COVID-19 CRITICAL RESPONSE REPORT
Just now, the House passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This is the third bill that Congress has passed in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis facing our country. While I represent you in Washington, I live right here in the 2nd District. I am seeing—right along with you—the devastation that this disease is having on our friends and family, the strain it is putting on our hospitals and healthcare workers, the loss of jobs, and closing of businesses caused by everyone trying to protect themselves and their loved ones.
Make no mistake, we are in the middle of an ongoing disaster. We need all the resources we can get right now. I know a crisis like this demands real action and serious solutions. I will keep fighting for solutions that put cash in people’s pockets and stop bills that devastate people just trying to stay afloat. Our state, our cities, our communities, and our families are all suffering right now. We, in Louisiana, are no strangers to help coming in too late and too small, but I will not stop fighting for every dollar of help and solutions that match the severity of this crisis.
The CARES Act increases funding for key priorities and creates important programs that will directly help many of us. I want to explain some of those important parts. This is not an exhaustive list and we are still waiting for details regarding how many of the programs will operate. However, I am eager to share information on them as quickly as possible since so many are waiting for support right now.
FIGHTING THE CORONAVIRUS
This bill includes a $200 billion investment in hospitals, health systems, and health research. This includes funding for healthcare equipment and infrastructure, including personal protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, and new construction to house patients. It also includes increases in Medicare payments to all hospitals and providers to get them the resources they need during this crisis and additional investments into COVID-19 research.
The bill also includes $150 billion for the Coronavirus Relief Fund, a program that provides direct funding to states to give them the resources they desperately need during this emergency. Louisiana is expected to receive $1.8 billion in this funding for new and necessary expenses being incurred in the fight against COVID-19.
This bill creates two new programs to help get money into people’s pockets now. The first program is Recovery Rebates, a direct payment of $1,200 to each adult and $500 per child. The second is a new Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program that increases unemployment benefits by a taxable $600 per week and expands eligibility for unemployment to include people who are self-employed, independent contractors, and “gig economy” workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers. This is a $260 billion investment in Unemployment Insurance benefits to match the average paycheck of laid-off or furloughed workers. These increased payments will run until July 31, 2020. This bill also provides an additional $15.5 billion in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Recovery Rebates – Direct to individuals administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury (for more information, please visit www.irs.gov/coronavirus)
- Payment Amount
- This will provide a direct payment to people, including Social Security beneficiaries (retirement, disability, survivor) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients.
- The amount of the rebate depends on family size. The payment is $1,200 for each adult individual ($2,400 for joint filers), and $500 per qualifying child under age 17.
- This payment will be reduced by 5% for all income above $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for heads of households, and $150,000 for joint filers.
- It phases out completely at $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for joint filers with no children.
- Payment Delivery
- The payment will be based on your federal income tax return filed in 2019 or 2018. If you did not file your taxes in either of those years, your information will be taken from the Social Security Administration. Taxpayers must have Social Security Numbers for themselves and their qualifying children in order to receive rebates.
- Rebates will be delivered automatically—by the IRS—to most Americans who file individual federal income tax returns.
- For people who filed a federal income tax return in 2018 or 2019, payments will be sent using either electronic deposit or address information already on file with the IRS. The IRS will set up a way to get the payments to people without that information on file.
Pandemic Unemployment Insurance – Application process administered by the Louisiana Workforce Commission
- Increased Benefit
- The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation is a taxable $600 a week in addition to regular state unemployment benefits.
- States would be allowed to provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits beyond current law.
- Expanded Eligibility
- People not normally eligible for unemployment insurance are now eligible under this expanded eligibility if their unemployment is due to COVID-19.
- This specifically includes:
- Self-Employed workers
- Independent contractors
- “Gig economy” workers
- People who were going to begin a new job or new contract which was canceled due to COVID-19
SNAP Eligibility Requirements:
- Identity - Individuals must show proof they are the person they claim to be. Applicants must provide proof of their identity.
- Residence - the client must be living in Louisiana.
- Citizenship - household members can include either US citizens and/or certain aliens with verifiable USCIS documentation.
- Enumeration - households must provide or apply for Social Security numbers for each member before certification.
