COVID-19 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
To help you understand the actions Congress has taken and how it impacts you, please see the COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions below. The information in this document will continue to be updated as additional implementation guidance becomes available and is subject to change. Please visit lamb.house.gov for updates.
Q. What legislation has Congress passed to address COVID-19?
Congress has passed four packages of legislation in response to the coronavirus pandemic. All four packages passed with bipartisan support:
H.R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, provided $8.3 billion in entirely new funding to combat the coronavirus epidemic and included critical transparency and accountability provisions to ensure that all funds would be used as intended to keep Americans safe.
H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, ensured access to COVID-19 testing, provided two weeks of paid sick leave for workers and twelve weeks of paid family leave for those impacted by the virus, authorized tax credits for impacted employers, and expanded access to unemployment insurance for those who are laid off. It also expanded access to food assistance programs and increased federal Medicaid funding.
H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a bipartisan $2 trillion spending package, included provisions to support families and workers, small businesses, state and local organizations and health care workers and hospitals. The bill also provided direct cash payments to Americans and increased unemployment compensation for those who lost their jobs because of COVID-19.
H.R. 266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, a $484 billion bipartisan package included provisions to help small businesses, hospitals and health care workers, as well as increase testing across the country. This included an additional $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program with $60 billion set aside for smaller lenders; $50 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and $10 billion for more EIDL grants; $75 billion for hospitals and for personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers; and $25 billion for increasing testing and research, including requiring a national plan for testing.
Direct Cash Payments
Q. Who is eligible to receive a direct cash payment, called Economic Impact Payments, from the federal government?
All U.S. residents who are not a dependent of another taxpayer, have a work eligible social security number and do not exceed approved income caps.
Q. How much money will I receive?
This depends on the size of your family. The payment is $1,200 for each adult ($2,400 for joint filers) and $500 per child under the age of 17. However, high earners will receive less: this payment will be reduced by $5 for every $100 of adjusted gross income joint filers made over $150,000; $112,5000 for a head of household filer; and $75,000 for everyone else, including single filers.
Q. When, and how, will I get my direct cash payment?
These payments have already started being issued via direct deposit for millions of Americans. Treasury, in coordination with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other federal agencies are working to obtain that information for millions more Americans. Those who do not have direct deposit information available will receive checks over time – we are working to ensure this happens as quickly as possible.
The IRS will determine payment delivery systems for everyone entitled to rebates. Rebates will be delivered automatically, by the IRS, to most Americans who file individual federal income tax returns. Payment processing will be based on payment or address information already on file with the IRS. Rebates sent via check will take longer.
The Social Security Administration will share information for Social Security (Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance) beneficiaries with the IRS to help ensure these beneficiaries receive their automatic advance payment. According to guidance issued by the IRS, people who typically do not file a tax return will need to file a simple tax return to receive an economic impact payment. Low-income taxpayers, senior citizens and some veterans who are otherwise not required to file a tax return will not owe tax.
The IRS will also conduct a public awareness campaign to reach other non-filers and provide them with information on how they can access rebates. If you would like to check on the status of your rebate or enter your information to receive your payment via direct deposit, please use this website from the IRS. We will continue updating our website to reflect new information.
Q. Will I get a rebate if I didn’t file taxes in 2018 or 2019?
If you do not owe the federal government taxes for either 2018 or 2019 and usually don’t file as a result – you should file this year to ensure you can receive your payment. According to guidance issued by the IRS, people who typically do not file a tax return will need to file a simple tax return to receive an economic impact payment. Low-income taxpayers, senior citizens and some veterans who are otherwise not required to file a tax return will not owe tax. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security recipients do NOT need to file a tax return in order to receive their direct cash payment.
The IRS recently released this resource for those who may have questions as to whether they need to file taxes to receive their return. And if you need to do so, you can enter your information to help ensure you receive your payment.
Q. Will I be taxed on the direct cash payment?
No, the cash payments are not subject to Federal income tax.
