Coronavirus Phase III Legislation

Congressman Kelly Armstrong

My top priority is protecting the health, safety, and economic wellbeing of North Dakotans during the coronavirus pandemic. If you have any questions or concerns about the response to the coronavirus or options that may be available to you, please call my offices in Bismarck, Fargo, or Washington, or send me an email by clicking here.

Federal, state, local, and tribal health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the North Dakota Department of Health, continue to respond to the coronavirus in our communities. Congress and President Donald Trump have taken several actions to provide those health agencies, hospitals, healthcare providers, and emergency responders with the resources necessary to continue the fight.

The most recent federal response is the passage of the Phase III relief package, titled the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748). This law provides resources to combat the coronavirus and provide financial stability to Americans and U.S. businesses. These resources are vital as we take the unprecedented step of halting most economic activity in an effort to stop this pandemic. While the law includes numerous provisions, some of the most important include:

  • Surging material and resources to healthcare providers and hospitals
  • Providing most Americans with up to $1,200 tax free
  • Expanding unemployment insurance funding;
  • Implementing a small business loan and grant program that will encourage employers to keep employees on payroll
  • Supplying loans to distressed industries, especially those vital to national security

Detailed information about these important provisions is included below.

You can find additional information about the previously enacted Phase I and Phase II relief packages on this FAQ page from the House Ways and Means Committee. Additionally, my Coronavirus Updates page can be found here.

Please read through this information and share with family, friends, and coworkers. If you have any further questions about this information, or what Congress is doing to assist, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Kelly Armstrong
Member of Congress

 

Assistance for Individuals and Families

Income for American Families

The CARES Act establishes a one-time tax rebate for eligible Americans. This money is intended to help low- and middle-income Americans make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic.

How much will I get?

This tax rebate is equal to $1,200 per individual or $2,400 for couples filing jointly, plus $500 per eligible child. The amount you will receive is based on the adjusted gross income (AGI) in your 2018 or 2019 tax return. The full amount will be sent to anyone with an AGI at or below $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for head of household, and $150,000 for married couples. The rebate is phased out gradually and individuals with an AGI of $99,000 or $198,000 for married couples will not receive rebates.

I have a low income because I’m retired or disabled or for some other reason. Will I still receive money?

Yes. If a person has a valid Social Security number, they can receive the credit – so this means workers, those receiving welfare benefits, Social Security beneficiaries, and others are all eligible. There is no tax liability requirement and there is no earned income requirement.

Are non-tax filers eligible?

Yes, there are two ways in this bill for non-tax filers to receive a rebate check:

  • By filing a tax return for the 2019 tax year, which they can do until July 15, 2020.
  • For others, the IRS will use the SSA-1099 to identify Social Security beneficiaries who fall below the tax filing requirement.

Does this affect eligibility for means-tested benefits?

No. The Internal Revenue Code already prohibits this type of credit from affecting eligibility for means tested benefits.

Expanded Unemployment Insurance

The CARES Act expands the size and scope of unemployment benefits for laid-off Americans during this unprecedented time. The bill makes benefits more generous by adding a $600/week across-the-board payment increase to existing unemployment insurance amounts through the end of July. In addition, for those who need it, the bill provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits beyond what states typically allow.

The expansion in unemployment benefits expires at the end of 2020 in recognition of the temporary nature of this challenge.

Are self-employed, gig workers, and contractors eligible for unemployment?

Yes, the bill expands unemployment benefits to cover more workers including self-employed and independent contractors, like gig workers and Uber drivers, who do not usually qualify for unemployment. The bill also includes support to state and local governments and nonprofits so they can offer unemployment benefits to their employees. Please contact the North Dakota Job Service for specific eligibility information: https://www.jobsnd.com/unemployment-individuals/file-claim.

Retirement Accounts

Older Americans who are subject to mandatory minimum distributions from their retirement accounts will have the option to suspend mandatory minimum distributions without penalty for 2020.

Additionally, the law also waives the 10% penalty on for early distributions from 401(k)s and IRAs taken in 2020, as long as the withdrawal is due to certain coronavirus-related reasons.

Student Loan Deferment

The CARES Act allows federal student loan borrowers to pause payments for six months – to September 30, 2020 – providing direct relief for millions of Americans who have federal student loans. The Department of Education will also waive all interest that would normally accrue during this period. This provision only applies to federal student loans and not to loans provided by a private lender.

 

Small Business Assistance

Paycheck Protection Program Loans

(Update May 4, 2020)

  • Congress approved an additional $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on April 23. 
  • The Small Business Administration released a lender lookup tool to help businesses find eligible lenders for PPP loans.

(Update April 7, 2020) - The Treasury Department released the guidelines for PPP loans, listed below: 

The Treasury Department's homepage for the CARES Act can be found here.

