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RCAP Advocacy and Policy Update: COVID-19 Response

RCAP Advocacy and Policy Update: COVID-19 Response

Over the last two weeks, the National Office has been active in promoting the needs of rural water systems and small communities during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis. In the last two weeks, Congress has approved and President Trump signed into law Phase 1 (H.R. 6074) and Phase 2 (H.R. 6201) legislation addressing the COVID-19 crisis in a variety of ways. Phases I, II, and III are the three parts to COVID-19 legislation so far. 
 
Phase I, enacted into law March 6. Provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to ensure vaccines developed to fight the coronavirus are affordable, that impacted small businesses can qualify for Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs), and that Medicare recipients can consult with their providers by telephone or teleconference, if necessary or desired.
 
Phase II, signed into law on March 18. This package includes provisions for paid sick leave, free coronavirus testing, expanded food assistance, additional unemployment benefits, and requirements that employers provide additional protection for healthcare workers. 
 
Phase III, signed into law on March 27. The Trump administration struck a deal with Senate Democrats and Republicans on a package providing an estimated $2 trillion in spending and tax breaks to strengthen the U.S. economy and fund a nationwide effort to curtail the coronavirus. The price tag of this package is enormous, unprecedented, and is roughly equal to 10% of the country’s economic output. The plan includes approximately $500 billion that can be used to back loans to distressed companies, including $50 billion for loans to U.S. airlines, as well as state and local governments. It also contains more than $350 billion to aid small businesses. While stipulating the airlines as eligible for a special fund of money available for loans, the legislation is otherwise broad in its approach, recognizing that the coronavirus has affected almost every sector of the economy. 
 
It provides payment to states to reimburse nonprofits, government agencies, and Indian tribes for half of the costs they incur through December 31, 2020 to pay unemployment benefits; and funding to support “short-time compensation” programs, where employers reduce employee hours instead of laying off workers. Employees with reduced hours receive a pro-rated unemployment benefit. This provision would pay 100 percent of the costs they incur in providing this short-time compensation through December 31, 2020.
 
Under Phase Ill, all 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.

Thank you to Ted Stiger, Senior Director of Government Relations and Policy at the Rural Community Assistance Partnership for providing this update on enacted legislation related to the pandemic.


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