Government Measures that Could Support Women in Tech Impacted by COVID-19 Pandemic

05/12/20 Update:

Congress continues to push greatly-needed relief measures forward with the passage of its fourth spending package. The latest bill to be signed by the President included $380 billion total in additional funding for small businesses, as well as for hospitals and disease testing. The additional spending for small businesses was considered urgent after the “Paycheck Protection Program,” which was passed in the CARES Act, ran out of funding after less than two weeks.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers currently disagree on a timeline for any follow-on packages, leading to some conflict. Democrats have said they now plan to immediately pivot to the next rounds of relief, particularly to provide funding to state and local governments, though the House also did not reconvene in person until May 11.

Republicans, however, are ambivalent on sending funds to the states, with some voicing support, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated he’d rather the states declare bankruptcy than the federal government provide more funding. Despite this, the Senate reconvened in May 4 ahead of the House.

Regardless of state funding, many Republicans are wary of further spending in the immediate term and would prefer to wait until both chambers resume session on May 4. Despite that, Democrats are already working on “CARES 2.” Stated priorities beyond state funding include monthly cash assistance, protections for renters, money to boost mail-in voting and free health care coverage for coronavirus patients

AnitaB.org has and will continue to advocate for the provisions that support the technical women we serve. Measures such as expanded paid family leave, more accessible and affordable broadband connectivity, and needed funding for academic institutions are all issues impacting women in tech and their families that we continue to monitor and weigh in on.

We also continue to advocate through various coalitions for support for our communities. The STEM Education Coalition has compiled a set of recommendations to ensure all students have access to their crucial learning experiences. As part of these efforts, AnitaB.org has been actively supportive of measures that aim to get more resources and affordable broadband connectivity to the individuals who need it.

Additionally, the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce has been advocating for the Relaunch America’s Workforce Act, which would ensure that appropriate funding is delivered to the country’s workforce development system as part of pandemic recovery efforts. AnitaB.org is supportive of these efforts which would provide much needed funding to adult education programs, registered apprenticeships, and community college-industry partnerships, among other measures.

AnitaB.org also continues to advocate through coalitions for the issues that support women and girls in tech, including education funding and pay equity, to make sure that the importance of these issues is not lost amidst the urgency of other pandemic-related challenges.

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.

March 2020

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. 

Read more posts from the thread Webinar #4: Federal Policy Responding to Women in Tech in Crisis

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