NARC HEALS Act Summary

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the Senate floor last week to introduce the HEALS Act, the Senate Republicans’ plan for a coronavirus relief package that would follow up the CARES Act passed earlier this year. “Our nation stands now at an important crossroads in this battle,” McConnell said. “We have one foot in the pandemic and one foot in the recovery. The American people need more help. They need it to be comprehensive. And they need it to be carefully tailored to this crossroads.”

The HEALS Act, an acronym that stands for Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools, would extend and modify several CARES Act provisions as well as provide new support for areas of critical need. The plan comes with a price tag around $1 trillion, noticeably smaller than the $3 trillion HEROES Act proposal passed by the House back in May.

Structurally, the plan is a composite of several different pieces of legislation, each targeting a different priority area, including unemployment benefits, liability protection, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) continuation, funding for schools, and the development of “Rescue Committees,” among others. Below are links to the text of the individual bills that make up the HEALS Act plan:

The HEALS Act notably does not provide additional aid for state and local governments. However, it would provide some flexibility for previously allocated CARES Act dollars, allowing these funds to be spent past the original December 30, 2020 deadline and expanding allowable uses of relief payments to include lost revenue.

NARC will continue to advocate for regional priorities in upcoming coronavirus legislation. Most recently, NARC joined with local partners at the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO) and the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) on a letter urging congressional leaders to include local transportation funding needs in upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation. The full letter can be read here.

Below is a bill-by-bill summary highlighting the most significant items in each piece of the HEALS Act plan:

The American Workers, Families, And Employers Assistance Act

Key items: Unemployment extension, stimulus checks, and state and local funding flexibility

This bill, sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA), would extend the current unemployment supplement provided by the CARES Act but at a lower benefit level. The bill would reduce the previous $600-per-week supplement down to $200 per week while states work on implementing a new supplement system that would be calculated to provide workers with no more than 70% of their previous wages.

The bill would also provide another round of stimulus checks in a manner like those distributed following the CARES Act. Those with incomes under $75,000 per year would receive a $1,200 direct payment and couples making less than $150,000 per year would receive a $2,400 payment. Additionally, those with dependents would receive $500 for each dependent regardless of that dependent’s age. Payments for those with higher incomes would be reduced, with payments phasing out for those making more than $99,000 as individuals and $198,000 as couples. Phaseouts would be set higher for those with dependents.

The bill would also provide some flexibility for state and local governments to spend previously allocated funds provided through the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) in the CARES Act. The HEALS Act does not provide additional aid for state and local governments.The provisions for increased flexibility of CRF funds include extending the date for these funds to be spent from December 30, 2020 to 90 days after the last day of the governments’ fiscal year 2021 as well as expanding allowable uses of relief payments to include lost revenue (up to 25% of their CRF allocation.)

For more information, check out the full text of the bill as well as the section-by-section summary.

The Safeguarding America’s Frontline Employees To Offer Work Opportunities Required To Kickstart The Economy Act (SAFE TO WORK Act)

Key item: Liability protections

This bill, led by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), would provide businesses, schools, and healthcare providers that follow certain guidelines with a five-year liability shield against lawsuits regarding coronavirus. Republicans have indicated that they view liability protections as a critical inclusion in the next aid package while Democrats have voiced opposition on the grounds that this type of measure prioritizes protection for employers and corporations.

For more information, check out the bill text.

Continuing Small Business Recovery and Paycheck Protection Program Act

Key item: PPP continuation

Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced the Continuing Small Business Recovery and Paycheck Protection Program Act, which would permit some small businesses to receive another round of forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans. The bill would streamline the forgiveness process and would create a $60 billion working capital fund for the hardest hit businesses.

For more information, check out the bill’s full text and its section-by-section summary.

Safely Back to School and Back to Work Act 

Key item: Funding for schools and childcare

This bill from Senate Health and Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) would offer relief for some student loan borrowers (although it would not provide an extension for the student loan deferral provided by the CARES Act). Senator Alexander’s proposal also provides additional funding for schools and childcare providers including $105 billion for schools, $15 billion for childcare, $16 billion for testing, and $40 billion for vaccines and other health research. A section-by-section summary of the proposal can be found here.

