EXPLAINER: How We Ensured the Coronavirus Relief Bill Answered President Trump’s Call to Put Families First

March 17, 2020 — Coronavirus Bulletin   

President Trump called on Congress to take decisive action to provide relief for families and local businesses. After the President’s national address, Speaker Pelosi put forward a bill. House Republicans and Secretary Mnuchin worked to improve it. The goal? Focus on those who need relief most, as quickly as possible. A subsequent vote on a “technical fix” strengthened the bill’s assistance to small businesses further.

Now, families really do come first with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

  • Free Tests for COVID-19: We answered the President’s call to provide free tests for COVID-19
  • Emergency Paid Leave for Workers: Many workers who become sick, or have to care for a loved one who falls ill, will have access to emergency paid leave
  • Assistance for Small Businesses: Small businesses will receive flexibility and support to care for their employees and remain open

What were the improvements that got the bill passed?

  • Timely Relief for Workers and Small Business: As originally proposed, the paid-leave program run by the Social Security Administration wouldn’t have been ready for six months, due to the length of time to hire and train employees.
  • No Permanent New Entitlements: A national health crisis is not a time to adopt a permanent new entitlement run by the SSA, who have closed their field offices to the public.
  • Keeping Seniors and Those with Severe Disabilities Top Priority for Social Security: With field offices closed, seniors and those with severe disabilities should not have to worry about being able to receive service on the phone.
  • Emergency Policies Made Temporary: The policies in this bill to help Americans during an emergency, not for the long-term, so they should end when the emergency ends.

How did the “technical fix” ensure that the tax credit will meet the liability of small business?

  • For every dollar that employers pay for coronavirus-related sick leave costs—both under Emergency Family Medical Leave and Emergency Paid Sick Leave—the bill provides a dollar in refundable tax credits.

The technical fix also empowers the Secretary of Treasury to ensure cash flow for small business:

  • The Secretary of Treasury now has authority to protect small businesses from cash flow problems by issuing guidance to provide those in need with advanced refunds of the tax credit.

And the Secretary of Labor is able to provide flexibility small businesses with fewer than 50 employees:

  • The Secretary of Labor now has authority make exceptions for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees to prevent emergency paid leave from causing hardship.

It also ensures that employees in the railroad industry–who don’t pay FICA taxes and thus wouldn’t be eligible for benefits in the original text–won’t be left behind under H.R. 6201.

The House measure is an important step in helping the economy continue running. The Senate must work quickly to pass this bill so that families can have greater financial and health security as we work to defeat the novel coronavirus and bring our economy back online.