I know that Alaskans are concerned about the unfolding COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. We are committed to providing you with the most up-to-date information about the virus, including information about how to protect yourself and answers to questions about how prevention efforts could affect day-to-day life.
The COVID-19 coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person-to-person. On January 30, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern. On January 31, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s health care community in responding to COVID-19.
The U.S. government is focused on continuing its containment efforts, ramping up resources to support state and local authorities, supporting the health care professionals on the front lines, and helping families and small businesses that are struggling with the economic consequences of the pandemic. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Congress has passed and the President has signed three main legislative packages to respond to the crisis:
- PHASE 1: The Coronavirus Preparedness & Response Supplemental Appropriations Act
This legislation is a $8.3 billion funding package to strengthen the federal response to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus outbreak. These funds are being used to bolster response and prevention efforts, including deploying resources for patient monitoring, lab testing, acquisition of test kits, securing protective equipment, and conducting research, development, and acquisition of a vaccine. Importantly, this bipartisan package will allocate money to state, local and tribal health providers, including our many community health centers.
- PHASE 2: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act
This bill provided $105 billion aimed at bolstering the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help mitigate the health and economic impacts of the outbreak by ensuring that testing is free for Americans, paid sick leave as well as family and medical leave is available, enhancing unemployment insurance to help workers, and ensuring that students, seniors, and low-income households can continue to access nutrition assistance.
- PHASE 3: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
The CARES Act includes approximately $2 trillion, and is focused on 4 key areas: putting cash directly in the hands of hurting families in Alaska and throughout the country; delivering rapid relief to the small businesses that are being crushed by this pandemic and having to lay off their workers; stabilizing key sectors of the economy experiencing significant stress in order to avoid massive layoffs that are now very quickly coming on the horizon and starting to happen in America; and sending a surge of new resources to medical professionals, hospitals, and community hospitals that are on the frontlines.
Below is more information and guidance on the CARES Act resources being made available to Alaskans, as well as a series of links to reputable sources of information about the virus, travel advisories, and other relevant topics. If you have related concerns or questions, do not hesitate to reach out to my team in Alaska at 907.271.5915.
CARES Act (Phase III)
On March 25, the Senate unanimously passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion economic aid package to get cash into the hands of Alaskans struggling to make ends meet; provide rapid relief for small businesses and workers; stabilize key sectors of the economy to avoid massive layoffs; and surging unprecedented resources to medical professionals on the front lines. Below are details for Alaskans, families, businesses and non-profits looking to access the relief made available by the CARES Act.
Cash in the Hands of Alaskans
Checks to Individuals and Families
The CARES Act provides a $1,200 check for individuals ($2,400 for couples), plus $500 for each child. The benefit is gradually phased out for individuals making between $75,000-$99,000 per year, heads of household making between $112,500-$146,500, and joint filers making between $150,000-$198,000 respectively.
Tax Relief for Individuals
The IRS and the Treasury Department have deferred the filing and payment date for federal income taxes until July 15. Taxpayers have an extra 90 days to file and pay without interest or penalties. This includes a deferral for individual, corporate, partnership, S-corp, and self-employed income.
Student Loan Relief
The CARES Act defers payment of all student loans, principal and interest, for six months.
Expanded Unemployment Insurance
The CARES Act provides $250 billion in expanded unemployment insurance to be delivered through state unemployment offices. Benefits are expanded to individuals who are unable to work due to the coronavirus. Importantly, the bill also expands benefits to those who are traditionally not eligible, such as the self-employed, those with limited work history, and independent contractors, including Alaska’s fishermen.
