On March 27, President Donald Trump signed HR 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), into law. Also referred to publicly as the coronavirus stimulus package, the legislation is the third bill Congress has passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides a total of about $2 trillion in support focused on providing economic aid to impacted businesses and individuals. The $1,200 stimulus checks coming to millions of Americans are getting a lot of attention, but there are several other provisions in this legislation that board certified counselors should know about.
Paycheck Protection Program
The Paycheck Protection Program authorizes $349 billion in loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to be made available to small businesses. 501(c)(3) organizations, sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals are all eligible for these loans. As long as a small business employs less than 500 people, and does not have more than two locations with the total number of employees exceeding 500, they will be eligible for this assistance. Loans for up to $10 million dollars will be made through SBA-approved lenders, based on a calculation of the business’s payroll expenses over an average eight-week period. These loans are eligible to be forgiven if a small business does not lay off any of its employees during the COVID-19 national emergency.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans
Additionally, the legislation created the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, which is also administered by the SBA. Private nonprofit organizations and small businesses of any size are eligible for loans of up to $2 million accompanied by a $10,000 emergency grant. These loans are intended to be used to pay sick leave and payroll expenses for employees during the pandemic. They may also be used to make mortgage or rent payments for small businesses.
The SBA is currently accepting applications on its website.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
Massive but temporary changes have been made to the unemployment system in response to the record number of unemployed individuals during the pandemic. The legislation allows independent contractors and self-employed individuals to apply for unemployment for the first time ever, and it provides funding for state unemployment programs to help stabilize them. Notably, the legislation provides for an extra $600 a week for up to four months for those who apply for unemployment. It also adds an extra 13 weeks of unemployment assistance to applicants through Dec. 31, 2020.
Emergency Unemployment Relief for Governmental Entities and Nonprofit Organizations
The relationship between nonprofit organizations and state unemployment programs differs from state to state. This legislation grants money to states to reimburse nonprofits and other entities for costs they incur by paying for unemployment benefits.
Deferment of Payroll Taxes
Under the new law, the federal government is allowing small businesses to defer the payment of employer payroll taxes during the pandemic. If a business chooses to defer the 6.2% Social Security tax they are generally required to pay, they will need to pay it back over the next two years, starting in 2021. Half of the deferred payments would need to be made by Dec. 31, 2021, and the other half by Dec. 31, 2022.
Confidentiality and Disclosure of Records Relating to Substance Use Disorder
The regulations that govern confidentiality and sharing of substance use disorder treatment records are collectively known as 42 CFR Part 2. These regulations are now aligned with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to allow for record sharing with initial patient consent.
Extension and Expansion of Community Mental Health Services Demonstration Program
The ongoing Medicaid demonstration program for Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs) has been extended until Nov. 30, 2020. The program will also be extended to two more states, in addition to the eight states that it operates in now. These states will be selected at a later date by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
For more information on CCBHCs, visit the National Council for Behavioral Health’s website.
This legislation is long and can be very confusing to try to sort through yourself. NBCC’s Government Affairs team is committed to helping you know what new benefits you may be eligible for. For more information on some of these new assistance programs, visit Benefits.gov and CareerOneStop. If you have any questions about your eligibility for these new programs, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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