Washington Snapshot: Congress Passes and President Signs $2 Trillion COVID-19 Bill


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Council Web Page on Government Action on COVID-19

The Council has a dedicated page on the ongoing developments of federal coronavirus legislation and other government actions of interest to the philanthropic sector on our COVID-19 Resource Hub.


Congress IconNews from the Hill

Congress Passes $2 Trillion COVID-19 Bill

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act - H.R. 748 (116) – was passed by the House and signed by President Trump today. The $2 trillion relief package will provide cash payments to individuals and families, grants and loans to help small businesses, state and local government stabilization support, funding for health care systems, and loans for corporations to help major industries mitigate the impact of the disruption of industries.

Final Bill Text and Congressional Actions Related to H.R. 748 (116)
Section by Section Explanation of The Bill

Highlights of the bill:

  • Extension and expansion of unemployment benefits for workers who are laid off. They will be eligible to receive an additional $600 per week and an extended four months of compensation. Workers are protected because the bill creates a temporary Pandemic Unemployment
  • Assistance program through December 31, 2020, to provide payment to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits, including those who are self-employed or work in the gig economy
  • Cash payments to individuals and families up to $1,200 for individuals earning up to $99,000 annually and $500 per child
  • $10 billion in Small Business Administration emergency grants up to $10,000 in immediate relief for small business operating costs, $17 billion to cover six months of payments for small businesses with existing loans, and loans for small businesses, including rent, mortgage and utility costs eligible for SBA loan forgiveness
  • A $500 billion Department of Treasury Exchange Stabilization Fund for loans, loan guarantees and other investments that save airline industry jobs and safeguards industries essential to national security but prohibits airlines from stock buybacks and CEO bonuses; and provides a Treasury Department Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery to provide oversight of Treasury loans
  • $55 billion in increased aid to health care systems in addition to the $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus funding package passed on March 5
  • Payments to municipalities and hospitals, including $150 billion for state, tribal and local Coronavirus Relief Funds
  • Employee retention tax credit up to 50% of wages paid to encourage businesses to keep workers on payroll during the crisis
  • A $30 billion Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to state, local, tribal and territorial governments as well as private nonprofits providing critical and essential services
  • Income tax exclusion for people who are receiving assistance from their employer to repay their student loans
  • $400 million to help states administer elections
  • Delay of payment for employer payroll taxes that permits employers and self-employed individuals to defer payment of the employer share of the Social Security tax to be paid over 2021-2022
  • $30.75 billion to provide emergency support to local school systems and higher education institutions to continue to provide educational services to their students and support the on-going functionality of school districts and institutions
  • $25 billion in aid to our nation’s transit systems to help protect public health and safety to ensure people have access to jobs, medical treatment, food and other essential services.

Provisions that Support the Philanthropic Sector

The bill establishes a temporary universal charitable deduction provision for gifts up to $300 and the temporary suspension of percentage of AGI limitation for cash charitable contributions by individuals (as well as an increase in the limit for corporations). Additionally, the bill provides payment to states to reimburse nonprofits, government agencies and Native American tribes for half of the costs they incur through December 31, 2020 to pay unemployment benefits.

Funders will find the National Council of Nonprofits’ analyses of the coronavirus legislative packages for nonprofits useful for their grantees: Analysis of the March 19th Families First Bill and Analysis of CARES Act Benefits That Impact Nonprofits


Previous Coronavirus Relief Legislation

On March 6th, President Trump signed the first $8.3 billion package, H.R. 6074 (116) - Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, aimed at helping states and the federal government fight the coronavirus. A second package, H.R. 6201 - Families First Coronavirus Response Act, was signed into law on March 18th.


What’s Next?

The next big challenge for the federal government will be to get the money out and into people’s pockets as soon as possible. Federal agencies will go into overdrive figuring out how to move the funding out of Washington to states and local communities.

Will there be more stimulus and relief funding? Top lawmakers have acknowledged it's likely they will have to enact at least one more relief package to stabilize the economy. In a potential fourth relief package, there may be calls for regulatory reform, infrastructure plans to improve transportation and other core infrastructure needs like hospitals, roads, and broadband expansion. There could potentially be a push for clean energy investment and a reset of the rules on wages, leave and sick benefits, executive compensation, and stock buybacks. Should this package unfold, expect intense partisan posturing.


Executive & Regulatory News IconExecutive & Regulatory Affairs

White House

The Council’s President and CEO Kathleen Enright participated in a conference call the White House hosted for nonprofit leaders on Wednesday to discuss the latest COVID-19 legislation, Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence encouraged nonprofit leaders to widely share the CDC’s latest guidelines on social distancing among other actions being taken by the government.


Department of Treasury

On March 24, the Internal Revenue Service issued FAQs related to the special federal income tax return filing and payment extensions provided in Notice 2020-18 (extending due dates and payments for many federal tax returns until July 15, 2020).

The FAQs clarify that the extension has limited benefits for tax-exempt organizations. Specifically, the extensions are available for any individual or entity with a federal income tax return or payment due April 15, 2020, but does not apply to information returns, such as the Form 990, or returns due on May 15, including Form 990 or Form 990-T.

The extension also does not apply to excise or payroll taxes. Therefore, the only benefit for tax-exempt organizations is for those that have a Form 990-T filing deadline of April 15, 2020. For organizations that do file a 990-T, the deadline for filing the return and payment of tax is automatically extended to July 15, 2020. Taxpayers seeking to use this extension do not need to file a request for an extension and do not need to be sick, quarantined, or have other impacts from COVID-19 to qualify for the relief.

