|I stood with my colleagues in the House to pass a bill that will bring relief to Arkansas’s families and businesses as we deal with one of the greatest crises in our lifetimes.
The health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 is unprecedented in our lifetimes. We are seeing the number of cases rise throughout the country, including in Arkansas.
I have spent the last weeks in constant communication with Governor Asa Hutchinson and his team, as well as representatives and workers from nearly every industry in Arkansas. I want to thank our hospitals, first responders, and business leaders for their compassionate work and perseverance during these trying times. Federal relief is critical to defeat this virus and to prevent our businesses from going under.
It is for these reasons that my colleagues and I joined together to pass the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and send it to the president’s desk for his signature. This bill provides economic assistance to Arkansas’s families, hospitals, and businesses that have been negatively affected by COVID-19.
To watch my remarks on the House floor today in support of the CARES Act, click HERE or on the image below.
I wanted to share some of the key provisions of this legislation and how they will affect Arkansas families and businesses.
If you or someone you know has inquiries, or needs help with a government agency-specific question, please contact me at Hill.House.gov or at (501) 324-5941.
Supporting Working Families
Direct Payments to Americans:
The majority of Americans will qualify for direct financial assistance to help get them through this difficult time.
Individuals making below $75,000 will receive $1,200 and married couples filing taxes jointly will receive $2,400. In addition, they will receive $500 for each eligible child.
Individuals making above $75,000, heads of household (if you are a single parent for example) making above $112,500, and couples making more than $150,000 combined will receive a phased down amount. For individuals with no children, the "cut-off" income amount is $99,000, and $198,000 for married couples.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has stated that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) could begin issuing these payments as soon as three weeks from the bill’s passage.
What we do know is that the process will be faster for people who have direct deposit information on file at the IRS. Those who do not will have to wait for paper checks to arrive in the mail.
Beware: The IRS will NOT call, email, or text you to ask for your social security number or other personal information. If you receive a call like this, it is a scam. Report it to the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at ArkansasAG.gov or (800) 482-8982.
The IRS will provide updated information HERE regarding the direct payments.
Student Loan Payments:
In response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, the president has already directed the Department of Education to cut the federal student loan interest rate to 0% and has halted collections on defaulted public and private student loans.
In addition, the bill automatically suspends federal student loan payments until September 30, 2020. If you borrowed from the federal government to cover your student payments (also known as a "direct loan") in the last ten years, you are eligible for this suspension.
It is important to note that older Federal Family Educational Loans (F.F.E.L.) that the Department of Education does not own are not eligible, nor are Perkins loans, loans from state agencies, or loans from private lenders like Discover, Sallie Mae, and Wells Fargo.
Furthermore, the CARES Act incentivizes employers to give employees $5,200 per year toward their student loans. Employees will no longer have to pay a tax on the amount given towards their student loans.
As many businesses close to adhere to social distancing policies, employees of those companies have lost income. To help those finding themselves without a job through no fault of their own, this bill extends unemployment benefits to more employees, helps them for longer, and provides a greater cushion to help them get to the other side. This new federal unemployment benefit will help bridge the gap between what a worker would receive as a paycheck and the amount that states offer in unemployment benefits.
The new bill would wrap in far more workers than are usually eligible for unemployment benefits, including self-employed people and part-time workers. If you are self-employed, employed in the "gig economy" such as driving for Uber, or partially employed, you are now eligible for these federal employment benefits during this unprecedented public health crisis.
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or are awaiting a result for a test and have become unemployed as a result, you are eligible for federal unemployment benefits under this legislation. This also applies if you are the primary caretaker for a member of your family or household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Arkansas provides unemployment benefits for a maximum of 16 weeks. The new provisions add up to $600 dollars per week to your benefits and extends the time you can receive them by 13 weeks.
The bottom-line: Those who are unemployed, partially unemployed or who cannot work for a wide variety of coronavirus-related reasons would be more likely to receive benefits.
To apply, your first step is to fill out an application HERE.
Reinforcing Health Care
This historic legislation provides much-needed support to our health care workers and infrastructure. Some of the most important include:
· Ensuring Arkansas hospitals can keep their doors open to help patients by:
o Delaying cuts to Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospitals.
o Giving hospitals that treat COVID-19 patients a 20% increase in their Medicare reimbursement.
· Allocating $127 billion for medical response efforts including:
o $11 billion for vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics.
o $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile.
· Allocating $19.6 billion for veterans health care:
o $14.4 billion to support an increased need for healthcare services at VA facilities, including the purchase of medical equipment, supplies, testing kits, and personal protective equipment.
· Allocating $4.3 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
o $1.5 billion for state and local preparedness and response grants.
o $500 million to enhance public health surveillance.
Each of these provisions will ensure that Arkansans have access to the care that they need to stay safe and to stay healthy.
Supporting Arkansas Businesses
The CARES Act creates the Paycheck Protection Program which provides $350 billion for 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and 501(c)3s, allocates up to $500 billion to provide loan and loan guarantees to companies of all sizes, and provides a variety of measures to supply temporary relief to our financial institutions, making it easier to extend credit to American consumers and businesses that need it most.
On March 20, 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) approved Governor Hutchinson’s disaster declaration request for economic injury as a result of the novel coronavirus.
This means that small businesses in central Arkansas and throughout the state can start applying for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) immediately. These loans are designed to help businesses that are losing revenue due to federal, state, and local measures about COVID-19.
Click HERE to apply for these loans now that the declaration has been made official. If you are not a small business owner but would like to help, please share this information with your friends, family, and the local businesses that you frequent.