Lisa Cylar Barrett
Lisa Cylar Barrett
Director of Policy

How the CARES Act is Helping Americans

And What Must Be Done to Achieve Comprehensive COVID-19 Relief

May 5, 2020

It can’t be said enough — we are living in unprecedented times where the entire world has been impacted by a virus for which there is currently no cure and no vaccine. The catastrophic health and economic impacts of the virus necessitate significant investment to support the American people and the economy. Furthermore, the crisis has cast a bright light on the structural inequalities and racism embedded in our society, which has resulted in Black people being disproportionately affected by the virus. The CDC reports that, while Black people are only 12% of the U.S. population, we constitute 20% of all U.S. coronavirus deaths. Additionally, 45% of Black workers have lost their jobs or had their hours cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 31% of White workers.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and signed into law on March 27, 2020. As Congress moves into negotiations for additional relief measures, we thought we would use this opportunity to remind you what was included in the CARES Act — and to share our thoughts about what still needs to be addressed in the next legislative relief package.  

The CARES Act was a good first step in providing individuals, families, and communities with much-needed support. Some of the provisions included were:

·         Expanded Unemployment Compensation to replace lost wages, including coverage for part-time, self-employed and/or gig economy workers;

A one-time cash payment of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child available to people with the lowest incomes;

$4 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants to help people escape from or avoid homelessness;

$3 billion for rental assistance;

$900 million in help for heating and cooling bills;

Moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures for properties with any federal funding or backing;

Funding for forgivable loans to small businesses

What other steps should Congress consider for COVID-19 relief?

The Coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of ending and will have long term implications. Therefore, Congress must enact additional relief measures and supports. As we look ahead to the next infusion of critical funding, below are a few of the issues Congress should address:

    • National moratorium on residential and commercial (including nonprofits and small businesses) foreclosures and evictions to include properties beyond those guaranteed and supported by federal government
    • National moratorium on garnishments, freezing of bank accounts, and other debt collection activities
    • National moratorium on utility shutoffs (including broadband)
    • Restoration of any water and utility services (including broadband) previously disconnected for the duration of the pandemic
    • Language requiring agencies to maintain compliance with anti-discrimination and affirmative action laws and requirements
    • National standard regarding distance learning to ensure the continuity of education for all students. Each district/school should be required to submit a plan which documents the manner in which student learning will continue for all K-12 students – and to provide regular progress reports on implementation of this plan for accountability
    • At least $4 billion total ($400 million was included in the CARES Act, at least another $3.6 million is needed) to ensure that voting and upcoming elections can proceed in a way that allows people to exercise their right to vote in a safe manner without barriers, whether in-person or via mail
    • Revise the SBA Paycheck Protection Program to ensure that funding is provided to small businesses owned by men and women of color who were largely excluded from access to the first two rounds of funding
    • Provide the funding needed to sustain the critical services provided by the United States Postal Service

Enactment of provisions to address these issues (and many others) is needed to help curb the economic and health devastation exacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. LDF will continue our work to advance these and other priorities to support Black people, families and communities.

For more information, read "COVID-19 & Small Business," a guide to the CARES Act for small business owners: