Unpacking the COVID-19 Relief Package


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, was signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020 by President Donald Trump. The bipartisan bill is meant to provide emergency aid to individuals, families, businesses of all sizes, as well as hospitals and state governments [1]

The CARES Act assigns $2 trillion for relief efforts, making it the largest economic aid package to ever pass in The United States [2]. The bill covers the following major categories: individuals, big corporations, small businesses, state & local governments, public health, education, and food security.


A major goal of the CARES Act is to ensure Americans’ continued ability to afford necessities in the midst of the economic downturn and large wave of lay-offs caused by COVID-19. The bill allocates approximately $560 billion towards individuals through various means. A one-time cash payment of $1,200 is granted to those who earn less than $75,000, with lower amounts being granted to those who make between $75,000 and $99,000. An additional $500 is allocated for each child. These cash payments are based off of an individual’s 2018 or 2019 tax filings [3]. However, a large drawback affecting many college students and recent graduates are the eligibility standards of these payments. Individuals 17 and over who are claimed as dependents on their parents/guardians’ tax returns do not meet the requirements for the cash payment, and aren’t given financial consideration elsewhere in the bill [4].

This bill also increases unemployment benefits for a limited period of time and expands the eligibility requirements. Individuals will receive an extra $600 in addition to the unemployment benefits offered on the state level. For those who have not filed their 2019 tax returns, the filing deadline has been extended to July 15th to accommodate for the crisis. Additionally, the Act created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that aims to help self-employed individuals who have lost their jobs. Lastly, this bill mandates that insurance providers allow free COVID-19 testing and vaccinations and cover treatments resulting from the virus [5].

The CARES Act makes it economically sustainable for small business owners to function in the midst of this situation. It allocates $10 million towards a grant supply that provides emergency funds of up to $10,000 for managing current operating costs for small businesses. For businesses that employ less than 500 people, the Small Business Administration will provide up to $10 million in loans per business. Money used from the loan that goes towards maintaining payroll, paying rent, or an existing debt could be forgiven as long as workers are employed throughout the month of June. 

In terms of larger corporations, the bill allocates roughly $500 billion in resources and loans for companies to benefit from. For example, companies are offered a refundable tax credit in an attempt to encourage businesses to place employees on paid furlough so they will have jobs to return to. The airline industry was allocated $58 billion to maintain and support the field by providing coverage for employee benefits and wages, and commercial and cargo air services [6].

The healthcare community will also receive much needed aid. Hospitals treating COVID-19 will receive $100 billion, while $4.3 billion will be allocated to the CDC, and $16.4 billion will go towards the Strategic National Stockpile to increase the availability of critical medical supplies, like ventilators and masks. To assist in identifying a treatment for the virus, the bill designates $11 billion towards developing effective treatments and a potential vaccine, and $80 million to the FDA to accelerate the approval of new drugs for treatment [7].

For state and local governments, the bill apportions $150 billion in emergency aid for administrations in need of more funds to respond to the increase in COVID-19 cases. A total of $13 billion is assigned to K-12 schools, and $14 billion for post-secondary education. For college students and recent graduates with federal student loan debt, all interest and loan payments are postponed through the end of September. 

Another large area targeted in the CARES Act is food accessibility, with $450 million to be sent to food banks and community centers and $15.5 billion for expected new applications to SNAP. Schools will also be granted $8.8 billion to continue to provide meals for students [8].


Although The CARES Act passed only a week ago, legislators are already working towards passing another bill that addresses medical leave, workers protection, and providing more funding for local governments to respond accordingly. To find out more about the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the full bill is available to read at this link










written by: Saarah Amer