Time to Rescue United States’ Trusts (TRUST) Act

Key item: Creation of Rescue Committees

This part of the HEALS Act comes from a bill that was initially proposed in 2019 by Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) and is now being resurrected with some minor changes. The legislation would create “Rescue Committees” to research changes needed to ensure the solvency of government trust funds with outlays greater than $20 billion, including those for highways, Medicare hospital insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance.

A note on the Highway Trust Fund: Since the Highway Trust Fund has more than $20 billion in outlays it would be a recipient of a “rescue committee.” The bipartisan committee would be comprised of 12 members of the House and Senate and would work to create a strategy and accompanying legislation to put the trust fund on a path to solvency by June 1, 2021.

A one pager of the legislation is available here, text of the legislation is available here, and a section-by-section of the legislation is available here.

The Coronavirus Response Additional Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020

Key item: Funding for a range of health and economic aid programs

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) sponsored this $306 billion spending proposal that would allocate funds for a variety of federal agencies and programs. There is some overlap between this funding proposal and some of the other elements of the HEALS Act plan, such as the $105 billion in funding for elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education.

Below are some of the largest funding recipients as well as other items of note for regions:

  • $105 billion for elementary, secondary and post-secondary education
  • $16 billion for COVID-19 testing
  • $25 billion for hospitals
  • $15 billion for childcare, including $5 billion through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and $10 billion in a new flexible grant program
  • $10 billion for airports
  • $1.5 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which is administered by county governments in 13 states
  • $2.2 billion for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (Section 8 vouchers)

The Restoring Critical Supply Chains and Intellectual Property Act

Key item: Support for domestic PPP production

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced this proposal, which aims to move personal protection equipment (PPE) production to the United States from China using a $7.5 billion tax credit.

For more information read the full text of the bill.

Supporting America’s Restaurant Workers Act

Key item: Business meal tax deduction increase

This bill proposed by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) would increase the tax deduction for business meals from 50% to 100%.

The bill’s full text can be found here.

Further Reading

For more reading on HEALS Act provisions regarding local government, check out the following resources from NARC and other local government partners:

Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) Update

Congress has managed to hold to a two-year reauthorization schedule for the last three Water Resource Development Acts (2014, 2016, and 2018) and it looks like they are on track to increase that streak to four this year. This past Wednesday, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee voted unanimously to move H.R. 7575 The Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA 2020) out of committee. The bill is now headed to the House floor.

WRDA bills provide authority for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to conduct projects and studies. They have historically included (or been packaged with bills including) other water-related provisions such as drinking water programs and water infrastructure funding mechanisms.

This year’s House WRDA bill would provide around $8.6 billion in funding for 34 USACE projects. This is notably more than five times as many projects as were approved by WRDA 2018. The bill would authorize 35 new USACE studies and calls for 41 ongoing studies to be expedited. In addition to project authorizations, the bill includes three other significant provisions shared more in detail below:

Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund “Unlocked”

The House bill would “unlock” $10 billion in funds held in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), allowing that money to be spent on dredging and port projects. This has been a longtime aim of Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR). HMTF funds were partially unlocked earlier this year in the CARES Act, but annual expenditures from the fund were capped at the amount of the previous year’s HMTF revenue. WRDA 2020 would expand on this by allowing access to additional funds from the existing HMTF balance.

Inland Waterways Trust Fund Cost Share Reduced

WRDA 2020 would reduce the share drawn from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to 35% from the current 50% for lock and dam projects on rivers. This would increase the Treasury’s general fund cost share for these projects from 50% to 65%. Theoretically this reduction of trust fund spending will allow trust fund dollars to fund more projects. This change notably is not permanent and would apply only to projects beginning before the end of 2027.

An Increasing Focus on Resilience and Environmental Justice

This year’s WRDA is crafted with an increasing focus on disaster resilience and consideration of communities impacted by flooding and other water-related dangers. Of the 34 projects approved for USACE work, seven are for flood management and two others are for flood reduction with ecosystem restoration components. The bill also reaffirms a commitment to using natural and nature-based solutions and authorizing projects and studies for communities facing repetitive flooding events. The bill also includes PFAS provisions, increases minority community and tribal input on projects, and aims to address affordability issues for disadvantaged communities.

What’s Happening in the Senate?

The Senate’s 2020 WRDA proposal has been voted through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee but has not yet received a floor vote. The Senate’s proposal comprises two bills: one for USACE entitled America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2020, and another for drinking-water authorizations and provisions called the Drinking Water Act of 2020. The Senate proposal, like the House bill, was developed using a bipartisan approach and has broad support on both sides of the aisle.

What’s Next for WRDA?

With bipartisan proposals already out of committee in the House and Senate and plenty of pressure to stick to the two-year authorization cycle, the outlook looks bright for WRDA 2020. As broader infrastructure packages like the Moving Forward Act remain mired in partisan debate, WRDA presents an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to find common ground on infrastructure investment. Expect to hear more on WRDA once Congress returns from their August recess.

For further reading, check out the House bill text, fact sheet, and section-by-section summary; the Senate AWIA text, fact sheet, and section-by-section summary; and the Senate Drinking Water Act text and section-by-section summary.

House Releases Transportation Reauthorization Proposal

Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Peter DeFazio (D-OR) released a transportation reauthorization proposal today called Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act (INVEST in America Act). This is an 853-page bill, so it will take some time to go through in detail. NARC will prepare a detailed analysis of the bill as it relates to MPOs, RPOs, and RTPOs, and get it out to members as soon as possible.

Committee Resources


A Very Quick Overview
In the meantime, a few things that we know:

  • This is a 5-year, $494 billion bill ($319B for highways, $105B for transit, $60B for rail, $10B for passenger and commercial vehicle safety)
  • The first year of the bill is an extension of FAST Act policy, with additional funding and flexibility to use the funds for a broader array of activities and at 100% federal share.
  • Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBGP) suballocation is not increased and remains at 55%. Areas with population 50,000-199,999 would have greater say in how STBGP funds are spent.
  • The bill intends to provide significant funding for local priorities through two new grant programs, one focused on community transportation priorities and the other on carbon reduction grants. This is in addition to a carbon apportionment program that would be state-directed.
  • The bill also creates a program to provide funding for high performing MPOs on a pilot basis; qualifying MPOs could be of any size and would have to demonstrate previous good stewardship of federal funds. The organizations chosen to participate would receive funds directly to spend on local priority projects.
  • Transportation Alternatives (TAP) is increased significantly and would be funded at 10% of STBGP. Suballocation of TAP would increase from 50% to 66%.
  • Planning funding (PL) is significantly increased, with additional responsibilities for MPOs on greenhouse gas emissions and accessibility issues.
  • The existing INFRA program is restructured to include transit, passenger rail, and freight rail and is more like a Projects of National and Regional Significance program.
  • Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funding also increases significantly and additional requirements are placed upon states that have higher rates of cyclist and pedestrian deaths and injuries.

Questions? Contact Erich Zimmermann at erich@narc.org
202.618.5697

Read the NARC NADO and AMPO Request to Congressional Leaders for STBGP Funding in Next COVID-19 Aid Package

Read the NARC NADO and AMPO Request to Congressional Leaders for STBGP Funding in Next COVID-19 Aid Package

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Each and every day we are learning of more and more COVID-19 cases. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced individuals in 20 states have been infected by the COVID-19 virus.
 
California and Washington State have declared states of emergency as increasing numbers of their residents become sick. King County, Washington leaders have urged at-risk residents to stay home and away from large groups of people. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Department of Public Health have declared a local and public health emergency in response to the increased spread of coronavirus across the Los Angeles region. And increasing numbers of cases in the Boston area are leading metropolitan Boston and Commonwealth officials to monitor closely the spread of the virus.
 