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The CARES Act creates a new Paycheck Protection loan program administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Here is the topline information:

  • New SBA-backed Paycheck Protection loan program will help small businesses pay for expenses.
  • Loans taken by small businesses to keep employees on payroll may be forgiven.
  • 501(c)(3)s will also be eligible for this program.
  • Federal government will forgive 8 weeks of cash flow, rent, and utilities at 100% up to 2.5x average monthly payroll.
  • The law provides $350 billion for this loan program.

Who is eligible for a Paycheck Protection loan?

  • Businesses and 501(c)(3)s with less than 500 employees are eligible for this new loan. 
  • Sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals may also be eligible. 
  • Physician practices are eligible regardless of how they are structured.
  • Small businesses in the hospitality and food industry that have less than $500 million in gross receipts with more than one location could also be eligible at the store and location level if the store employs less than 500 workers. This means that each store location could be eligible. 
  • If your franchisor appears in the SBA's National Franchise Directory, assistance will extend down to the franchisee at the store or location level.

Can small businesses hire back previously fired employees and still have the loans forgiven? If so, what is the hire-back date?

Yes. There is flexibility in the program to allow businesses to hire new, or returning employees, by June 30, 2020, and still qualify under the headcount requirements.

Is there a cap on the loan amount?

The maximum loan amount will be the lesser of $10 million or 2.5 times the average monthly payroll based on the prior year's payroll.

What expenses are eligible to be paid from the loan?

  • Payroll costs, including costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits during periods of paid sick, medical, or family leave, and insurance premiums; and employee salaries, commissions, or similar compensations
  • Payments of interest on any mortgage obligation (which shall not include any prepayment of or payment of principal on a mortgage obligation)
  • Rent (including rent under a lease agreement)
  • Utilities
  • Interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before February 15, 2020

Where can I apply for this loan?

Both existing SBA lenders and new lenders brought into the program with the assistance of the Department of the Treasury will be able to offer these loans to eligible small businesses.

How fast will I receive the loan? 

To increase speed and turnaround time within this new loan product, all lenders will have delegated authority. Delegated authority allows the lender to process, close, and service a loan without SBA review. 

Additionally, all borrower and lender fees for Paycheck Protection loans will be waived. The Credit Elsewhere Test and all requirements for personal guarantees under Paycheck Protection loans will also be waived.

When do I have to start paying the loan back?

The CARES Act includes an automatic deferral of principal, interest, and fees for six months for Paycheck Protection loans.

What if I already have applied for or received an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan?

Businesses will be able to receive an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and a Paycheck Protection loan if they are used for different things. For example, a business can receive an EIDL for working capital and a Paycheck Protection loan for payroll assistance. There are no prepayment penalties on EIDLs and no prepayment penalties on Paycheck Protection loans. Additionally, a refinancing option is included.

What is the loan forgiveness tool, and how much can be forgiven?

The bill establishes a loan forgiveness tool that allows businesses that maintain payroll continuity from February 15, 2020, through June 30, 2020, as defined by headcount, to request forgiveness on the portion of the Paycheck Protection loan used on payroll costs; mortgage interest; rent; and utility costs over an 8-week period.

  • The amount forgiven will be reduced proportionally by any reduction in employees retained compared to the prior year and reduced by the reduction in pay of any employee beyond 25 percent of their prior year compensation.
  • The loan forgiveness program provides flexibility for businesses that re-hire workers that were previously laid off.
  • To receive loan forgiveness, a business will have to work with a lender to show their payroll was maintained through documentation.
  • Lenders will be held harmless on decisions of eligibility and SBA will purchase the loan after the lender grants approval.

Payroll Tax Credit

The CARES Act creates an Employee Retention Credit, which is a refundable payroll tax credit equal to 50 percent of up to $10,000 in wages per employee (including health benefits) paid by certain employers during the coronavirus crisis.

Who is eligible for the Employee Retention Credit?

The credit is available to employers:

  • Whose operations were fully or partially shut down by government order limiting commerce, travel, or group meetings due to coronavirus; or
  • Whose quarterly receipts are less than 50% for the same quarter in the prior year.

Wages paid to employees during the period which they are furloughed or otherwise not working (due to reduced hours) as a result of their employer’s closure or economic hardship are eligible for the credit. However, for employers with 100 or fewer employees, all employee wages qualify for the credit, regardless of whether they are furloughed or face reduced hours.

The credit is for wages paid by eligible employers from March 13, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

Can I receive both the Employee Retention Credit and an SBA-backed Paycheck Protection loan?

No. Employers that receive Paycheck Protection loans are not eligible for the Employee Retention Credit. Additionally, wages that qualify for the required paid leave credit are not eligible for the credit.

Additional Small Business Tax Relief

Delayed Payroll Tax Payment: The CARES Act authorizes employers to delay the payment of their 2020 payroll taxes until 2021 and 2022, providing businesses with an extra $300 billion in cash flow.

Carry-Back Losses: The CARES Act allows businesses to carry back losses from 2018, 2019, and 2020 to the previous 5 years, which will allow businesses access to immediate tax refunds.

