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Commonwealth's Counties

Update on federal legislation responding to COVID-19 pandemic

Congress has enacted three COVID-19 relief measures in quick succession this month.  VACo is continuing to work with our partners at the National Association of Counties and the Local Government Attorneys of Virginia to clarify certain provisions of the bills and will provide additional information to members as we receive it.  Below is an initial overview of key provisions of the spending bills, as well as links to analyses provided by NACo.  VACo staff will be providing a more detailed analysis shortly.

Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act
The first spending package, signed by the President on March 6, largely focuses on funding for the federal agencies responsible for the public health response to COVID-19, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health.  The bill provides $2.2 billion to the Centers for Disease Control, which includes $950 million for grants to states, localities, tribes, and related entities.  The bill also provides $3.1 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (which provides resources for responding to natural or man-made medical and public health threats) in order to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including purchasing vaccines, therapeutics, and medical supplies.  NACo’s overview of this legislation may be found at this link.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act
The second stimulus bill, signed by the President on March 18, includes additional funding and regulatory flexibility for several major nutrition programs, including $500 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; $400 billion for the Commodity Assistance Program as part of the emergency food assistance program; additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for households with children who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price school meals; and $250 billion for nutrition services for programs funded through the Administration for Community Living, such as home-delivered meals for older adults, as well as additional funding to support states’ unemployment insurance programs, and requirements for insurance coverage of COVID-19 testing.  The bill also provides for a temporary increase in the federal share of funding for Medicaid.  

Of interest to many counties, the bill expands family and medical leave and includes provisions requiring up to 12 weeks of leave for an employee who is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed or unavailable due to the pandemic.  Certain health care providers and emergency responders may be excluded from these requirements.  The cost of these enhanced benefits is offset for many employers by payroll tax credits; however, local government employers are excluded from qualifying for these credits in the bill.  We are working with others, including The Local Government Attorneys of Virginia and NACo, to get clarification on the provisions of this legislation.  A Frequently Asked Questions document provided by the Department of Labor may be found at this link.  NACo’s letter to Congressional leadership requesting that counties qualify for the tax credits may be found at this link.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
The third and largest stimulus package was signed by the President on March 27.  This far-reaching legislation is nearly 900 pages in length and provides $2 trillion in funding for coronavirus relief efforts.  VACo staff are reviewing the bill and additional clarification is needed on some provisions. We expect more detail to be available about expected allocations for Virginia soon. 

Key provisions include:

  • A new $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund for state and local governments.  NACo is seeking clarity on how localities may qualify for funding and how local allocations may interface with state funding.
  • A $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund
  • $400 million in grants to states to prepare for the 2020 elections
  • $3.5 billion in Child Care Development Block Grant Funding
  • $750 million for Head Start
  • $15.5 billion in additional contingency funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; $1 billion for the Community Services Block Grant; $900 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; $955 million for the Administration for Community Living to support nutrition programs and other services for older adults and individuals with disabilities
  • $100 million for the ReConnect program to enhance access to broadband
  • $25 billion to assist transit systems
  • “Recovery rebate” payments to individuals of up to $1200 per individual and $500 per qualifying child dependent.  These payments are an advance refund for 2020 income taxes.
  • An additional $600 per week in emergency unemployment compensation.
  • Funding for loans to small businesses to cover payroll and other costs (including rent and utilities), which may be forgiven if employers avoid laying off employees or reducing wages, and funding for advances of $10,000 to small businesses applying for Economic Injury Disaster Loans through the Small Business Administration.  The bill also provides $17 billion to cover six months’ worth of principal and interest payments on existing Small Business Administration Loans.

NACo’s analysis is available at this link. We continue to review and analyze information as it becomes available and will provide prompt updates. 

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle and Phyllis Errico, Esq.

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