The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) invites you to join a webinar on Wednesday, March 11, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. eastern that will examine the role that regional councils can play in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic. Leaders from the Puget Sound Regional Council (Seattle), Metropolitan Area Planning Council (Boston), and Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG) will discuss how they are responding to the COVID-19 epidemic and the role regional councils are playing in efforts to contain the virus.

GCoM & NARC Webinar: Regional Climate Action Planning and the GCoM Process

GCoM & NARC Webinar: Regional Climate Action Planning and the GCoM Process

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Each and every day we are learning of more and more COVID-19 cases. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced individuals in 20 states have been infected by the COVID-19 virus.
 
California and Washington State have declared states of emergency as increasing numbers of their residents become sick. King County, Washington leaders have urged at-risk residents to stay home and away from large groups of people. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Department of Public Health have declared a local and public health emergency in response to the increased spread of coronavirus across the Los Angeles region. And increasing numbers of cases in the Boston area are leading metropolitan Boston and Commonwealth officials to monitor closely the spread of the virus.
 
The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) invites you to join a webinar on Wednesday, March 11, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. eastern that will examine the role that regional councils can play in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic. Leaders from the Puget Sound Regional Council (Seattle), Metropolitan Area Planning Council (Boston), and Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG) will discuss how they are responding to the COVID-19 epidemic and the role regional councils are playing in efforts to contain the virus.

NARC Webinar: Regional Planning and the COVID-19 Pandemic

NARC Webinar: Regional Planning and the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Each and every day we are learning of more and more COVID-19 cases. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced individuals in 20 states have been infected by the COVID-19 virus.
 
California and Washington State have declared states of emergency as increasing numbers of their residents become sick. King County, Washington leaders have urged at-risk residents to stay home and away from large groups of people. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Department of Public Health have declared a local and public health emergency in response to the increased spread of coronavirus across the Los Angeles region. And increasing numbers of cases in the Boston area are leading metropolitan Boston and Commonwealth officials to monitor closely the spread of the virus.
 
The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) invites you to join a webinar on Wednesday, March 11, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. eastern that will examine the role that regional councils can play in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic. Leaders from the Puget Sound Regional Council (Seattle), Metropolitan Area Planning Council (Boston), and Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG) will discuss how they are responding to the COVID-19 epidemic and the role regional councils are playing in efforts to contain the virus.

Regions Help Move Earth Day Online

Happy Earth Day! And happy 50th birthday to Earth Day! Today marks fifty years since the first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22nd 1970.

While Earth Day in 1970 “brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform,” this year’s Earth Day is being observed in a very different way.

Due to precautions against the coronavirus, Earth Day 2020 is not being celebrated as it usually is with large demonstrations, parades and in-person events. In accordance with social distancing guidelines, Earth Day has moved online with virtual events and posts taking the place of traditional celebrations.

The Earth Day Network, the official organizers of Earth Day is holding a 24 Hours of Action, providing an hourly call to action. They are also streaming performances and speeches throughout the day.

Regional councils have also joined in to celebrate the day online by spreading information on their environmental programs, and encouraging community members to engage in earth-friendly activities and head outside to enjoy nature (in safe and socially responsible ways!)

Check out the posts below to see how regional councils are celebrating:

Houston Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) – Earth Day Facts and Information About yourcommutesolution.org

H-GAC Earth Day Fact Tweet #3

H-GAC is tweeting throughout the day to share Earth Day facts. Did you know that Houston’s first light rail line was partly responsible for a 24 percent reduction in carbon monoxide, improving air quality in the two years following its opening? -We didn’t! To see more facts, check out their social media accounts. H-GAC is also taking the opportunity to share information about yourcommutesolution.org which provides options for residents of the region to improve their commutes and help to enhance the region’s air quality.

Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) – Blog: 50 Years of Celebrating Earth Day: Look How Far We’ve Come

A photo from SEMCOG’s blog shows kayakers on the Rouge River, one of the success stories of the region’s environmental efforts.