Q. Is the direct cash payment an advance on my 2020 tax refund?
No. If you normally get a refund when you file your taxes, this payment doesn’t change that. You should still expect to get your normal refund when you file your taxes, assuming nothing else changes, even if you received direct cash payment.
Q: What if I need to update my information? How can I check on the status of my payment?
For updates on these payments, including checking on the status of your payment, or updating your information to make sure you receive it as quickly as possible, you can check this website.
Q. Are retired senior citizens living on a fixed Social Security income eligible for the direct cash payments?
Yes. Any American who meets the requirements laid out above - whether their income comes from their job or social security payments - is eligible. The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service announced that Social Security beneficiaries who are not typically required to file tax returns will NOT need to file an abbreviated tax return to receive an Economic Impact Payment. Instead, payments will be automatically deposited into their bank accounts.
Q. I am a veteran who does not file a tax return, will I receive the direct cash payment?
The Internal Revenue Service, working in partnership with the Treasury Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs, announced that recipients of VA benefits will automatically receive direct cash payments. Veterans and their beneficiaries who receive Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefit payments from VA will receive a $1,200 Economic Impact Payment with no further action needed on their part. As of April 18, the timing on the payments is still being determined. The IRS has outlined more information on the direct cash payments here.
If you also have dependents under the age of 17 please see question below.
Q. Will recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) receive a direct cash payment?
Recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will automatically receive a direct cash payment of $1,200 with no further action needed on their part.
Payments for this group will go out no later than early May.
Recipients will generally receive the automatic payments by direct deposit, Direct Express debit card, or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their SSI benefits.
If you also have dependents under the age of 17 please see the next question below.
Q: If I receive benefits through Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability insurance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or veterans benefits and have dependents, how do I get the $500 per qualifying child?
For benefit recipients with dependents, extra steps may be needed to claim the extra $500 for qualifying children. For taxpayers who filed tax returns in 2018 or 2019, the child payments will be automatic. However, many benefit recipients aren’t required to file tax returns. Social Security retirement, survivors and disability insurance beneficiaries with dependent children and who did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes should go to this IRS webpage and visit the “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here” section to provide their information by Wednesday, April 22 in order to receive additional payments for their eligible children quickly. SSI and veterans benefit recipients need to take this action by May 5, 2020.
The tool will request basic information to confirm eligibility, calculate and send the Economic Impact Payments: Full names and Social Security numbers, including for spouse and dependents, mailing address, bank account type, account and routing numbers (leave blank if you receive your benefits through Direct Express). By entering this information, they can receive the $500 per dependent child payment automatically in addition to their $1,200 individual payment. Otherwise, their payment at this time will be $1,200. By law, the additional $500 per eligible child amount would be paid in association with a return filing for tax year 2020.
More information can be found on the Treasury website and the Social Security Administration website.
Q. What should I do if I, or someone in my family, mistakenly received funds for a spouse or individual who is deceased?
According to new guidance from the IRS, A payment made to someone who died before receiving the payment should be returned. Return the entire payment for that individual unless the payment was made to joint filers – in that case, you only need to return the portion of the payment made to account for the decedent. If you need to return the Economic Impact Payment, please see this site for further instructions.
Q: I got a text, email, call asking for more information to get my direct cash payment. What do I do?
Unfortunately, there are reports of fraudulent scams centered around direct cash payments. As long as you filed taxes for 2018 and/or 2019, the federal government most likely has the information needed to provide your check. The government is not reaching out to you directly soliciting additional information, and if someone is asking for your personal information such as your Social Security number or bank account information it is a scammer. You should not engage potential scammers online or on the phone and can learn more about reporting suspected scams on this Report Phishing and Online Scams page from the IRS.
If you think you are a victim of a scam involving COVID-19 you can report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by calling: 1-866-720-5721 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also report it to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office at email@example.com. Anyone who receives unsolicited email or text messages, or contacted over social media, in attempts to appear like the IRS or as an organization closely linked to the IRS, should also forward these examples to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Workers and Unemployment Compensation
Q. Who qualifies for unemployment compensation?
Unemployment compensation is available to many Pennsylvanians who have lost their job for reasons that aren’t their fault and meet the state’s standards for time working, wages earned or both. Those who have had their hours cut due to the coronavirus may also quality for partial employment compensation.
