In the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19, the Federal Government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), a massive stimulus package, along with three other stimulus bills. Because of the speed at which these laws were passed, many of the details surrounding implementation require additional guidance from agencies. Here are some resources for those with questions about the government’s response to COVID-19:
- Consumers: The National Consumer Law Center’s digital library has put together one of the most comprehensive guides for how the CARES Act affects consumers. The guide covers federal mortgages, eviction freezes, consumer credit, debt collection, and bankruptcy, among other things. The guide also provides links to state resources, where possible, when the questions are those generally left to state governments, such as foreclosures and utility bills.
- Scam Avoidance: As quick as stimulus checks are distributed to people around the country, scammers are finding ways to trick people into giving their checks away. The U.S. Treasury has a page dedicated to reporting IRS-related scams. Likewise, the Federal Trade Commission has posted a host of information on what scams to watch out for and how to avoid them.
- Small Businesses: On April 16, 2020, the Small Business Administration’s coronavirus response, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), ran out of money that was intended to help small businesses as part of the CARES Act. As a result, the SBA had to suspend any applications for relief under the Act. Part of the reason the funds went so quickly, it appears, is because many of the funds intended for small businesses went to large, publicly traded companies. Although in light of the negative public response, some entities have since returned money to the PPP. Congress passed a new round of $484 billion in funding on April 24, 2020, including $310 billion in new funding for the PPP. It does not appear that the rules for eligibility under the program have changed, but the Treasury and members of both major parties in Congress have warned that if large companies who do not really need the money continue to certify that they do, they will be subject to Congressional investigation. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that any loan over $2 million will get a “full review” from Treasury. The SBA maintains (and updates) an FAQ that provides information on the agency’s implementation of the CARES Act, as well as qualification and certification requirements.
- Oversight: In addition to the additional funding passed on April 24, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to create a new committee to oversee the government’s use of the bailout funds. The committee, chaired by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), will have subpoena power and will focus on how the Trump Administration uses the bailout funds. Republicans in the House opposed the creation of the committee, contending that it is too political and redundant of other oversight efforts included as part of the response to COVID-19.