U.S. SENATE PASSES $2 TRILLION AID PACKAGE
On March 25, 2020, the U.S. Senate demonstrated bipartisan backing for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which will provide $2 trillion in various programs to address the pandemic. Here’s how the stimulus will impact the agriculture community:
- Under the bill, USDA would have $48.9 billion to respond to the coronavirus, along with added funding for the Food and Drug Administration as well.
- Among the aid to specific industries includes a $14 billion boost in funding authority for USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp. that would allow USDA to provide more direct aid to producers. USDA’s CCC program has been depleted this year because of the Market Facilitation Program, but the new funding would allow USDA to provide more aid.
- The legislation also includes a $9.5 billion assistance program that would more directly for livestock operations, including dairy farmers, as well as fruit-and-vegetable (specialty) crop producers. Farmers who sell directly to farmers markets, schools and restaurants would also be eligible for aid.
- Beyond the direct aid to farmers, the bill also includes an additional $15.5 billion for USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the single-largest food-aid program in the country. Child nutrition programs would receive another $8.8 billion, and there are special provisions to distribute food aid on Native American reservations as well.
- USDA’s Rural Development programs would receive $25 million for distance learning and telemedicine programs. Lawmakers cited the value in boosting telemedicine as a way to treat patients without having possible spreading of the disease for people who do not need hospitalization. Another $100 million would also go to further boost rural broadband as well.
It will also offer the following additional assistance that will impact our local communities:
Unemployment assistance – provides $260 billion to help those who have lost their jobs or are experiencing reduced incomes.
- Available to self-employed individuals, part-time workers, independent contractors, and gig workers, including ride-sharing drivers.
- Covers those who are sick, quarantined, furloughed, or whose family circumstances keep them from working or reduce their pay as a result of the coronavirus outbreak or government containment efforts.
- Aid will cover salaries up to about $65,000 for 4 months.
At least $1.2 billion for Hawai‘i – funding to the state and county governments that will help pay for Hawai‘i’s response efforts.
Direct cash payments – provides a one-time cash payment to millions of Americans.
- Individuals will get $1,200 (joint filers get $2,400) plus $500 per child.
- Benefits start to phase out for those with incomes exceeding $150,000 for married couples, $75,000 for individuals, and $112,500 for single parents.
- Payments will not go to single filers earning more than $99,000; head-of-household filers with one child, more than $146,500; and more than $198,000 for joint filers with no children.
Small businesses and non-profits – provides $377 billion for small employers, including restaurants, hotels, and non-profits.
- $350 billion in partially forgivable loans to small businesses and non-profits to maintain existing workforce and help pay for other expenses like rent, mortgage, and utilities.
- $10 billion for Small Business Administration (SBA) emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for small business operating costs.
- $17 billion for SBA to cover 6 months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.