Q. How much unemployment compensation can I get?
The amount you will receive is linked to what you earned while working. This formula is set by the state, and additional information is available here. The total is usually close to half of what you previously earned. However, through July 31, 2020, the federal government will provide an additional Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation of $600 a week, per person. This additional $600 is over and above whatever else you collect in unemployment insurance.
Q. Who qualifies for the additional $600?
Individuals can qualify for this additional payment if they are collecting regular unemployment compensation, including Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) and Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers (UCX), or the following unemployment compensation programs: Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Extended Benefits, ShortTime Compensation (STC), Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA), Disaster Unemployment Assistance), and payments under the Self-Employment Assistance Program.
Q. When will I start receiving this additional payment?
According to the State’s site, beginning with the week ending April 4, 2020, if you file for and are eligible to receive these benefits, you will receive an additional $600.
Q. How long will I receive unemployment compensation?
The duration of your benefits depends on how long you have worked. The maximum, from PA is currently 26 weeks. However, Congress recently added 13 additional weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits, bringing the total to 39 weeks.
Q. Are individuals who previously collected state or federal unemployment compensation but exhausted those benefits eligible to receive additional benefits?
The CARES Act creates a new temporary federal program called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). PEUC provides up to 13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits to individuals who previously collected state or federal unemployment compensation but exhausted those benefits. Click here for more guidance from the state on eligibility.
Q. Are contractors and gig economy workers eligible for Unemployment Compensation?
H.R. 748 established a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program through December 2020, which covers those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits such as the self-employed, independent contractors and gig economy workers. Individuals would apply through their state unemployment compensation office, and states are fully reimbursed for the cost of benefits under the legislation. Amounts paid to individuals will be based on their recent earnings. These individuals are eligible for the additional Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation $600 weekly increase as well. The state administers this program – to find out if you can file for PUA, please see this helpful site.
Q. Is there funding to help people get food who need it?
Yes, the CARES Act provides $15.8 billion for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), $450 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to assist food banks across the country and $8.8 billion for Child Nutrition Programs in order to ensure that children receive meals when school is not in session.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides $500 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), $400 million for TEFAP and $250 million for the Senior Nutrition program which provides home-delivered and pre-package meals to low-income seniors.
Paid Sick Leave
Q. Who is eligible for paid sick leave?
Private sector employers with up to 500 employees and government employers are required to provide two weeks of paid sick leave (some restrictions may apply). This benefit must replace all of the wages for an employee if he or she is sick or seeking a diagnosis, up to $511 a day. If that employee is caring for another individual who is sick, the benefit must replace at least two-thirds of the employee’s wages up to a maximum benefit of $200 per day.
Those employers are eligible for a tax credit to offset this cost 100%. Some employees, if deemed essential, may not be eligible for claiming leave.
For employers, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has said rather than making businesses wait for a tax credit long in the future, he will allow businesses to reclaim the cash they paid to the IRS this quarter and to keep the cash they would have paid in payroll taxes in the months ahead. Soon the IRS will be posting information about these credits on its website, including information on how to obtain advance payment of these credits.
Q. Is there expanded support for Family and Medical Leave?
Private sector employers with up to 500 employees and most government employers must offer up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for their employees unable to work or telework to take care of their children off from school, with some exceptions. The first 10 days of this is unpaid, though workers can choose to use accrued vacation days, personal leave or other available paid leave for this time off.
Following that 10-day period, workers receive at least two-thirds of their normal pay rate, up to $200/day or $10,000 total.
Covered employers are eligible for a tax credit to offset this cost 100% and some companies under 50 employees may file for an exemption.
For employers, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has said rather than making businesses wait for a tax credit long in the future, he will allow businesses to reclaim the cash they paid to the IRS this quarter and to keep the cash they would have paid in payroll taxes in the months ahead. The IRS will be posting information soon on these credits on its website, including information on how to obtain advance payment of these credits.