- IRS: "Get my payment" application
- IRS: Tool for non-tax-filers to receive economic impact payments
- UPDATE: Social Security beneficiaries to receive an Economic Impact Payment without a return
- U.S. Department of Labor: Unemployment Insurance Relief
- Alaska Department of Labor: COVID-19 relief information
Rapid Relief for Alaska’s Small Businesses
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
The PPP offers $350 billion in low-interest loans to small businesses, implemented through the Small Business Administration’s flagship 7(a) program and local Alaska banks and credit unions. These loans have a maximum of $10 million, are 100% federally guaranteed, and forgivable for the 8-week period after origination to the extent they are used for certain qualified expenses—including payroll, family or sick leave, health care benefit payments, retirement payments, mortgage interest, rent, utilities. The calculation of the loan amount for each borrower is equal to 2.5 times the average monthly wages from the previous year subject to the $10 million cap.
The amount forgiven will be reduced proportionally by any reductions in an employer’s payroll during the 8-week forgiveness period, in order to provide the maximum incentive for businesses to retain their workers. Importantly, for those small businesses that have already been forced to lay off workers, the CARES Act allows them 30 days from enactment for the borrower to return to February 15 payroll levels without a forgiveness penalty.
At the end of the 8-week forgiveness period, the borrower will provide to the lender documentation that verifies their qualified forgivable expense payments. The lender then reports their expected loan forgiveness amount for a loan or pool of loans to the SBA, and the SBA will purchase that amount of the loan from the lender.
Eligible small businesses for the PPP benefit are those with less than 500 employees or otherwise considered as a “small business concern” according to the SBA. Eligibility is also expanded to include the self-employed, sole-proprietors, certain non-profits, and tribal businesses.
The goal of the PPP is to maintain the employer-employee relationship, enabling small businesses and the economy to bounce back faster once the pandemic has passed.
Expedited Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)
On March 21, Alaska was approved for the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs), which provide low-interest loans to small businesses suffering economic injury as a result of the coronavirus. These loans are issued at a maximum of $2 million and can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.
The CARES Act expands this EIDL program with an additional $10 billion in appropriations, and by making sole-proprietors, independent contractors, cooperatives, and tribal businesses eligible.
Under the CARES Act, an eligible entity that has applied for an EIDL loan can request an advance of up to $10,000 which the SBA must distribute within 3 days. This advance does not have to be repaid, even if the borrower is denied for the EIDL. This is essentially a small, one-time grant to eligible small businesses. Importantly, an EIDL may also be refinanced into the forgivable PPP once a borrower is approved, and the $10,000 grant would be deducted from the amount forgiven.
Income and Payroll Tax Relief
Payroll taxes can be deferred until the end of the year for entities that do not participate in the Paycheck Protection Program. Half of the deferred amount would be due in 2021, with the other half due in 2022. The IRS and the Treasury Department have deferred the filing and payment date for federal income taxes until July 15, including for corporate, partnership, and S-corp income.
Support for Alaska’s Fishermen
In addition to the Paycheck Protection Program and the expanded unemployment insurance, both of which are available to Alaska’s fishermen, the CARES Act also appropriates $300 million in direct assistance for commercial, charter, and subsistence fishermen, processors, fishery dependent businesses and coastal communities. This assistance is structured similar to fishery disaster payments, but the delivery of the funds will be quicker by allowing the money to be awarded on a rolling basis, even while a season is still underway, and forgoing the usual requirement for the Governor to declare a disaster.
Support for Non-Profits
Certain non-profits [501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) veterans organizations] with less than 500 employees are eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program. However, these entities are subject to SBA’s affiliation rules, meaning, in many cases, a large parent organization will be disqualifying.
The CARES Act specifies that larger non-profits be included in the mid-sized business Federal Reserve lending facility for entities with between 500 and 10,000 employees, which I will describe in more detail later.
To encourage continued charitable giving to non-profits, the CARES Act allows taxpayers who take the standard deduction and do not itemize to take a charitable deduction up to $300; suspends the limit for charitable deductions for taxpayers who do itemize, and; increases the corporate limitation on charitable giving to 25% of taxable income.
Finally, the CARES Act also appropriates funds for various nutrition programs, $45 million for family violence shelters, $2 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and $25 million for runaway and homeless youth programs.