SEMCOG’s blog features an Earth Day post written by Katie Grantham, a planner with their Environment and Infrastructure group. The post celebrates some of the environmental progress that has been made in the region since the first Earth Day. (Last year marked the 50th Anniversary of when the Rouge River caught fire!) And highlights SEMCOG environmental programs like their Ozone Action program, and offers ideas for ways that community members can get engage with local Earth Day events like virtual cleanups.

Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) -Earth Day Recycling Survey

AACOG is reaching out today to community members today to encourage them to participate in an Earth Day recycling survey. Input from the survey will be used to better understand the region’s recycling and solid waste services needs to assist with short and long term planning. AACOG is the state-designated planning agency for solid waste management issues in the region and provides a range of planning and programmatic support that helps to ensure that solid waste is managed in responsible and earth-friendly ways.

Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) Virtual Earth Day Celebration With Calumet Collaborative

NIRPC partnered with the Calumet Collaborative, a regional community partnership group, to develop a virtual Earth Day celebration. The day-long event featured an array of live speakers and documentary watch-parties followed by discussion. The event highlighted local environmental programs and resources including regional water clean-up efforts, outdoor recreation opportunities at nearby parks, and community projects like the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Virtual Earth Day clean up.

Celebrating Earth Day at your regional council? Send your stories to eli.spang@narc.org or use the hashtag #RegionsLead on social media!

NARC Analysis: CARES Act

This afternoon, the House of Representatives passed The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748) following an earlier vote this week by the Senate. The bill is intended to provide the country with $2.3 trillion of aid to counter the physical and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation is the third COVID-19 bill to be developed by Congress, following the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074) and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201).

The CARES Act, the single largest economic stimulus package in American history, faced a brief challenge in the House when Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) attempted to force a recorded roll call vote on the bill. Congressmembers from both sides of aisle traveled quickly to Washington to establish a quorum, denying Massie’s attempt and passing the legislation with a voice vote.

Following the successful House vote, the bill will now be sent to the President, who is expected to quickly sign it into law.

Below are key items from the CARES Act, including a table of top-level figures, and summaries of the legislation’s primary areas of support, including support for state and local government, transportation, individuals, and businesses.

Top Level Funding Figures (~$2.3 Trillion Total)

SUPPORT FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT

State & Local Government Support (New Coronavirus Relief Fund) ($150 Billion)

The legislation provides $150 billion specifically for states, tribes, territories, and some local areas. And provides $8 billion for Tribes and $3 billion for territories (including, oddly, the District of Columbia, which is normally treated as a state for such purposes). Of the remaining $139 billion, funds are distributed to each state based on the state’s population relative to the population of the nation as a whole.

Of the amount each state receives, up to 45% of funds are available to “units of local governments,” which is defined as a county, municipality, town, township, village, parish, borough, or other unit of general government below the State level with a population of 500,000 or greater. A local area would qualify to receive a portion of funding that is equivalent to the proportion the local government’s population bears to the population of the state as a whole.

SNAP, Family Services and Housing ($42 Billion)

$25 billion in additional funding will be provided for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and for other child nutrition programs to support states and localities in meeting growing need for food assistance as a result of coronavirus.

$4 billion in Homelessness Assistance Grants would be provided to state and local governments to address coronavirus among the homeless population. 

CDBG ($5 Billion)

The bill provides $5 billion through the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) for services for senior citizens, the homeless, and public health services. This includes $2 billion distributed using the normal CDBG formula; $1 billion to states based on a formula developed by HUD for COVID-19; and $2 billion to states and localities based on a formula to be developed by HUD within 30 days.

FEMA Disaster Relief Funding ($45 Billion)

$45 billion is being provided in funding for FEMA with $25 billion going to areas with major disaster declarations, like Washington State and New York State. The remaining $15 billion will be used for all purposes allowed under the Stafford Act.

EDA Funding ($1.5 Billion)

The bill allocates $1.5 billion to the Economic Development Administration through September 30, 2022. This will help regions mitigate the local economic crisis and rebuild impacted industries such as tourism or manufacturing supply chains.