Q. What if I am self-employed?
Self-employed Pennsylvanians and those working in the gig economy will receive the credit, even though they do not technically receive leave benefits through paid sick and family leave mandates. Congress recently passed legislation that provides a refundable income tax credit in an amount of what self-employed workers would have otherwise received if they had been an employee receiving paid leave benefits. For a covered day that a self-employed Pennsylvanian could not work, they can claim a “rough justice” credit in the amount of their average daily self-employment income for the year and can reduce their estimated quarterly tax payments in anticipation of this credit.
Q. What if I work at a non-profit?
Non-profit employers (subject to the same limitations) are covered by these leave policies and will still benefit from the credit, despite being tax exempt. This is a credit against payroll taxes, which both nonprofit and for-profit employers pay.
For more information on leave, see this recently released FAQ from the Department of Labor on implementation guidance on paid leave and family and medical leave.
Small Business Administration (SBA) and Non-Profit Support
Q. Will local banks offer SBA loans?
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering several different types of loans, some through approved lending partners and some directly through SBA:
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): These loans will only be delivered through SBA’s approved lending partners. All current SBA 7(a) lenders are eligible lenders for PPP. SBA has a free referral service tool called Lender Match to help find a lender near you. If you wish to begin preparing your application, you can download a Borrower Application Form to see what information will be requested from you. The Department of Treasury will also be in charge of authorizing new lenders, including non-bank lenders, to help meet the needs of small business owners. If your bank is not an approved lending partner, you can apply to another bank in town that is. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will provide small businesses with zero-fee loans of up to $10 million. Principal and interest will be deferred for up to a year and all borrower fees will be waived.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL): Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) are a direct loan through SBA’s office of disaster assistance. This means that you will apply directly through SBA. An application can be started here. The most recent stimulus included an additional $10 billion in funding to provide an advance of up to $10,000 to small businesses and nonprofits that apply for an SBA economic injury disaster loan (EIDL), within three days of applying for the loan. SBA was directed by the CARES Act to disburse this advance within three days of a business’s application submission. Due to the high volume of applications, SBA has reported a longer wait period, but they are working hard to meet the three-day requirement. The advance will show up in the borrower’s bank account, and will be $1,000 per employee, up to a maximum of $10,000. The loans may be used to pay for expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred, including payroll and other operating expenses. The $10,000 EIDL grant does not need to be repaid, even if the grantee is subsequently denied an EIDL, and may be used to provide paid sick leave to employees, maintain payroll, meet increased production costs due to supply chain disruptions, or pay business obligations, including debts, rent and mortgage payments.
- SBA 7(a), 504, or microloans: Borrowers will submit applications for these loans to private lenders. SBA offers Lender Match, a free online referral tool that connects small businesses with participating SBA-approved lenders. Access Lender Match here. The CARES Act included $17 billion in funding for a provision to provide immediate relief to small businesses with standard SBA 7(a), 504, or microloans. Under this provision, SBA will cover all loan payments for existing SBA borrowers, including principal, interest and fees, for six months. This relief will also be available to new borrowers who take out an SBA loan by September 27, 2020 - six months after President Trump signed the bill into law. While SBA borrowers are receiving the six months of debt relief, they may apply for a PPP loan that provides capital to keep their employees on the job. The six months of SBA payment relief may not be applied to payments on PPP loans.
- Express Bridge Loan (EBL) Pilot Program: This program allows small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 with less paperwork. EBL loans can only be made by SBA Express Lenders with a valid SBA Form 2424. They can be term loans or used to bridge the gap while applying for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. A guide to the program can be found here. Find an Express Bridge Loan Lender by connecting with your local SBA District Office.
Q. How will I know if my loan is being processed?
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): PPP loans are approved by the lender, not by SBA. Once approved, the lender will input your loan application into SBA’s online loan portal for verification. Once verified, the SBA portal will assign the application a loan number, and the lender will receive confirmation that the application was successfully input. Loan applications are supposed to be processed on a first come, first serve basis. If you are unhappy with your lender, there are many new options for submitting PPP applications—including non-traditional online lenders. Check here for a list of approved PPP lenders.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs): Applicants should apply for an EIDL using SBA’s online portal. After submitting your application, the page with the loan number will be your confirmation that the application was successfully submitted—there will be no other communication between SBA Disaster Assistance and the borrower until the loan offer is made via email. This is because there is a very large number of applications and too few employees to maintain contact throughout the process. If you have a question regarding your EIDL application, you can contact SBA’s customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY/TDD: 1-800-877-8339) or email email@example.com.
