Voices’ Blog

Easing Families’ Financial Burdens through Federal Response to COVID-19

Posted:  -  By: Emily Griffey

On March 18, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides relief to health care systems, additional paid sick leave, family leave and unemployment benefits.  

On March 26, the Senate passed the CARES Stimulus package that provides economic stimulus payments to families and additional unemployment benefits. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill on Friday, March 27th 

Some key features of recent legislation that will impact families include: 

  • Cash payments to all tax filers: All families earning under $199,000 per year would receive a stimulus check or direct cash payment. These payments would be generated to all who filed taxes in 2018 as direct deposits.  

Calculate what your family will likely receive: Washington Post Calculator 

While this cash assistance is notable to alleviate immediate pressures and stimulate the economy, it is important to highlight , for example, that $1,200 will cover more expenses in Farmville than it will in Fairfax.   

  • Expanded paid sick days and paid family leave: The first federal response package included an expansion of federally mandated paid sick and family leave, which would apply to anyone ill due to Coronavirus, caring for family members, or caring for children when schools have closed due to Coronavirus. Full-time workers would get up to two weeks of paid leave, and part-time workers would get leave equal to the number of hours they work on average over a two-week period. Payments would be capped at $511 a day for those who are sick with the virus or seeking care, and $200 a day for those caring for a sick family member or children. 

While these paid leave expansions are commendable, there are notable exceptions. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from these requirements.  

  • Expanded unemployment benefits: Federal and state officials have made adjustments to unemployment insurance procedures to help families. The CARES Act Stimulus bill expands unemployment insurance from three to four months, and it provides temporary unemployment compensation of $600 per week, which is in addition to and the same time as regular state and federal UI benefits. It also allows part-time, self-employed and gig economy workers to have access to unemployment benefits. The Governor has acted to fast-track response time and waive requirements around job search.  

Anyone that has lost a job or experienced a reduction in wages should contact the Virginia Employment Commission, even if self-employed.  

Additional resources are available for: 

  • Food/nutrition: to find free food distribution sites organized by local school districts and other community organizations, text FOOD or COMIDA to 877-877. For food assistance program eligibility information and to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), visit CommonHelp. If you are pregnant or are caring for a child under age 5, you may also be eligible for WIC. You can learn about WIC eligibility here and apply online here. 
  •  Child care and health insurance coverage: to determine if you are eligible for financial assistance for child care and health insurance coverage through Medicaid or FAMIS visit CommonHelp. 
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