COVID-19 Legislation and Policy

COVID-19 Legislation and Policy

COVID-19 Legislation: An Update on Provisions Passed to Date

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 15, 2020 at 3:00 pm PST

Phase One

Phase One was an $8.3 billion bill (H.R. 6074) for coronavirus vaccine research and development that was passed on March 4, 2020. To learn more, see this summary. You can also see a helpful report from the Congressional Research Service here.

Phase Two

H.R. 6201, the bill referred to as “Phase 2,” passed the Senate and was signed into law on March 18, by a 90-8 vote. The bill includes paid sick leave, tax credits, and free COVID-19 testing; expands food assistance and unemployment benefits; and increases Medicaid funding.

As it relates to food and nutrition issues, the bill includes the following:

  • $500 million in food aid under Women Infants and Children (WIC) for pregnant women or women with children who, because of this health crisis, are laid off or lose their employment.
  • $250 million for the Senior Nutrition Program for meal delivery to low-income seniors.
  • $400 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to support food purchases and distribution to food banks. In addition, it also suspends work requirements on SNAP and also allows states to use SNAP funds for families with kids who qualify for free and reduced school meals.

These programs do not address the needs in every community. For example, Tribal communities are not covered by TEFAP unless they go through the state and get approved or have a Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) site. The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative is calling for tribal access to TEFAP. To learn more, click here.

To learn more, see this summary. In addition, the Congressional Research Service overview can be found here.

Phase Three

H.R. 748: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – CARES Act is the $2 trillion relief package passed and signed into law in early April.

A big win for local and regional food producers includes the $9.5 billion for specialty crops, local and regional food producers, dairy and livestock. We are waiting to see how USDA will distribute those funds across those different producer categories. SAFSF sent a sign-on letter from 60 philanthropic organizations, including foundations, affinity groups and regranting organizations, urging USDA to ensure local and regional market producers were compensated appropriately for their loss.

Farmers are also included in the Paycheck Protection Program through the Small Business Administration (SBA), but not the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), also through SBA. Congressional members are urging SBA to ensure farmers may also qualify for the EIDL.

The CARES Act also includes $100 million for Food Distribution on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).

Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Senator Debbie Stabenow, issued the following press release to detail how the relief package address food and agriculture issues. You can also find a summary from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition here.

For additional Congressional summaries and reports on the CARES Act:
Senate Appropriations Committee Summary
Senate Finance Committee Summary
House Appropriations Committee Summary
Congressional Research Service Report

What comes next? Phase Four?

While Congress attempted to pass an interim bill to add funding to provisions passed in the CARES Act, that effort stalled as Republicans and Democrats could not find common ground.

It is expected another round of relief legislation will move forward. What is unclear is the timeline. Stay tuned for more updates as we learn more in the coming days and weeks.

Please connect with the following national organizations who are leading advocacy work in relation to COVID-19 policy responses.

Food Research and Action Center
HEAL Food Alliance
Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative
National Family Farm Coalition
National Farm to School Network
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Young Farmers Coalition

Policy Research & Resources

For additional policy research and reports regarding COVID-19 legislation, global issues, public health, economic impacts on individuals, businesses and the US economy, see the Congressional Research Service – COVID-19 Resources and Reports

USDA created a COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide