U.S. Legislative Response to COVID-19

U.S. Legislative Response to COVID-19
Updated April 23, 2020

NOTE: This page includes a complete review of all phases of the U.S. legislative response. Because the information should be understood in its entirety, we have maintained the page from oldest-to-newest/top-to-bottom. To jump to the newest update on this page, click here.

U.S. lawmakers are scrambling to provide emergency relief for individuals and businesses throughout the country in the wake unprecedented global pandemic posed by the new coronavirus ("COVID-19"). The Vision Council is closely following the federal response to the pandemic to ensure that member companies can take part in government programs intended to support our member companies. Below you will find a summary of all "stimulus packages" that have been signed into law to date. Each law and program comes with its own effective date, to stay up to date continue to check this page as guidance and timelines become available for these programs:

Phase 1

On March 5 and 6, 2020, as an immediate response to the impact of COVID-19 Congress passed and the President signed H.R. 6074- Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Acts, 2020 ("Phase 1"), which provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding designed to treat and prevent the widespread transmission and effects of COVID-19. This bill is intended to make diagnostic testing more broadly available, to support treatment of the virus, and to provide assistance to small businesses that have been impacted by financial losses as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Phase 1, targeted at slowing the spread of the virus, allocates a significant portion of the funds to the Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS") for vaccination research, CDC emergency funding, medical equipment, and grants for state, local, and tribal public health agencies and organizations. In addition, the bill provides $20 million to the Small Business Administration ("SBA") disaster loans programs to support the SBA's administration of loan subsidies that will be made available to affected small businesses. The bill also allows the HHS to temporarily waive certain Medicare restrictions and requirements regarding telehealth services during the coronavirus public health emergency. While over 80% of the bill is designated for a domestic response, the bill also designated $1.6 billion for an international response, the majority being provided to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to address issues such as evacuations and emergency preparedness activities at U.S. embassies and other State Department facilities and humanitarian assistance and support for health systems in the affected countries.

Phase 2

Update (March 26, 2020): The US Department of Labor has issued guidance to provide information to workers and employers about how each will be able to take advantage of the protections and relief offered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) when it takes effect on April 1, 2020.

Having provided immediate emergency relief, attention quickly turned to providing relief to individuals finding themselves out of work as a result of the unprecedented public health crisis. On March 14, the President signed H.R. 6201- Families First Coronavirus Response Act ("Phase 2"), which provides paid sick leave, free coronavirus testing, expanded unemployment benefits, and food insecurity measures.

The bill's main feature is federally mandated paid leave available for certain employees. Employers with less than 500 employees are required to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to any employee unable to work due to quarantine, isolation, coronavirus symptoms, or who are caring for someone in quarantine or isolation, or that has a child in schools that have been closed. Tax credits will be provided to the employer to offset these costs. Employees are further protected under the bill as they cannot be required to find replacements or use other paid time off.

Self-employed individuals will receive a tax credit equal to the sick leave amount. The bill also provides up to three months of paid family and medical leave.
In an attempt to offset the burdens of anticipated unemployment, the bill provides almost $1 billion to the states to process and pay unemployment insurance. For states with high unemployment or previously exhausted benefits, the bill increases assistance provided.

Phase 3

President Trump has signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the "CARES Act" or "Phase 3") to provide emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families, and businesses. The text of the legislation can be found here.

For individuals and families, Phase 3 includes cash payments of up to $1,200 per person and $2,400 per married couple. Individuals with an adjusted gross income of less than $75,000—$150,000 for joint filers—would receive the full payment, but those earning more will see their payments phased out, and the payments would stop entirely for those earning more than $99,000 per year. Families would also receive an additional $500 per child.

The CARES Act also includes $349 billion for lending programs for small business that maintain their payroll levels. Small businesses will be eligible for additional federally guaranteed loans if they promise to maintain their workforce, and those loans will be forgiven for businesses that continue to pay their workers. For members who are considered a small business (500 employees or less) guidance on CARES provisions for you can be found here.

In addition, the bill allocates $46 billion for industry-specific loans—$25 billion for airlines, $4 billion for cargo carriers, and $17 billion for "businesses critical to maintaining national security"—and $454 billion for the Federal Reserve to leverage for additional loans to help businesses. An inspector general and a five-person panel appointed by Congress will oversee the loans. The bill provides further emergency assistance in the form of $150 billion for state and local governments. Additional guidance for The Vision Council members, who are not classified as small business, who might qualify for support from this program can be found here.

