Congress Responds to Coronavirus Outbreak with Several Legislative Relief Packages
Posted in COVID-19
Congress Responds to Coronavirus Outbreak with Several Legislative Relief Packages

In the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic, federal and state officials alike have been scrambling to protect the public health of our citizens while simultaneously dealing with the economic fallout associated with efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus through quarantine measures. 

While West Virginia has seen the forced closure of schools, restaurants, bars, casinos, gyms, health clubs and other recreational facilities, the United States Congress has been considering several legislative packages aimed at providing relief to the nation. 

To date, Congress has focused on three separate relief packages aimed at alleviating the COVID-19 epidemic.  First, Congress has already passed, and President Trump has signed into law, an $8.3 billion relief package aimed at providing immediate relief on the health care delivery front.  The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074) included nearly $3 billion for research and vaccine development, $2.2 billion for various public health programs and $1 billion for additional medical supplies. 

The federal government, through the Small Business Administration, has also expanded the funding available for Economic Injury Disaster Loans for qualifying businesses negatively impacted by the virus.  As part of this process, impacted West Virginia businesses are encouraged to complete and submit Economic Injury Worksheets to the Governor’s Office as soon as possible. 

On Wednesday, March 18, the United States Senate completed action on a multibillion-dollar aid package aimed more at the economic impacts of the coronavirus.  The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) provides, among other things, the following:

  • Paid sick leave and family leave be provided by certain employers to individuals and employees impacted by the public health crisis;
  • Approximately $1 billion in emergency grants and interest free loans to assist with unemployment insurance;
  • Free testing and coverage for other health care expenses related to COVID-19; and,
  • Additional federal funding for food assistance programs and unemployment compensation benefits.

Finally, Congress and President Trump are negotiating further a third and possibly more massive economic stimulus package totaling as much as $1 trillion in increased spending.  This so-called “third phase” of relief aims to stabilize a staggering economy with a significant influx of federal spending.  While no formal legislation has been introduced as of yet, the Trump administration has discussed sending direct payments of as much as $1,000 to citizens as part of an effort to help offset the expenses of those individuals whose employment has been impacted by the virus, and to spur additional economic activating for ailing businesses.  Talks have also focused on relief for industries that have been hit particularly hard by travel and quarantine restrictions, such as the airline and the travel and tourism industries. 

As federal and state action evolves on a real-time basis, the Bowles Rice COVID-19 Response Team is closely monitoring these and other developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have questions about how local, state or federal developments may impact your business, we can help.