Investment in Improvements: The CARES Act fixes cost recovery for investments in Qualified Improvement Properties, which will allow businesses that made these investments in 2018 and 2019 and receive tax refunds now.

Rural Communities and Agricultural Producers

What does this bill do to provide relief for rural communities and farmers?

The bill includes several small business provisions designed to help farmers stay in business and take care of their employees during this difficult time. These include provisions that allow farmers to work with their trusted farm credit institutions for the purposes of securing payroll tax loans, along with one-year deferrals, 100% guarantees, and low rates.

The bill provides $14 billion for the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and appropriates an additional $9.5 billion to specifically respond to losses due to COVID-19. 

Additional funding is provided for USDA agencies that are on the front lines of responding to COVID-19, including the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

The bill also includes $100 million to provide financing for rural broadband through the ReConnect program, and $25 million for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine program to provide grants for equipment and connectivity improvements.

 

Investing in Health Care

The CARES Act rushes essential resources to providers during these unprecedented times. The bill includes targeted health measures to fund hospitals and healthcare providers, expand access to care for patients, support the public health response, and remove limitations on using Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

The CARES Act provides funding for healthcare providers through Medicare, including accelerated payments and a 20 percent add-on payment for inpatient treatment. This will help give hospitals, especially facilities in rural and frontier areas, a reliable and stable cash flow the need to help maintain an adequate workforce, buy essential supplies, create additional infrastructure, and keep caring for patients.

The CARES Act provides over $140 billion in appropriations directly aimed at mitigating the coronavirus:

  • $100 billion for a new program to provide grants to hospitals, public entities, not-for-profit entities, and Medicare and Medicaid enrolled suppliers and institutional providers to cover unreimbursed health care related expenses or lost revenues attributable to the public health emergency resulting from the coronavirus.
  • $16 billion to the Strategic National Stockpile to procure personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and other medical supplies for federal and state response efforts. Additionally, the bill adds supplies, like PPE to the Strategic National Stockpile and requires critical supply manufacturers to notify the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of any shortages or discontinuations.
  • $11 billion to support research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to prevent or treat the effects of coronavirus.
  • $4.3 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus.
  • $185 million through the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) to support rural critical access hospitals, rural tribal health and telehealth programs.
  • $200 million for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for priorities like assisting nursing homes with infection control and support states’ efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus in nursing homes

The CARES Act provides new resources for public health, education, and emergency preparedness infrastructure, including:

  • Extending the Community Health Center Fund through November 30, 2020;
  • Reauthorizing key rural grant programs to strengthen rural community health; and
  • Appropriating $30 billion for a flexible Education Stabilization Fund to help states, school districts, and institutions of higher education provide online learning for all students.

Health Savings Account and Flexible Spending Account Changes

The CARES Act eliminates red tape for employers and individuals by ensuring that Americans can use tax-favored health care accounts, like HSAs and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), to buy over-the-counter medicines tax-free without a prescription. In addition, high deductible health care plans with HSAs will now be able to provide coverage pre-deductible for telehealth services.

 

State and Local Governments & Distressed Industries

The CARES Act provides emergency relief to distressed businesses as well as state and local governments, including $425 billion for loans, loan guarantees, and investments in support of facilities established by the Federal Reserve for purpose of providing liquidity to businesses, states, or municipalities through purchasing obligations or other interests directly from issuers of such obligations or other interests.

Who is eligible and how are the funds accessed?

All industries and firms are eligible to benefit from the broad financing from the Treasury fund to the extent they don’t receive sufficient assistance from other programs. How to access this support will depend on the size and model of the business and the exact facility used.

Regional airports/airlines – what assistance are they eligible to receive?

Passenger airlines are eligible for $25 billion in loan authority and $25 billion in grants to maintain their operations, employee payroll, and contracts around the country. The bill also includes $4 billion in loan authority and $4 billion in grants for cargo air carriers.

The bill provides $10 billion in grants through the Airport Improvement Program to support projects and operations at airports around the country. It also provides $3 billion in grants for contractors employed by the airlines to ensure that airlines can maintain existing operations contracts. The bill also includes $56 million for the Essential Air Service to maintain existing air service to rural communities.

What does this bill do to put restrictions on the airlines accepting grants and loans?

The loans come with conditions including: restrictions on executive compensation; prohibition on stock buybacks and the prohibition on paying dividends for the duration of the loan plus 12 months; the airline or business must maintain its existing employment levels through September 30, 2020, to the extent practicable, and in no case reduce it by more than 10%.

How does it support airports and affiliated contractors?

The bill provides $10 billion in grants to airports to help them maintain employment, continue operations, clean and sanitize to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and service airport construction debt. The bill also provides $3 billion in payroll support grants to airline contractors, including baggage handlers, wheelchair pushers, and caterers. These grants can only be used for paying employees and contractors that receive grants must maintain current employment levels through September 2020.