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COVID-19 spread prompts financial relief from federal government

With the country facing a healthcare crisis, members of Congress have been working hard on legislation to help combat COVID-19 and kickstart the economy. We applaud the entire Bexar County Delegation and Texas’ U.S. Senators for their hard work during these difficult times. As of today, we have had two major pieces of legislation related to the coronavirus, signed into law by the President Trump. The third coronavirus relief proposal is currently in the works in the Senate.

On March 6, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, the first major piece of legislation related to COVID-19. This bill provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. Texas received $35 million in funding, a majority of which is to reimburse municipalities for coronavirus-related expenses.

Last week Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, Speaker Pelosi, and leaders from the White House reached a deal for a second relief package. H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, was signed into law by President Trump on Wednesday. The bill provides billions in funding for Texas, including:

  • $1 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing,
  • $1 billion for unemployment insurance benefits,
  • $60 million for veterans’ related medical services,
  • $500 million for low-income women and children,
  • $400 million for foodbanks, and
  • $240 million for home delivery meals for the elderly.

In addition to funding, the bill also provides paid leave for those affected and expands SNAP benefits to Texas families.

With relief package number two signed into law, the Senate has worked at warp speed to put together a third package. Late last night Senate Republicans unveiled phase three, a $1 trillion economic stimulus package. The bill includes $200 billion in loans to the airline industry and distressed industry sectors and $300 billion in forgivable bridge loans for small businesses. In addition, the bill includes direct cash payment. Direct cash payments for single individuals would be up to $1,200 and for families up to $2,400, based on income. Both are the max amounts either a single individual or family could receive according to the current legislation. Another $500 would be added for every dependent. Details on income levels and specific amounts are currently being worked out in the Senate.

Today, President Trump announced student loan borrowers will be able to suspend their federal student loan payments without penalty and without accruing interest for at least 60 days, starting retroactively on March 13. But, the President said he could decide to keep the policy in effect for longer. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders have proposed cancelling student loan payments all together during the coronavirus. If Democrats are successful, language would be included in the GOP economic stimulus package. It is important to note earlier this week, Senate Democrats proposed a $750 billion package to combat the coronavirus. It seems that the GOP’s $1 trillion economic stimulus package will be the one to move forward.

Count on your Chamber to continue to provide you with legislative updates related to COVID19. If you have any legislative questions, you can contact Stephanie Reyes, Vice President of Public Policy at sreyes@sachamber.org or by phone at 210-229-2162.

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