Portman Column: Help for Ohio During an Extraordinary Crisis
Last week, the Senate passed and the president signed into law an unprecedented bipartisan rescue package called the CARES Act that devotes $2 trillion towards helping the United States weather the storm of the coronavirus pandemic. Here in Ohio, where families, businesses, and our health system are all struggling to respond the disease, this new law helps us in a number of different ways.
First, the CARES Act helps Ohioans and their families manage the economic free fall we’re in because of this disease. The IRS will be sending payments of $1,200 for individuals making less than $75,000 per year, while couples making less than $150,000 per year will receive $2,400. In addition, families with children are eligible for an additional $500 per child. This means the average family of four will receiveapproximately $3,400 to help make ends meet in the coming weeks. Based on the latest information from the IRS, if you filed income taxes in 2018 or 2019, these payments are likely to be automatically deposited in your account within the next couple of weeks. For others, including seniors on social security who may not have other income, payments may take a little longer.
For Ohioans who have unfortunately already been laid off as a result of this crisis, the CARES Act helps with a four-month increase in unemployment insurance benefits. Not only will the amount per week be increased, but for the first time, most self-employed individuals, government workers, and nonprofit employees will be able to qualify for these benefits.
Second, the CARES Act helps Ohio businesses, particularly small businesses, keep their employees. No one wants to have their hard-working employees be laid off or furloughed through no fault of their own, and many individuals rely on their job for their health care and their retirement savings. The CARES Act allows small businesses to apply for up to $10 million in Small Business Administration loans that don’t have to be paid back if they’re used on payroll, rent, mortgages, or utilities so small business owners don’t have to worry about keeping folks on payroll. Also included is an employee retention tax credit, which will give businesses of all sizes an alternative incentive to keep their employees.
In addition, the package provides more than $500 billion in immediate tax relief for employers of all sizes, as well as a $450 billion loan fund that gives medium and large businesses access to loans if they are not eligible for the SBA program. The combination of these programs will help employers stay afloat and quicken the pace of recovery once we’ve solved this health care crisis.
Finally, and most importantly, the CARES Act will provide much-needed resources for our health care system, because making progress on the coronavirus is the key to getting our country back up and running. Our hospitals are under tremendous stress, but help is on the way with $150 billion in resources for the nation’s health care system, resources that will provide protective equipment for health care workers and help us quickly develop life-saving antiviral therapies for coronavirus. There is also $4.3 billion in funding provided for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand our ability to both test for and track the disease.
By having accessible testing, we will be able to better identify those who have tested positive so we can, monitor, and ultimately halt the spread of the virus. To accomplish this goal, this law provides funding to track the virus at the regional level and send that data to the CDC. We need the data. Only as the public starts to see the daily number of new cases decline can we begin to reopen the doors of our businesses and schools based on the advice of medical experts.
The CARES Act is providing Ohio with a lot of support as we navigate this unprecedented time in our history. Now, what we all must do is continue to follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the Ohio Department of Health to help minimize the spread of the virus. Social distancing, practicing good hygiene, staying at home — these are all working. The coronavirus pandemic is challenging all of us to step up and do our part. I am confident we will, and, together, we will get through this.
I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure we defeat this virus. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office at portman.senate.gov if you need assistance during this trying time.