- Treasury Department: CARES Act main page
- Treasury Department: Assistance for small businesses
- Treasury Department: Paycheck Protection Program application form
- Treasury Department: Paycheck Protection Program FAQs
- Small Business Administration: Coronavirus relief options
- Small Business Administration: Directory of Participating Lenders
- Small Business Administration: FAQs for Faith-based organizations
- Senate Small Business Committee: Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed Act
- IRS: CARES Act Employee Retention Credit FAQs
Stabilizing Key Sectors of the Economy
The CARES Act provides $500 billion to the U.S. Treasury Exchange Stabilization Fund for direct loans from Treasury to specific sectors of the economy, and loans, loan guarantees, and other investments through Federal Reserve lending facilities to other large and mid-sized businesses, as well as state and local governments. Eligible businesses are: “United States business that have not otherwise received adequate economic relief in the form of loans or loan guarantees provided under the PPP section of the CARES Act.”
Direct Loans from the U.S. Treasury
The U.S. Department of the Treasury can make loans up to $25 billion for passenger air carriers; up to $4 billion for cargo air carriers; and up to $17 billion for “businesses critical to maintaining national security.” Many of Alaska’s small, Part 135 carriers are eligible for this direct lending.
The legislation requires the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to take into consideration the air transportation needs of small and remote communities and the needs of health care and pharmaceutical supply chains.
Federal Reserve Lending Facilities for Other Businesses, States, and Municipalities
The remaining $454 billion going to fund the Federal Reserve’s 13(3) authority through special lending facilities that will be available to eligible businesses, states, and municipalities.
These lending facilities can purchase interests directly, in the secondary market, or make direct loans in order to provide much-needed liquidity and stabilization to these markets.
They must be “broad based,” meaning “designed for the purpose of providing liquidity to an identifiable market or sector of the financial system” and not designed to assist individual failing entities (Federal Reserve rules clarify that a lending facility where more than 5 entities are eligible qualifies as “broad based”).
A participant must not be able to secure adequate credit elsewhere, and a participant must not be insolvent. Because the Fed expects that borrowers will pay them back, the Fed can lend and invest more than just the dollar amount. The Treasury estimates that this $454 billion infusion can be leveraged into over $4 trillion.
The CARES Act establishes safeguards for this relief, including: limitations on stock repurchases, workforce reduction, and executive compensation; as well as established a congressionally-appointed oversight committee and a designated inspector general.
Additionally, to prevent conflicts of interest, companies may not receive relief under this section if certain members of the administration, members of Congress, or their families own more than 20% of the company.
- Treasury Department: CARES Act main page
- Treasury Department: Assistance for state and local governments
- Minimum Requirements for Loans to Air Carriers and Elligible Businesses
- Application Procedure for Payroll Support to Air Carriers and Contractors
- U.S. Senate Banking Committee Summary of Title IV Lending Programs
Surge of Funding for States, Tribes, Hospitals, Community Health Centers, and Medical Professionals
A Surge in Funding for States, Cities, and Municipalities
The coronavirus has dramatically impacted the financial wherewithal of our state and local communities. A major portion of the CARES Act provides $150 billion in funding for these entities. Generally, this is distributed according to per capita population, however, a minimum payment of $1.25 billion is required per state. Alaska will receive around $1.3 billion.
A Massive Surge of Resources for Hospitals, Community Health Centers, and Medical Professionals on the Front Lines
The CARES Act provides $150 billion to ensure health care providers and hospitals continue to receive the support they need for COVID-19-related expenses and lost revenue, as well as $1.32 billion in additional funding for community health centers. The bill expands access to telehealth services provided by community health centers, and makes changes to Medicare to bolster our health system. Additionally, the bill addresses liability issues to assist with supply shortages for critical equipment, such as medical masks, and encourages the development and testing of new vaccines and treatments.
$8 Billion Stabilization Fund for Tribes
The CARES Act allocates $1.03 billion for the Indian Health Services, $450 million of which goes directly to tribal health entities.
There is also $1.5 billion for the Centers for Disease Control’s state and local preparedness grants, which includes a provision that allocates no less than $125 million of these funds to tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian Health organizations, or health services provided to tribes.
