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Federal Fiscal Relief and COVID-19

Federal Fiscal Relief and COVID-19: Implications for Californians

California Budget and Policy Center

First published April 2020

In recent weeks, in response to the rapid spread of COVID-19, the ensuing public health crisis, and heightened concerns about the economic implications of the crisis, federal leaders enacted three fiscal relief packages intended to provide support for public health responses; economic assistance for affected workers, businesses, and households; and fiscal relief for state, local, and tribal governments.

The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act was signed into law on March 6, 2020 and includes $8.3 billion for federal, state, local, and community public health response efforts and loans for affected small businesses.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law on March 18, 2020 and includes nearly $200 billion for paid sick and family leave provisions, nutrition and food assistance, administrative funding to states for unemployment insurance, fiscal relief and expansion options for state Medicaid systems, and coverage provisions for COVID-19 testing.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020 and provides the largest amount of fiscal relief to date – approximately $2 trillion. The CARES Act includes one-time cash rebates for low- and middle-income households; additional support for unemployment benefits; loans for small businesses; direct funding for states, local governments, and tribal communities; funds changes to food assistance in the Families First legislation; an array of additional health care supports; and some additional support for human services, housing and homelessness, and student debt relief. While this analysis will focus on the relief and assistance summarized above, the CARES Act also includes $500 billion in loans and other investment for businesses and a series of tax provisions that primarily will primarily benefit large corporations and higher-income households.

These federal actions are significant and needed. At the same time, millions of Californians are experiencing threats to their health and economic security, and for those excluded from the federal fiscal relief efforts, the economic hardship and health risks are particularly critical. State, local, and tribal governments are confronting significant declines in revenues that will challenge their abilities to maintain and provide vital programs and supports. As federal and state leaders consider additional relief options, they should prioritize gaps and areas of need where there is significant underinvestment for people and communities that are experiencing the most severe effects of the economic crisis and health pandemic. This includes undocumented immigrants who are left out of relief efforts – which is significant for California, home to 3 million undocumented immigrants. Further federal relief should also prioritize additional fiscal aid to state, local, and tribal governments; additional support for public health responses and to ensure health care coverage; increased SNAP benefits in light of increasing demand for food assistance; and additional help for those struggling to pay rent and for people experiencing homelessness.

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