Government Resources for COVID Relief

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to deeply impact families, schools, and businesses throughout the world, including here in Maryland, federal and state leaders have taken action to try to ease the impact. 

“The Federal CARES Act and Families First Coronavirus Act, as well as increased assistance made available by the State of Maryland, could offer significant benefits for families, schools, and businesses,” said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. 

“We are continuing to assess and monitor the legislation and assistance programs and do all that we can to ensure nonprofits and schools, including our Catholic programs, are able to access available funds,” she added. 

The CARES Act will provide $4.9 billion in federal assistance for Maryland. 

In addition, Maryland has opened a special health care enrollment period for residents who do not have health insurance (plans may not be changed at this time). Details are on the Maryland Health Connection website, and local navigators are available in each county to assist residents by phone. Applications must be in by June 15. 

RESOURCES FOR NON-PROFITS AND SMALL BUSINESSES

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, And Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provides $350 billion to help small businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees — including faith-based organizations — through two programs administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) allows small businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees to receive a loan up to 2.5 times an organization’s average monthly payroll expenditure. The intent is to help keep people employed during the crisis. Other allowable uses include business rent and/or mortgage payments and costs associated with continuing group health benefits during a period of paid sick, medical, or family leave. 

Loans will be forgiven by the Small Business Association if at least 75 percent of the borrowed funds are used to cover payroll and maintain employment for workers, and other certain conditions are met. Businesses and non-profits apply through local lenders, which will also disperse the loans. Funds will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis and may run out prior to the June 30 deadline. However, the Treasury Department today asked Congress to commit another $200 billion for this small business loan program.

The CARES Act also expands SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). Small businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees can apply for low-interest loans of up to $2 million. If approved, a loan advance of up to $10,000 will be disbursed within three days of an application to help quickly provide working capital relief. This advance would not have to be repaid.

Another provision of the CARES Act provides an incentive to donate to nonprofits and faith-based organizations by allowing individual taxpayers to take an above-the-line tax deduction for up to $300 in cash charitable contributions on 2020 taxes – even taxpayers who will not itemize, but instead will take the standard deduction. 

SUPPORT FOR INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES

The CARES Act provides a number of benefits to assist families and individuals:

  • Adds $600 to weekly unemployment checks for up to four months, on top of state benefits.
  • Expands unemployment insurance to those previously ineligible, such as part-time, self-employed, and gig economy workers.
  • Extends unemployment benefits an additional 13 weeks to 39 weeks total.
  • Provides additional funding for state Medicare programs, including for Telehealth services.
  • Allows for a forbearance in addition to a moratorium on foreclosures on properties with federally-backed mortgages and moratorium on rental evictions.
  • Provides direct financial assistance to low- and middle-income Americans, of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married filing jointly, plus $500 for every child, for adjusted gross incomes up to $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples. The benefit phases out for incomes over $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for married couples.


The direct financial assistance will be based on 2019 tax returns, if they have been filed and if not, on 2018 returns. Payments for those who provided direct deposit information with their tax return could begin by the middle of April. Individuals who receive Social Security, but do not file taxes, also will receive this relief.

In addition to the CARES Act, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides relief for employees and families who have additional caregiving or child-care needs as a result of the pandemic.

Businesses with fewer than 500 employees are required to provide two weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave related to COVID-19 at full pay (up to $511 per day for an individual who is ill or $200 per day to care for a family member) and 12 weeks of paid family leave to parents caring for children whose schools have closed. The first two weeks would be unpaid or covered by paid sick leave, and the remaining 10 weeks would be paid at 2/3 salary, up to $200 per day. Employers with fewer than 50 employees can apply for a hardship exemption.

In addition, there will be a temporary increase in funding for Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), access to free testing for those enrolled in federal healthcare exchanges and for those without health insurance, and increased funding for federal food security programs, such as SNAP and WIC.  Work and employment training requirements for these programs also are suspended if an individual is jobless as a result of the pandemic.  

EDUCATION FUNDING

The CARES Act provides almost $31 billion for education nationally, split between higher education and K-12 schools, to assist with coronavirus-related expenditures, such as school closures, remote learning, technology support, and teacher costs.

Maryland is expected to receive $207 million in K-12 funding formula grants for its local education agencies (in Maryland, counties). Congress requires that these local agencies share a portion equitably with Catholic and other nonpublic school students and teachers in the jurisdictions. The distribution will be determined in consultation with nonpublic school representatives. 

The same requirement is in place for a discretionary fund being provided to state governors.  Maryland also is expected to receive more than $183 million in direct federal aid for higher education, and $45 million in discretionary education grants through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund.

 STATE ASSISTANCE

On March 23, Governor Larry Hogan announced that the State of Maryland would provide an additional $175 million of relief to individual workers, businesses, and nonprofits affected by the coronavirus pandemic. This includes a $7 million layoff-aversion fund for businesses and workers that can be tapped for technological resources to allow employees to work from home, and other measures to mitigate potential layoffs.

The Maryland Department of Commerce will oversee two programs totaling $125 million:

  • $75 million loan program for small businesses to help them stay afloat during the pandemic, with loans of up to $50,000. 
  • $50 million grant fund that provides grants of up to $10,000 for small businesses and nonprofits, with fewer than 50 employees. The fund includes $1 million dedicated to non-profits, to provide working capital for operational expenditures.