CARES also includes a provision designed to encourage eligible employers to keep employees on their payroll, despite experiencing economic hardship related to COVID-19, with an employee retention tax credit (Employee Retention Credit).

The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to pay sick or family leave wages to employees who are unable to work or telework due to certain circumstances related to COVID-19.

The IRS has issued guidance on the Employee Retention Credit available under the CARES Act that can be found here.

Phase 3 also expands unemployment insurance by 13 weeks and provides enhanced benefits for four months.

Phase 3.5

On April 23rd Congress passed H.R. 266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, a new $484 billion coronavirus relief package. The bill renews funding for the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), with an additional $310 billion, and restores the SBA's emergency loan program. The bill also includes new funding for hospitals, providers, and COVID-19 testing programs all detailed below. Members of The Vision Council seeking information about the PPP can find additional details here.

Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act:

Click here for full text.

  • Provides an additional $310 billion in PPP loans:
    • $30 billion in guaranteed loans for lenders with less than $10 billion in assets.
    • $30 billion in guaranteed loans for lenders with $10 billion to $50 billion in assets.
  • Provides an additional $10 billion for Emergency Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) grants.
  • Appropriates an additional $50 billion for the Disaster Loans Program Account.
  • Allows agricultural enterprises as defined by section 18(b) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 647(b)) with not more than 500 employees to receive EIDL grants and loans.
  • Provides an additional $75 billion for reimbursement to hospitals and healthcare providers to support the need for COVID-19 related expenses and lost revenue.
  • Provides $25 billion for necessary expenses to research, develop, validate, manufacture, purchase, administer, and expand capacity for COVID-19 tests, specifically:
    • $11 billion for states, localities, territories, and tribes to develop, purchase, administer, process, and analyze COVID-19 tests, scale-up laboratory capacity, trace contacts, and support employer testing. Funds are also made available to employers for testing.
    • $1 billion provided to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity expansion, contact tracing, public health data surveillance, and analytics infrastructure modernization.
    • $1.8 billion provided to the National Institutes of Health to develop, validate, improve, and implement testing and associated technologies; to accelerate research, development, and implementation of point-of-care and other rapid testing; and for partnerships with governmental and non-governmental entities to research, develop, and implement the activities.
    • $1 billion for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for advanced research, development, manufacturing, production, and purchase of diagnostic, serologic, or other COVID-19 tests or related supplies.
    • $22 million for the Food and Drug Administration to support activities associated with diagnostic, serological, antigen, and other tests, and related administrative activities.
    • $825 million for Community Health Centers and rural health clinics.
    • Up to $1 billion may be used to cover the costs of testing for the uninsured.

Phase 4

On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (HR 133), an omnibus package that funds government agencies through the entire 2021 Fiscal Year and provides $908 billion in COVID-19 related relief. Included in this legislation were a number of updates to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP is now actively lending to qualified businesses:

  • The Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that lenders would start to accept applications for new PPP loan borrowers starting the week of January 11.
  • Second Draw loan applications will begin to be accepted starting January 13.

The Agencies have released the following one-pagers:

Applications are available for download:

For more information from the SBA, click here.

H.R. 133 also included a number of structural changes to the Paycheck Protection Program.  An overview of those changes is included below:

  • Extends the PPP application period to March 31, 2021.
  • Provides additional Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) money and extends covered period for Emergency EIDL grants through December 31, 2021.
  • Allows PPP loan funds to be used for personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection control mitigation expenses.
  • Allows expenses already – or expected to be – paid for with PPP funds to be tax deductible.
  • Creates a simplified forgiveness process for PPP loans under $150,000.
  • Repeals the requirement that PPP borrowers deduct the amount of their EIDL advance from their PPP forgiveness amount and requires the SBA to issue rules that ensure borrowers are made whole if they received forgiveness and their EIDL was deducted from that amount. 
  • Permits PPP borrowers to apply for the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) and expands the wage cap and percentage of eligible wages for that credit.
  • Creates a second loan from the PPP program called a “PPP Second Draw” loan, designed for smaller and harder hit businesses with a maximum amount of $2 million.
  • Allows 501(c)(6) organizations to qualify for PPP loans, provided lobbying activities do not comprise more than 15 percent of receipts or 15 percent of activities.

For questions or further information, you can speak to a Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner contact, a member of our legislative practice within the firm's COVID-19 task force, or the legal counsel at the firm.