Q. How much time do I have to use my Paycheck Protection Program loan?
Once a borrower receives their PPP disbursement, they will have eight weeks to use the funds. This eight-week period begins the day they receive the disbursement. There is no waiver or extension for the eight-week period. 75% of the loan amount must be used for payroll and 25% can be used for rent, mortgage interest, and utilities. The PPP is not a working capital loan, it is a loan to keep employees on payroll and off of unemployment compensation. Borrowers needing assistance can review the documents for borrowers on the US Dept of Treasury’s website. You can also reach out to SBA’s Pittsburgh District Office with questions.
Q. Can I apply for more than one SBA loan?
Yes, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) can be used in coordination with other COVID-financing assistance established in the bill or any other existing SBA loan program. Borrowers who already have existing, or apply for new SBA 7(a), 504, or microloans, will also be able to apply for a PPP loan. A business that receives an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) between January 31, 2020 and June 30, 2020 as a result of a COVID-19 disaster declaration, is eligible to apply for a PPP loan, or the business may refinance their EIDL into a PPP loan. In either case, the emergency EIDL grant award of up to $10,000 would be subtracted from the amount forgiven in the payroll protection plan.
Q. How much can I receive in SBA loans?
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides zero-fee loans of up to $10 million. Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) provide loans of up to $2 million. SBA 7(a) loans are up to $5 million, 504 loans are generally capped at $5.5 million and microloans at up to $50,000.
Q. If my business already laid off employees, can I rehire them with an SBA loan?
Yes, if your business was forced to lay off employees due to impacts from the coronavirus, you can use funds from an SBA-provided loan to rehire employees.
Q. What is the interest rate on SBA loans?
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) interest rates: This loan has an interest rate of 1% and a maturity of two years.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) interest rates: EIDLs carry interest rates up to 3.75% for companies and up to 2.75% for nonprofits, as well as principal and interest deferment for up to 4 years.
- Existing and new SBA 7(a), 504, or microloans interest rates: COVID-19 legislation requires the SBA to pay the principal, interest and any associated fees that are owed on the covered loans for a six-month period starting on the next payment due. Loans that are already on deferment will receive six months of payment by the SBA beginning with the first payment after the deferral period. Loans made up until six months after enactment will also receive a full 6 months of loan payments by the SBA.
- Express Bridge Loans (EBL): Because an EBL loan is limited to $25,000, a Lender may charge up to 6.5% over the Prime rate, regardless of the maturity of the loan.
Q. Do SBA Loans have to be paid back?
The Paycheck Protection Program will forgive up to eight weeks' worth of payroll obligations (including wages and benefits), plus rent or mortgage payments and utilities, and the amount forgiven would not be treated as taxable income to the small business owner. At least 75% of the forgiven amount must be used for payroll. Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease. Additional guidance can be found here.
Small businesses and nonprofits that are eligible for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and have been in operation since January 31, 2020, can receive up to a $10,000 grant from SBA after applying for an EIDL loan. These grants will act as an emergency advance for small businesses and private non-profits harmed by COVID-19. To access the advance, you must first apply for an EIDL and then request the advance. The advance does not need to be repaid under any circumstance—even if the grantee is subsequently denied an EIDL. Grants may be used to provide paid sick leave to employees, maintain payroll, meet increased production costs due to supply chain disruptions or pay business obligations, including debts, rent and mortgage payments.
Q. What collateral is required for an SBA loan?
All collateral requirements have been waived for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLS). In addition, all personal guarantee requirements have been waived for PPP loans. Because the maximum amount of an EBL loan is $25,000, Lenders are not required to take collateral for Express Bridge Loans.
