Hurd on the Hill: Vital relief for Americans to weather the storm

By U.S. Representative Will Hurd – TX23

The American people can and will survive this pandemic. This crisis has affected every single person in our American family, which is why on March 27, 2020 my House colleagues and I passed the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This bill that was signed into law by the President is already helping American families, health care workers, small businesses and the entire economy.

The CARES Act builds upon two other aid packages Congress passed to combat the ongoing public health crisis and represents the largest economic security package in U.S. history. This legislation was designed in principle to do four things –support small businesses struggling to keep people on payroll, help people recently unemployed, give individuals direct support to pay their bills and ensure healthcare workers and emergency management professionals on the frontlines have the tools to keep us safe.

Texas small businesses make up 99 percent of private businesses in Texas and employ 4.7 million workers. The CARES Act provides $349 billion to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for loans that are available to businesses with 500 or fewer employees. One of the loan types is through the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. These loans can help small businesses, agricultural corporations and private or non-profit organizations by providing low interest loans directly through the SBA—that will not exceed 4 percent—to help businesses recover from damages endured due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before passage of the CARES Act, the EIDL program was the primary way for small businesses to seek financial assistance from the SBA during declared emergencies. This bill establishes the Paycheck Protection Program to let small businesses, nonprofits and sole proprietors seek loans for as much as $10 million, or 250% of their average monthly payroll costs. Borrowers apply through designated commercial lenders, and the loan is 100 percent guaranteed by the SBA. These funds can be used to pay rent or similar expenses but if it is used to retain workers and maintain payroll then these loans could be forgiven—essentially turning this loan program into a grant program.

Like small businesses, individuals are also feeling the economic impact of this pandemic. The bill provides direct economic impact payments of $1,200 for individual taxpayers, $2,400 for couples and $500 per child under the age of 17 to families. These payments are gradually reduced by $5 for every $100 an individual made over $75,000. Non-tax filers are also eligible for these payments. To ensure they receive this check, they should file a tax return for the 2019 tax year. Those receiving Social Security benefits will automatically receive these checks. For those receiving unemployment benefits, the bill provides an additional $600 per week on top of the benefits they are already receiving from their state.

The package also provides $342 billion in emergency funding to those on the frontlines dealing with this pandemic. This includes $100 billion for hospitals and health care providers, $27 billion for research into better testing and treatment, as well as $16 billion for procurement of PPE for the Strategic National Stockpile. For the Department of Health and Human Services, which has been a leader in many of the efforts to combat COVID-19, additional funding totaled about $140.4 billion to increase Medicare coverage for treatment of patients suffering from COVID-19 and provide for further expansion of telehealth services.

The next few weeks will be some of the most trying times in our nation’s history. The federal government will continue to work diligently to address this public health emergency, but this is a developing and dynamic situation that requires all Americans to do their part. We are weathering a storm, but we will get through it with all elements of society working together.