In March, Congress passed and President Trump signed three bipartisan legislative packages to provide emergency funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first bill, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding for research and development of testing kits, treatments, and vaccines; support for state and local health agencies; and low-interest loans for affected small businesses.
The second bill, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, provides free COVID-19 testing for all Americans, funding for food assistance programs, and two weeks of paid sick leave for workers who are sick or quarantined or who are caring for a family member who is sick or quarantined. Additionally, I worked hard to include a measure that provides an additional 10 weeks of paid family and medical leave for workers who must stay home to care for a child whose school or day care has closed. Employers required to provide these benefits to their workers will get swiftly reimbursed by the federal government at 100 percent of the cost.
The third bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed on March 27, 2020, provides American families and small businesses with the direct financial support needed to put food on the table and keep their businesses afloat during the unprecedented public health and economic crisis posed by COVID-19. Some of the provisions in the CARES Act include:
Direct Payments to Working Americans:
Every adult with a Social Security number will receive an economic impact payment of $1,200 per adult, plus an additional $500 for each qualifying child. Check amounts begin to phase out for individuals earning more than $75,000 ($150,000 for married workers) and stop altogether for individuals making more than $99,000 ($198,000 for married workers). These payments will be issued by the IRS and will be based on your most recently filed tax return, 2018 or 2019. You are still eligible to receive the payment even if you have not filed a tax return in the past or are not required to file a return, such as those who receive Social Security and SSI benefits. Social Security recipients will automatically receive an economic impact payment. However, SSI recipients may need to file a one-time form to receive a payment. This process will be streamlined and is still being finalized by the IRS. For more information about direct payments, please click here.
The Unemployment Insurance (UI) program provides an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits to all individuals who file. Additionally, these benefits are expanded to include part-time, self-employed, and gig economy workers and extended to provide up to 13 additional weeks of benefits. For more information about UI changes, please click here.
If you were laid off or lost hours, apply for “Re-employment Assistance” as soon as possible at floridajobs.org. Please know that due to very high demand, the website is having capacity issues. I have publicly called on Governor DeSantis to do everything he can to increase the capacity to reduce wait times. If you are experiencing difficulties with the website, keep trying but don’t stress—the benefit is retroactive to your date of unemployment, not your application.
Small Business Assistance:
Many small businesses, including nonprofit organizations, will have access to low-interest loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program, which is designed to help employers keep workers on payroll. The portion of these loans used to meet payroll and other core expenses like rent, mortgage interest, and utilities for an eight-week period is eligible to be forgiven. Additionally, I worked hard to include an Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), which was added to the bill on the very last day of negotiations. This tax credit provides direct financial support to businesses of all sizes that retain and pay their workers, either in active or furloughed status, rather than lay them off. Click here for more information about small business assistance, and click here for more information on the Employee Retention Tax Credit.
Homeowner and Renter Protections:
Homeowners with FHA, USDA, VA, or Section 184 or 184A mortgages and those with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac have the right to request forbearance on their payments for up to six months, with a possible extension for another six months without fees, penalties, or extra interest. Homeowners seeking this assistance should contact their mortgage servicing company directly.
Additionally, renters residing in public or assisted housing, or in a home or apartment whose owner has a federally-backed mortgage, and who are unable to pay their rent are protected from eviction for four months. Property owners are also prohibited from issuing a 30-day notice to a tenant to vacate a property until after the four-month moratorium ends. This protection covers properties that receive federal subsidies such as public housing, Section 8 assistance, USDA rural housing programs, and federally-issued or guaranteed mortgages. Renters whose landlord is not abiding by the moratorium should contact the relevant federal agency that administers their housing program or their local Legal Aid office.
Student Loan Assistance:
Payments on all federally-held student loans are automatically suspended through September 30, 2020, and interest will not accrue during this time. The legislation also includes a tax incentive for employers who help their employees pay off their student loan debt during this crisis. Additionally, at my urging, the U.S. Department of Education has suspended the collection of defaulted federally-held student loans including wage garnishments and federal benefit offsets for at least 60 days. For more information on assistance for student borrowers, please click here.
Marshall Plan for Health Care System:
A new $150 billion fund is made widely available to all types of hospitals and providers most affected by COVID-19, and it will be available to fund whatever is needed to defeat the virus—including personal protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, increased workforce and training, new construction to house patients, emergency operation centers, and more. Additional funding is also dedicated to delivering Medicare payment increases to all hospitals and providers to ensure that they receive the full funding they need during this crisis, as well as new investments in our country’s Strategic National Stockpile, surge capacity, and medical research into COVID-19. For more information about health care provisions, please click here.