Q. Is there any SBA relief for my church or community non-profit?
Private, 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations with not more than 500 employees are eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), as well as Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs). No otherwise eligible organization will be disqualified from receiving a loan because of the religious nature, religious identity, or religious speech of the organization. You can find out more information at SBA’s Faith-Based Organizations FAQ here.
Q. What provisions have been made to ensure that smaller community lenders (and their customers) have equal access to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)?
The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act included a $60 billion set aside for community lenders. This was divided into $30 billion for banks and credit unions, including minority depository institutions (MDIs), with more than $10 billion in assets but less than $50 billion in assets that are PPP lenders, and $30 billion for banks and credit unions with less than $10 billion in assets, as well as all Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), MDIs, certified development companies (CDCs), and microlenders that are PPP lenders. The Treasury Department also agreed to issue updated guidance to encourage greater CDFI participation, including by eliminating a $50 million loan volume threshold that prevented some CDFIs from participating.
Q. Am I eligible for any loan programs if I have more than 500 employees?
On April 9, the Federal Reserve unveiled the Main Street Lending Program (MSLP), which will expand support to small and mid-sized businesses that were in good financial standing before the crisis by offering 4-year loans to companies employing up to 10,000 workers or with revenues of less than $2.5 billion. There will be two lending options: new loans of $1 million to $25 million, or an expansion of a business’s existing loan with a bank to up to $150 million. The loans to businesses would defer principal and interest repayment for one year, and the businesses would have to make a "reasonable effort" to retain employees. Businesses that have taken out Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans may also take out Main Street loans. Find out more here.
Q. Does this legislation help college students?
Yes, this legislation includes several provisions designed to lessen the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on college students. If a student withdraws from college for reasons related to COVID-19, they will not be required to return their Pell grants or repay federal student loans from the semester. This semester will not count against lifetime limits on Pell grant or unsubsidized student loan semester eligibility either. Universities are authorized, under the bill, to provide emergency aid to students in need through the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants program for unexpected expenses and unmet needs resulting from COVID-19. If they have a work study job through the Federal Work Study Program, students are still eligible to receive payment – even if they cannot report in person. The CARES Act also established the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. This fund provides formula allocations to universities to assist with COVID-19 related costs, such as the transition to online learning, to allow students to continue their education. At least half of these allocations must be provided as direct aid to students in need. If you are a college student with unmet COVID-19 financial needs, please reach out to your college’s financial aid office directly. For additional information on federal assistance for students, parents, and student loan borrowers visit the Department of Education’s website for additional resources.
Q. Is there support for students on the G.I. Bill?
Yes, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been authorized to provide full G.I. Bill benefits to veterans whose courses have been moved online as a result of COVID-19. These veterans will not have their monthly payments reduced, including their housing stipends. For additional information please visit the VA’s website here.
Q. Do I still have to pay my student loans?
Monthly federal student loan payments will be paused for six months through September 30, 2020 under this legislation. During this period borrowers will not face negative credit reporting or penalties for non-payment. Interest on federal student loans will be paused as well. The Department of Education will send reminders to borrowers in August before payments begin again. Please note that this does not apply to private student loans, as well as certain Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program and Perkins loans not held by the federal government. Borrowers with private and non-federally held FFEL and Perkins loans should contact their servicer directly if they need assistance because of COVID-19.
If an individual has already defaulted on their student loans, involuntary collections such as wage or tax refund garnishments are also suspended for six months.
Employers, under the bill, receive temporary tax incentives through the end of 2020 to make payments towards their employees’ student loan debt as well.
If a borrower had qualifying loans, was on a qualifying repayment plan prior to COVID-19 loan payment suspensions, and continues to work full-time for a qualifying public service employer, the six months during the suspension of payments will count towards the ten-year public service requirement for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
Q. Is there support for online learning?
The legislation establishes an Education Stabilization Fund to help ensure learning can continue despite challenges posed by COVID-19. The legislation provides resources for our K-12 schools, higher education system and workforce development system to support online learning options. You can access online learning resources provided by the U.S. Department of Education here. You can access online workforce development resources provided by the U.S. Department of Labor here.
