Explaining the CARES Act

March 27, 2020
Weekly Columns

As the U.S. grapples with containing COVID-19, Congress has been working to provide emergency funding for research, relief efforts, small businesses, unemployed workers and more. Phase III of the funding plan, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed the House and Senate the week of March 22. It’s not a perfect bill, but the CARES Act goes a long way in aiding those most affected by COVID-19.

First, its rural health care inclusions. The CARES Act provides more than $140 billion to support our health system, including $100 billion of direct relief to hospitals and health care providers and $16 billion to the Strategic National Stockpile. These funds can immediately be used to cover costs and purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other lifesaving medical supplies. The CARES Act eliminates red tape for providers and beneficiaries in rural areas and creates and expands various telehealth programs, especially in underserved areas. The CARES Act also directly supports patients suffering from COVID-19, waiving cost sharing for individuals seeking diagnostic tests.

In addition to these health provisions, the CARES Act specifically allocates $150 billion to state and local governments to help them combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act creates a new Coronavirus Relief Fund from which money will be sent directly to states. This is in addition to roughly $274 billion in funding for specific elements of state and local governments’ responses to the pandemic and economic crisis, and supplemental funding for joint state-federal programs like unemployment compensation and Medicaid.

Small businesses also benefit from the CARES Act. The legislation creates a “Paycheck Protection Program” for small businesses, self-employed individuals, and “gig economy” workers, offering $350 billion in forgivable loans to businesses that maintain staff. Additionally, it increases the maximum loan amount for Small Business Administration Express loans, which require less documentation and paperwork to process.

These provisions and many others are a big step forward in providing emergency assistance to Americans. I’m continuing to receive input from constituents, businesses and others around the state as we fight this virus on all fronts. We are all in this together.