- Senate HELP Committee: CARES Act overview
- Senate HELP Committee: Health coverage options during COVID-19 pandemic
- Senate Finance Committee: CARES Act Medicare, Medicaid and health section-by-section
- Senate Finance Committee: Medicare accelerated payments to providers FAQs
- Senate Finance Committee: Rural Health Care Resources in the CARES Act
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: Medicare Telehealth FAQs
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: Coverage and payment related to COVID-19
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Phase II)
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, H.R. 6201, was signed into law on March 18, 2020. The bill provides $105 billion aimed at bolstering the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help mitigate the health and economic impacts of the outbreak by ensuring that testing is free for Americans, paid sick leave as well as family and medical leave is available, enhancing unemployment insurance to help workers, and ensuring that students, seniors, and low-income households can continue to access nutrition assistance.
- Department of Labor: Families First bill frequently asked questions
- Department of Labor: Employer paid leave requirements
- Department of Labor: Employee paid leave rights
30 Days to Slow the Spread
On March 16, 2020, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the Centers for Disease Control announced a "15 Days to Slow the Spread" initiative with guidelines for all Americans to follow to help arrest the growth of the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 29, 2020, President Trump indicated those guidelines would be extended for an additional 30 days through the end of April.
Click here for higher resolution version of the initiative flyer.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does the COVID-19 Coronavirus spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms, and it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. But U.S. health officials do not believe either scenario is the main way the virus spreads.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
For a typical patient, a fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath appear within 2-14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
- If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your health care provider immediately.
- Stay home except to get medical care
- Call ahead before visiting your doctor
- Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
- Wear a facemask if you are sick
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Clean your hands often
- Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday
- Monitor your symptoms
Press Updates from Senator Sullivan
Alaska Delegation Welcomes CARES Act Seasonal-Worker Rule Fix - April 27, 2020
Senate Passes Additional Coronavirus Relief Legislation - April 21, 2020
Sullivan, Carper Applaud New NIH Effort to Accelerate Treatment, Vaccine “Manhattan Project” - April 17, 2020
Alaska Delegation Welcomes Nearly $16 Million in Health and Human Services CARES Act Grants - April 8, 2020
OP-ED: U.S. senators, congressman address COVID-19 pandemic - March 27, 2020
Alaska Delegation Applauds HHS Grants to Prevent and Combat COVID-19 - March 26, 2020
Major Economic Relief Package Passes Senate - March 25, 2020
Sullivan Lauds Trump Administration Delay of REAL ID Deadline - March 24, 2020
Senators Call for Task Forces to Streamline Vaccine Development, Medical Supply Chain - March 24, 2020
Sullivan, Murkowski Urge Secretary of Commerce to Investigate Russia and Saudi Arabia Excessive Dumping in Oil Markets - March 20, 2020
Senate Passes Economic Stimulus Package for COVID-19 Outbreak - March 18, 2020
Sullivan Urges Dept. of Energy to Fill Strategic Petroleum Reserve with American Oil - March 16, 2020
U.S. Senators Urge Saudis to Stabilize the Global Energy Market - March 16, 2020
Sullivan Statement on the First Reported Coronavirus Case in Alaska - March 12, 2020
Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Passes Senate - March 5, 2020
CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (CDC)
- CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- CDC’s Prepare Your Health for emergencies
- Frequently Asked Questions
- About Coronavirus Disease 2019
- Updated CDC Guidance:
STATE OF ALASKA RESOURCES
- Alaska DHSS Coronavirus webpage
- DHSS: What can Alaskans do to prepare for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?
- State Department Travel Advisories
- CDC Travel Advisories
- International Travel Information
- Country-Specific COVID-19 Information (State Department)
- Information for Americans Returning from Overseas Restricted Travel Zones
- Plan Ahead for Disasters (Department of Homeland Security)
- World Health Organization Information and Guidance
- Public Health Emergency - Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH
- Department of Defense
- Department of State
- FDA COVID-19 Resources
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services – Information for Healthcare Facilities
- Public Health Emergency - Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response