Q. What about students with disabilities?
The legislation does not waive requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); however, it directs the Secretary of Education to provide a list of waivers to Congress that states may need to implement IDEA. In addition, the Department of Education has posted an FAQ page on IDEA as it pertains to COVID-19 here.
Personal Health Care
Q. Should I wear a mask in public?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. For more information on how to make and wear cloth masks, click here.
Q. Where can I get tested for COVID-19?
If you believe you should be tested, call your medical provider to assess your symptoms. If you do not have a provider call your local health department or 1-877-PA-HEALTH. In general, health care officials limit testing to those with symptoms, travel history to a hotspot or other clear risk factors. You can learn more here.
Q How much will it cost to get tested for COVID-19?
Nothing. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act ensures that all individuals who need a test, including those with private insurance, Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, VA, FEHBP, and TRICARE, as well as the uninsured, will have access at no cost.
Q What is the government doing to provide greater access to testing for COVID-19?
This past week (ending April 25) we tested around 150,000 people per day. A bipartisan panel of experts believes we should try to test 5 million per day by June, and 20 million per day later in the year. There is a lot of work to do.
The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act provides $25 billion for necessary expenses related to COVID-19 testing. This includes expenses related to research, development, validation, manufacturing, purchasing, administering, or expanding capacity for COVID-19 tests to effectively monitor and suppress coronavirus.
Of that $25 billion, $11 billion will be provided to state and local governments for necessary expenses to develop, purchase, administer, process, and analyze COVID-19 tests, including support for workforce, epidemiology, use by employers, to scale up testing, conduct surveillance, contact tracing, and other related testing activities.
The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act also requires a COVID-19 strategic testing plan that details how the Administration will increase domestic testing capacity, address disparities, and provide assistance and resources to states, localities, territories, and tribes.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act ensures that all individuals who need a test, including those with private insurance, Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, VA, FEHBP, and TRICARE, as well as the uninsured, will have access at no cost.
Q. Is there a cure or vaccine for coronavirus?
There is currently neither a vaccine to prevent the spread of coronavirus nor an approved anti-viral drug for coronavirus, although several are being tested. If you suspect you have been infected or exposed, call your medical provider and avoid contact with others.
Q. Is there funding for a cure or vaccine for coronavirus?
Yes, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act provides more than $3 billion to National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to prevent or treat the effects of coronavirus. This bill also requires that vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics developed using taxpayer funds must be affordable on the commercial market.
Q. Are there enough ventilators and hospital beds to meet the need?
There is concern among hospitals, public health experts and government officials that hospital intensive care units could be inundated if there is a surge in seriously ill patients. The availability of both ventilators and hospital beds fluctuate on a day-to-day basis. There are a total of 3,400 licensed ICU beds and more than 3,600 ventilators in PA with plans in place to acquire more if needed. It is important to make sure our hospital systems do not become overwhelmed – this is why it is essential for PA residents to follow the Governor's mitigation efforts and stay home when possible.
Health Care Workers, Hospitals and First Responders
Q. How much money has been allocated for hospitals and Community Health Centers?
The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act provides $75 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to reimburse health care providers for expenses or lost revenue that are attributable to the coronavirus. The Act also provides $600 million to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for grants for Community Health Centers and federally qualified health centers.
The CARES Act provides $100 billion for hospitals, $1.32 billion in supplemental funding for community health centers and increases Medicare payments by 20% for treating patients with COVID-19.
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act provides nearly $1 billion for procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to support health care preparedness and Community Health Centers and to improve medical surge capacity. This bill also provides $2.2 billion through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support federal, state and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus.
Q. Do hospitals and first responders have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?
Unfortunately, there are reports in the news every day about the lack of PPE for hospitals and first responders. PA officials are working around the clock to ensure those who need N95 masks have access to them, while also working through traditional and non-traditional means to acquire more. The CARES Act provides $1 billion to bolster domestic supply chains, enabling industry to quickly ramp up production of PPE, ventilators and other urgently needed medical supplies, and billions dollars more for federal, state and local health agencies to purchase such equipment.