USDA-Rural Development Programs ($145.5 million)

The stimulus package provides an additional $20.5 million for the Rural Business Program under the Rural Business Cooperative Service to support loans for rural business development programs. It allocates $25 million for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program which helps provide broadband services to rural communities to support vital distance learning and telemedicine. The bill also provides $100 million in grants to the ReConnect pilot program to provide broadband services to rural areas to meet the Federal Communications Commission speed standards of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.

Dislocated Workers National Reserve ($345 million)

The bill provides $345 million for dislocated workers (through September 30, 2022) to prepare for and respond to layoffs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Homeless Assistance Grants ($4 billion)

The stimulus package provides $4 billion to enable state and local governments to provide effective, targeted assistance to contain the spread of COVID-19 among homeless individuals. It will also provide homelessness prevention funding for individuals and families who would otherwise become homeless because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Project-Based and Tenant-Based Rental Assistance ($2.25 billion)

The package provides $1 billion for project-based rental assistance to make up for reduced tenant payments as a result of coronavirus. $1.25 billion for tenant-based rental assistance will be provided to preserve Section 8 vouchers for seniors, the disabled, and low-income working families.

Section 202 Housing for the Elderly ($50 million)

This $50 million in funds will help maintain housing stability and services for low-income seniors.

Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities ($15 million)

The bill provides $15 million to make up for reduced tenant payments as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

SUPPORT FOR TRANSPORTATION

In total, the bill provides $114 billion for transportation-related purposes, $88 billion of which for aviation-related grants (as well as industry loans and loan guarantees). Of the remaining $26 billion, most of that goes to transit ($25 billion) and Amtrak ($1+ billion).

Transit ($25 Billion)

The bill provides $25 billion for “Transit Infrastructure Grants” to allow transit agencies to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” These funds are treated as if they are provided under 49 U.S.C. 5307 (Urbanized Area Formula Grants) and 49 U.S.C. 5311 (Formula Grants for Rural Areas), but are distributed in the same proportion as the funds in fiscal year 2020 appropriations under 5307, 5311, 5337 (State of Good Repair Grants) and 5340 (Apportionments based on growing States and high density States formula factors). Funds under 5337 are added to 5307 funds and administered under 5307.

The funds will be distributed in seven days based on FY2020 apportionment formulas. The limitation on the use of funds for operating expenses in urban areas is waved. All of the funds, regardless of which program the funds come through, is for “reimbursement for operating costs to maintain service and lost revenue due to the coronavirus public health emergency, including the purchase of personal protective equipment, and paying the administrative leave of operations personnel due to reductions in service.” These additional operating funds DO NOT need to appear in a TIP, STIP, or LRTP to quality.

Finally, the funds for this section are from General Treasury Funds, not the Highway Trust Fund, and they are not subject to any limitation on obligations. Eligible projects can be funded with 100% federal funds.

Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund

The bill contain a provision that impacts new receipts into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, treating these funds as mandatory spending not subject to spending caps (and therefore making the funds easier to spend; previously, these funds would require a spending offset). This provision does not affect the spending down of the current HMTF balance (which is $9 billion or so), but does prevent the balance from continuing to grow. This provision will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021 or upon passage of the next Water Resource Development Act (WRDA).

Amtrak ($1 Billion)

Just over $1 billion is provided for Amtrak, including $492 for Northeast Corridor grants and $526 million for National Network grants. Reduces required payment from states for “State-Supported Routes” and sets aside $239 million from National Network grants in lieu of an increase in a state’s payment.

Aviation ($42 Billion [Excluding Loans & Loan Guarantees])

Much of the transportation-related funding in the bill is provided for aviation purposes, including $32 billion in direct grants, $46 billion for loans and loan guarantees (out of the $500 billion loan and loan guarantees program), $10 billion for airport grants, and suspension of collection of Airport and Airway Trust Fund excise taxes for the remainder of the calendar year. In addition, an additional $56 million is provided for Essential Air Service.

