CARES Act provides COVID-19 crisis relief

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act legislation, that passed the Senate earlier this week was also passed by the House of Representatives and signed by President Trump on Friday. The $2.2 trillion aid package includes a number of important provisions to help workers, families, employers and health professionals during this crisis.

As a whole and not specific to only agriculture, the largest stimulus package in modern America:

  • Provides direct financial assistance to families in need, including $1,200 for individuals making less than $75,000 and $2,400 for couples making less than $150,000. Families with children will be eligible for an additional $500 per child;
  • Includes a large temporary expansion in unemployment insurance benefits by adding a $600 per week across-the-board payment increase through the end of July, providing an additional 13 weeks of benefits beyond what states typically allow, and expanding benefit eligibility to cover self-employed and independent contractors, government workers and nonprofit employees;
  • Provides $350 billion in small business loans for companies with under 500 employees that effectively become grants if those loans are used to keep workers on payroll, make rent and mortgage payments, or pay utilities;
  • Includes $500 billion in immediate tax relief for businesses of all sizes, including provisions such as payroll tax deferral and the ability to immediately monetize tax losses;
  • Creates a new fund established through the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve to provide loans and loan guarantees to businesses and industries that have been particularly affected by the current crisis, such as airlines, hotels, restaurants and nonprofits;
  • Includes strong transparency and accountability safeguards for any company that accesses federal loans and creates a new federal inspector general to oversee these loans;
  • Includes $150 billion for health care providers to support the nation’s hospitals, doctors and nurses;
  • Provides $4.3 billion to support the CDC and state and local health departments as they identify every potential case;
  • Provides accelerated payment opportunities for hospitals supporting vulnerable populations like children’s hospitals, rural hospitals and specialty cancer hospitals like Ohio State’s The James, to help them maintain cash flows while they voluntarily suspend elective procedures to conserve PPE for providers treating COVID-19 patients; and
  • Provides $150 billion to support state and local governments that are impacted by the coronavirus to ensure they can continue to provide basic services for their citizens, including roughly $4.5 billion to Ohio.

There is $23.5 billion in aid directly allocated for America’s farmers. Of that, $9.5 billion is allocated specifically for specialty crops, producers who supply local food systems and farmers markets, restaurants and schools, livestock producers, i.e., cattlemen and women, and dairy farmers.

“This bill recognizes that there are serious economic issues for all sectors of agriculture, from those who grow crops on a large scale to those who sell their products directly to consumers and everyone in between,” said Jack Irvin, senior director of state and national policy with Ohio Farm Bureau. “As determinations are made at USDA as to how these programs will be implemented, Farm Bureau will be in the trenches to provide input that will bring some certainty and hope for everyone involved in America’s food system.”

American Farm Bureau has more analysis about how the country’s agriculture sector will benefit from the CARES Act.