The federal government continues to work to pass a series of three relief packages, aimed at providing funding and support to individuals and institutions impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The first package was passed early in March to free up emergency funds for use among the states.
The second package, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), was signed into law on March 19. This bill focused on several priorities, including added support for food and nutrition assistance programs, emergency funding for government programs to support impacted individuals, free testing for the coronavirus, and expanded accessibility to paid sick and family leave coverage for a limited subset of American workers.
The third stimulus package, known as the CARES Act, has been under negotiation for the last week among Congressional Republicans and Democrats, as well as the Trump Administration. The Senate passed the bill late Wednesday, March 25, with hopes for a subsequent quick in the House, before being sent to the President’s desk for signing by Friday, March 27 or early next week.
AnitaB.org has been following issues of impact for women in technology and their families throughout the development of the three stimulus packages. A pressing issue we have advocated for through our coalitions is stronger paid leave protections for more employers than was passed in the second package.
In the lead up to the third stimulus, AnitaB.org and other advocates pushed for expanded paid leave measures beyond what was provided in the second scope. However, these measures were not taken up in the Senate’s bill, and measures for paid leave remain unchanged from the FFCRA, except for the clarification of small technical measures.
In education issues, the CARES Act is extending $14.25 billion to institutions of higher education, including targeted funding for Minority Serving Institutions. The bill also directs the Secretary of Education to defer federal student loans for at least six months, providing relief for more than 95% of student loan borrowers. It additionally amends Pell and subsidized loan eligibility, so that it’s not counted against a student if they had to drop out for reasons relating to the pandemic. The bill also allows institutions to issue work-study payments to students who are unable to work due to workplace closures as a lump sum or in payments similar to paychecks.
The Child Care Development Block Grant will fund $3.5 billion in grants to states for immediate assistance to childcare providers to prevent them from going out of business and to otherwise support childcare for families, including for healthcare workers, first responders, and others playing critical roles during this crisis.
Support for small businesses includes a $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program to provide forgivable loans to small businesses in order to pay their employees, rent, and utilities, among other things. There’s also $562 million for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to businesses that need financial support. This will help businesses keep their doors open and pay their employees. Other supports include $240 million for small business development centers and women’s business centers, and suspension of SBA loan repayments for six months, among other measures.
The bill also includes federal funding to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, with $45 million to provide additional support to family violence shelters, and $2 million in additional support for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
The bill also contains, of course, the highly publicized recovery rebate, in which U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples) would get a $1,200 ($2,400 for couples) “rebate” payment. They are also eligible for an additional $500 per child. The payments would start phasing out for earners above those income thresholds and would not go to single filers earning more than $99,000; head-of-household filers with one child, more than $146,500; and more than $198,000 for joint filers with no children.
The political situation changes by the hour, with Congress rushing to get money in the hands of impacted individuals as the pandemic stalls the economy and leads to worker layoffs. We know these have been extremely challenging times for many members of the AnitaB.org community. If you’re interested in sharing more about the impact this is having on you, your family, and our community of technical women, please consider taking our COVID-19 Response Survey, which we will be using to help inform our policy priorities as the pandemic continues.
03/27/20 Update: On Friday, March 27, the House passed the CARES Act followed by President Trump signing the bill into law, making it the largest stimulus package to ever be passed in U.S. history.