Some exempt organizations are seeking an expansion of the return extensions to 990s, and therefore there may still be an extension for returns normally due on May 15.


Department of Education

The Trump administration announced earlier this week that it would refund hundreds of thousands of federal student loan borrowers whose tax refunds or Social Security benefits were seized in recent weeks as it suspends all collection of defaulted student debt.
The $1.8 billion in refunds to about 830,000 student loan borrowers represents the tax refunds and other federal benefits that were garnished since March 13, when President Donald Trump declared a national emergency because of the coronavirus outbreak.


Department of Homeland Security

Federal Emergency Management Agency - 15 Days to Slow the Spread
As of March 26, FEMA has shipped over 9 million N-95 masks, 20 million surgical/face masks, 3.1 million face shields, nearly 6,000 ventilators, 2.6 million gowns, and 14.6 million gloves.

FEMA continues to be the lead agency on the coordination of the federal government’s comprehensive response to fighting the spread of the coronavirus. Learn more about the federal emergency response functions at visit coronavirus.gov. Their Coronavirus page tracks the updates on federal emergency response actions. FEMA advises that funders and nonprofits follow state and local officials as well for instructions and information specific to your community. Your local officials are getting information from their national associations:
National Association of Counties
US Conference of Mayors
US Conference of Mayors
National Governors Association

Announcements of interest this week from the agency:

  • Any organization or company that has supplies to sell, such as hand sanitizer, hospital supplies and equipment, etc., can email FEMA officials directly at covidsupplies@femadhs.gov .
  • FEMA has launched a rumor control webpage to help the public distinguish between rumors and facts regarding the response to coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

FEMA is seeking best practices and has provided an online platform, IdeaScale, for sharing best practices and lessons learned by the government, private sector, academic institutions, professional associations, and other organizations to support the whole of community response.
This collection of best practices come from successful interventions and the experiences of other communities that have already faced some of the COVID-19 challenges. This site is not exhaustive, but instead highlight some key areas where communities could benefit from learning from the experiences of others. Organizations can email best practice or lessons learned to fema-cipsupport@fema.dhs.gov.


Other Federal Agencies Resource Information

Federal Trade Commission: Coronavirus Scams: What the FTC is doing
Small Business Administration: SBA Disaster Assistance in Response to the Coronavirus
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency: CISA Information and Updates on Covid-19
Internal Revenue Service: IRS-Coronavirus Tax Relief


State Policy IconHappening in the States

Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.

National Council of Nonprofits logo

NCP Analysis of the CARES Act

State COVID-19 Actions: Funding and Other Benefits

Several legislatures are acting quickly to address the many health and economic challenges emerging from the spread of COVID-19. California lawmakers approved an immediate $500 million in disaster response for the COVID-19 pandemic to fund emergency expenditures tied to the Governor’s Declaration of Emergency and authorized additional appropriations in increments of $50,000,000 after the Director of Finance notifies the Legislature, up to a total appropriation of $1,000,000,000. The Washington DC City Council approved legislation (B23-0718 and B23-0719) that establishes a new public health emergency small business grant program and expands eligibility for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly referred to as SNAP or food stamps), and homeless services. Additional flexibility is provided for hospital budgets, education requirements, and public meetings. The new laws also prohibit price gouging and stockpiling, disconnection of certain utilities, and eviction. In Vermont, a pending bill would permit the Secretary of Human Services to modify, waive, or postpone hospital assessments, provide more access to health care for vulnerable populations, and undergo emergency rulemaking due to COVID-19.


State COVID-19 Actions: Employment Policies

Policymakers in the Northeast are looking to expand unemployment insurance and other protections for employees directly impacted by COVID-19. In Massachusetts, a pending bill would expand unemployment insurance for all employees who are directly impacted by the COVID-19 state of emergency declarations of March 2020. Legislators in Vermont are considering extending unemployment insurance benefits to individuals voluntarily separated from an employer to care for a family member diagnosed with COVID-19, relieving the employer of the cost of benefits for four weeks under certain circumstances, and requiring the employer to rehire the individual afterwards. In New Jersey, a bill would prohibit an employer from terminating or penalizing an employee who requested or took time off under certain conditions related to the pandemic emergency declared by the Governor. Another bill would establish a temporary program to provide relief to individuals who have lost wages as a result of the crisis and to employers who pay wages to workers who are ordered under quarantine. A pair of bills pending in New York (A.10152 / A.10153) would set sick leave requirements for employees, adjusting the paid or unpaid requirements as well as the number of days provided based on the size of the for-profit or nonprofit employer.

The Washington, DC City Council expanded unemployment compensation and medical leave during a public health emergency. Employees may qualify if they are quarantined or isolated under directives from a government agency or medical professional, their employer closes, or they are under self-quarantine or self-isolation for good cause. With the North Carolina General Assembly not currently in session, Governor Roy Cooper issued two executive orders to assist with the public health and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, the new executive order eases access to unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for individuals who are out of work due to the public health measures necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19. Specifically, the executive order waives both the one-week waiting period for UI benefits and the requirements that individuals must be actively seeking work to be eligible. It also holds employers (including nonprofits) harmless for UI claims related to COVID-19 by not charging these claims to their accounts. This appears to be true for most nonprofits and their employees except for individuals who lose their jobs at religious nonprofits and nonprofits with fewer than four employees, since these organizations are generally exempt from providing UI benefits. The NC Center for Nonprofits is working with the state on a solution to allow these nonprofit workers to access UI benefits during the COVID-19 crisis.