- Work Registration - all able-bodied adults, with specific exceptions, must register for work and accept suitable employment
- The amount of SNAP a household receives depends on the number of people in the SNAP household and the amount of their net income.
How to Apply:
- Fill out an application online by visiting www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/snap-how-to-apply.
- Gather the documents you will need to verify the information in your application. (i.e. driver’s license, work or school I.D., social security number, alien status, wages, self-employment) full list provided on website.
- After receiving your application, a DCFS employee will call you to conduct an interview over the phone, saving you time. Please provide a valid telephone number for contact purposes.
For more information on SNAP and other services available through the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), call 1-888-LAHELP-U (1-888-524-3578) or visit their website at http://www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/page/snap.
SNAP participants may also meet the income eligibility guidelines for nutrition services through the Women, Infants & Children Program (WIC) offered by the Louisiana Department of Health.
FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
The bill includes a $377 billion infusion of fast relief for small businesses and made rent, mortgage, and utility costs eligible for SBA loan forgiveness. This bill creates several new programs designed to get assistance to small businesses and non-profits during this crisis. These include the Paycheck Protection Program to help cover the cost of retaining employees, Emergency Economic Injury Grants to get smaller amounts of capital quickly, and the Small Business Debt Relief Program to help with payments on current or potential SBA loans.
Paycheck Protection Program
- The program will provide 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. If employers maintain their payroll, the loans would be forgiven for amounts expended for payroll over certain periods and certain other business expenses.
- Small businesses and non-profits will be able to apply if they were in business as of February 15, 2020 and the program will remain open for applications until June 30, 2020.
- Loans under the Paycheck Protection Program may be made up to $10,000,000 amortized over 10 years depending on a particular business’s circumstances.
- These loans can be taken out from all current SBA 7(a) lenders. Most local banks are currently SBA 7(a) lenders and many of the ones that are not are quickly joining the program. Contact your banker to inquire into their process.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) & Emergency Economic Injury Grants
- EIDLs are lower interest loans of up to $2 million, with principal and interest deferment available for up to 4 years, that are available to pay for expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred, including payroll and other operating expenses.
- Emergency Economic Injury Grants provide an emergency advance of up to $10,000 within three days of applying for an EIDL to small businesses and private non-profits harmed by COVID-19.
- Small business concerns, sole proprietorships, independent contractors, cooperatives and employee owned businesses, and private non-profits are eligible for EIDL.
- To apply for an EIDL online, please visit https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/. Your SBA District Office is an important resource when applying for SBA assistance.
- Taking an EIDL will not prevent you from participating in the 7(A) program. Once approved for the 7(A) program your EIDL will be rolled into the 7(A) program.
Small Business Debt Relief Program
- This program will provide immediate relief to small businesses with some SBA loans, in particular 7(a), 504, and microloans. Disaster loans are NOT eligible.
FOR HOMEOWNERS AND RENTERS
This bill provides important protections for millions of people with federally backed mortgages or that receive federal subsidies. The bill provides a 4-month moratorium on evictions to protect renters who are unable to pay their rent. The moratorium applies to properties that receive federal subsidies or assistance, such as public housing, Section 8, USDA rental assistance, and Low Income Housing Tax Credits, as well as to properties that have a mortgage issued or guaranteed by a federal agency, including FHA and USDA, or Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Additionally, for homeowners with federally backed loans, there will be a foreclosure moratorium for four months and mortgage forbearance for up to a year. This includes a prohibition on fees and additional interest during the term of the forbearance. Multifamily rental property owners with federally backed mortgages will also have access to forbearance for up to 90 days and would be required to comply with requirements to halt evictions and late fees for the duration of the forbearance.
This bill includes more than $30 billion in emergency education funding and eliminated income tax on student loan repayment assistance by an employer. A portion of that funding is specifically designated for HBCUs, including those so important to our district. On student loans, this bill pauses payments and suspends debt collection on most federal student loans until September 30, 2020.
FOR PLACES OF WORSHIP
501(c)(3) non-profits, including churches, are eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program for the payroll costs of their business operations. Congressman Richmond is leading the charge with other Members of Congress and the Treasury Department to ensure that churches who have been deemed a 501(C)(3) but not formally registered as a 501(c)(3) will be able to access these funds.