By Bryan Davis, MAP Legal Analyst

Due to the widespread economic impacts realized as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), federal funding has been a subject of significant concern and importance. Over the past several weeks, emergency federal funding has been allocated towards combating the spread of COVID-19 and, at this point in time, funding has occurred through two separate bills.

The first phase of federal funding was found in an emergency spending bill, aimed at bolstering response efforts to the outbreak of the coronavirus, with approximately $7.8 billion being allocated to directly address the outbreak and another $500 million allocated to extend telemedicine services to seniors. Notably, the bill also appears to dedicate $300 million to ensuring the purchase of vaccinations when such vaccinations become available.

The second phase of emergency federal funding was found in the form of the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” signed into law March 18, 2020. The Families First Act was primarily aimed at addressing issues such as unemployment benefits and paid sick leave. Specifically, the Families First Act provides that, for employers with more than 50 employees and less than 500 employees, two weeks of paid sick leave are to be provided if such employees are confronted with the coronavirus, including: medical diagnosis; quarantine due to COVID-19; symptoms from COVID-19; care for another who is quarantined; or care for children due to school or childcare closing due to the coronavirus.

Beyond this, the Act expands upon family and medical leave, requiring employers with more than 50 and less than 500 employees to provide paid leave to employees who are caring for a child due to the impacts of the coronavirus. Paid leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act is available for 10 weeks and is initiated after the first two weeks of care for the child or children. In addition to the above, the act provides individuals with free testing for COVID-19 and expands food assistance programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

For commonly asked questions regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, please click here.

However, the third phase of federal funding, referred to as the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act), is one unprecedented in the history of the United States. The CARES Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, amounts to approximately $2 trillion. Those funds are aimed at lessening the economic fallout which has occurred due to the coronavirus. It appears that the CARES Act would provide stimulus checks of $1,200 to adults and, in addition, $500 per child under the age of 17. Notably, the $1,200 checks would begin to phase out if an individual earns more than $75,000, however, it is important to keep in mind that earnings for joint returns and heads of households affect the point at which the phaseout occurs. For those individuals who have received direct deposits from the IRS since 2018, stimulus checks are expected to be received sometime within the next three weeks. For those receiving physical checks, the wait time could be lengthened.

Unemployment insurance also received significant funding, with approximately $250 billion being allocated to such benefits, resulting in not only unemployment eligibility for independent contractors, but an additional $600 a week to employees who have been laid off. This $600 would be on top of what the employee was receiving from state unemployment and would be available for four months. Such funding will likely prove vital as the number of unemployment claims was found to reach a record high, surpassing 3 million claims. Outside of the above provisions, the CARES Act also provides:

  • Approximately $100 billion to hospitals; approximately $500 billion to corporations; and approximately $377 billion to small businesses.
  • Borrowers of federally-owned student loans with the ability to defer payment on such loans until Sept. 30, 2020.
  • Coronavirus-related distributions from retirement plans, allowing an individual to avoid the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty on up to $100,000.

Keep in mind, these are only a few of the provisions of the CARES Act.

For more information on commonly asked questions regarding the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, please click here for Q&A related to individuals found on U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein's website. Click here for a more extensive list of Q&A's on her webpage.

For questions pertaining to any of the above information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your MAP Labor Relations Specialist. As always, know that we stand beside you and your family during this unprecedented time.