General Highway Provision

The bill temporarily allows truck weight limits on the Interstate system to be exceeded for trucks carrying emergency supplies, to be in place through September 30, 2020 so long as the disaster declaration remains in effect.

SUPPORT FOR INDIVIDUALS

Unemployment Benefits ($260 Billion)

The bill changes unemployment insurance benefits in several dramatic ways. The bill provides unemployed workers with their basic state unemployment benefits (about $300 per week) plus a federal supplement of $600 per week for up to four months. The bill also extends state benefits for 13 weeks.  This results in up to 39 weeks of benefits for many workers. In addition, the bill provides incentives for states to waive their waiting periods, and makes unemployment compensation available to part-time, self-employed, and gig workers as well.

Notably, this bill does not contain an amendment which was requested by many local government partners to remove a provision that requires states, local governments and their political subdivisions and instrumentalities to provide paid sick leave, while prohibiting these governmental entities from receiving the tax credits available to private employers.

Stimulus Checks ($290 Billion)

Checks will be sent to Americans in amounts of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. Check eligibility will be phased out above $75,000 of income for individuals and $150,000 of income for couples.

Tax Reductions for Individuals ($20 Billion)

The bill would provide several tax reduction avenues for individuals including allowing HSA purchases of menstrual Products and temporarily waiving retirement minimum distribution rules.

SUPPORT FOR EDUCATION SYSTEMS

Education Spending ($32 billion)

An education stabilization fund for states, school districts, & higher education institutions will be provided $31 billion. Other Department of Education programs will receive approximately another $1 billion in funding.

SUPPORT FOR HEALTH SYSTEMS

Hospitals and Health Care ($180 Billion)

$100 billion of funding in the bill is being put toward hospitals responding to COVID-19. Other funding will go to drug access; CDC, FDA, NIH, IHS, & other health-related agencies; care for veterans; and the replenishing of the nation’s stockpile of medical supplies.

SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES

Small Business Support ($377 Billion)

Small business funding will be provided in three ways:

$10 billion of funding is being provided for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for grants up to $10,000 to cover immediate operating costs for businesses.

$350 billion is allocated for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide loans of up to $10 million per business. Use of that money is flexible as long as businesses keep their workers employed through the end of June.

Lastly, $17 billion will be for the SBA to cover 6 months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.

Large Business Support ($510 Billion)

A large portion of the bill will be used to provide loans and loan guarantees for large companies, particularly for those industries hardest hit by COVID-19 such as airlines.

Tax Reductions for Businesses ($280 Billion)

The bill would loosen caps imposed by the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act on interest deductibility & operating losses, provide payroll tax credits for businesses who retain workers at a loss, and delay employer payroll tax payments from 2020 to 2021 & 2022       $12. The bill would also introduce a very COVID-19-specific provision allowing liquor distillers to make hand sanitizer tax-free.        

FURTHER READING

For more information on the CARES Act check out these other resources:

NARC Webinar: The Regional Response to the COVID-19 Epidemic Part III: A Regional Conversation

NARC Webinar: The Regional Response to the COVID-19 Epidemic Part III: A Regional Conversation

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Each and every day we are learning of more and more COVID-19 cases. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced individuals in 20 states have been infected by the COVID-19 virus.
 
California and Washington State have declared states of emergency as increasing numbers of their residents become sick. King County, Washington leaders have urged at-risk residents to stay home and away from large groups of people. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Department of Public Health have declared a local and public health emergency in response to the increased spread of coronavirus across the Los Angeles region. And increasing numbers of cases in the Boston area are leading metropolitan Boston and Commonwealth officials to monitor closely the spread of the virus.
 
The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) invites you to join a webinar on Wednesday, March 11, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. eastern that will examine the role that regional councils can play in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic. Leaders from the Puget Sound Regional Council (Seattle), Metropolitan Area Planning Council (Boston), and Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG) will discuss how they are responding to the COVID-19 epidemic and the role regional councils are playing in efforts to contain the virus.