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act provides approximately $500 million for procurement of pharmaceuticals, masks, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies, which can be distributed to state and local health agencies in areas with a shortage of medical supplies.
Q. Is there funding to support child care for health care workers and first responders?
Yes, the CARES Act provides $3.5 billion in additional funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant to provide child care assistance to health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers and other workers deemed essential during the response to the coronavirus.
Q. Is there funding to support public transit organizations like the Port Authority?
Yes, the CARES Act includes $25 billion in formula grant funding to support our nation’s public transit agencies. Pennsylvania’s public transit systems received $1.13 billion under the bill. This funding can be used for operating expenses related to COVID-19, including making up for lost revenue, purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers, and preventative sanitation and related cleaning supplies to keep transit systems safer for passengers. Funding will be made available to transit agencies through existing Urbanized and Rural Area Formula grants at the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
Q. Is there funding to help Pittsburgh International Airport?
Yes, the legislation also includes $10 billion in grant aid through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) for airports. Pittsburgh International Airport received $36 million in aid from the CARES Act. This funding can be used for a range of COVID-19 related activities, including emergency response, cleaning and sanitation, purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE), maintaining operations with decreased revenue and retaining and paying airport workers.
Q. How much funding will go to support state and local governments?
The bill provides $339.8 billion total to support the COVID-19 response efforts of state and local governments. This includes a $150 billion State and Local Coronavirus Expenditures Fund, appropriated based on population with a small-state minimum of $1.25 billion. Funds can be used for necessary expenditures as a result of COVID-19 incurred between March and December 2020, and that were not included in the state’s most recently approved budget as an already planned for expense. Under the State and Local Coronavirus Expenditures Fund Pennsylvania is projected to receive $4.96 billion.
Several existing formula funds and grant programs relied upon by states and local governments to adequately respond to the multitude of COVID-19 impacts were increased in the bill. Examples include funds for the Strategic National Stockpile that provides pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical supplies that are distributed to state and local health agencies and hospitals; Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state and local preparedness grants; Byrne JAG grants to support COVID-19 related state and local law enforcement; Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Emergency Solution Grants to states for housing needs; additional education support funding to states for local education needs; state election security grants to help states address COVID-19 voting-related challenges in the 2020 election cycle; and state and local Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to support essential community services for Americans during this challenging time.
Q. Is this a bailout for big corporations?
No. We know that large corporations and small businesses face challenging economic times and conditions due to the coronavirus pandemic. We are seeing American businesses struggle to make rent, payroll, and keep the lights on.
If companies face these short-term financing issues, the Secretary of Treasury can, under H.R. 748, provide short-term loans or loan guarantees to companies. But these loans have a number of requirements and stipulations. This includes a prohibition on the recipient conducting any stock buybacks during the life of the loan, plus an additional year after the loan is repaid. Another condition is that recipients of these loans cannot distribute any dividends for the life of the loan, plus an additional year after the loan is repaid.
These companies receiving the loans must maintain certain employment levels and accept limitations on corporate executive pay increases as well.
To ensure the recipients of these emergency loans, and the government is prudently issuing this assistance, H.R. 748 also creates the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery, and a Congressional Oversight Commission to ensure additional public accountability over the Administration and the private sector in properly adhering to these important standards.
Q. Can corporations use federal funds to do stock buybacks?
No, companies that receive loans resulting from the programs in H.R. 748 are prohibited from all stock buybacks during the time they are using the loan and for a period of one-year after the loan is paid back.
Q. Is there funding to support veterans’ services?
Yes, the CARES Act provides nearly $20 billion in funding for VA to provide health care to veterans, including the purchase of essential medical supplies like ventilators and personal protection equipment. This funding also ensures the VA health care providers putting their lives on the line to treat veterans are paid for the overtime hours they work.
This relief package also makes veteran owned small business owners eligible for loans to pay their employees and keep their businesses afloat and prevents veterans from losing their homes to foreclosure. Additionally, it ensures veterans who receive stimulus checks remain eligible for pension and means-based VA benefits.