public health emergency, or if you or a family member is quarantined or isolated due to a public health emergency;
- Reimburses small businesses—defined as businesses with 50 or fewer employees—for the costs of providing the 14 days of additional paid sick leave used by employees during a public health emergency;
- Enables construction employees to receive sick pay based on hours they work for multiple contractors; and
- Makes the bill effective immediately so that employees in areas covered under a qualifying Public Health Emergency, upon the date of enactment, can take 14 days of paid sick leave in order to address COVID-19.
- Coverage of Testing for COVID-19
- Waiving Cost Sharing Under the Medicare Program For Certain Visits Relating To Testing For COVID-19
- Waiving Cost Sharing Under the Medicare Advantage Program for Certain Visits Relating to Testing for COVID-19.
- Coverage at No Cost Sharing of COVID-19 Testing Under Medicaid and CHIP.
- Laboratory Reimbursement for Diagnostic Testing for COVID-19 in Uninsured Individuals.
- Treatment of Personal Respiratory Protective Devices as Covered Countermeasures
- Application with Respect to TRICARE, Coverage for Veterans, and Coverage for Federal Civilians.
- Coverage of Testing for COVID-19 At No Cost Sharing for Indians Receiving Contract Health Services.
- Emergency FMAP Increase.
Additional analysis from the United State Chamber of Commerce can be found HERE.
A third legislative response is underway in Congress, administration could include tax breaks or other aid for affected industries, cash to Americans, and small business support. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is planning $1 trillion package.
Executive Action, President of the United States
The President has also invoked his authority via Executive Order under the Defense Production Act (DPA), to give him the power to incentivize U.S. companies and industries to increase the production of critical equipment and goods, in part through loans and loan guarantees. The Executive Order gives power to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to require companies to allocate supplies (through contracts) to respond to coronavirus and gives HHS the ability to control the distribution of health and medical resources in the civilian market. This could mean that potential civilian contracts could be voided due to the federal government based on the spread of coronavirus. The focus will be on increasing personal protective equipment and other emergency medical supplies.
The State of California
The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) announced updated special tax relief for all California taxpayers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
FTB is postponing until July 15 the filing and payment deadlines for all individuals and business entities for:
- 2019 tax returns
- 2019 tax return payments
- 2020 1st and 2nd quarter estimate payments
- 2020 LLC taxes and fees
- 2020 Non-wage withholding payments
For more information you can go to ftb.ca.gov and search COVID-19.