Emergency Funding for COVID-19 Response
The senior population is particularly at-risk to the dangers of the ongoing coronavirus (i.e., COVID-19) crisis, including having increased risk for contracting the disease and experiencing harmful health and economic effects. Many older adults who rely on congregate and home-delivered meals have additional risk factors that make them particularly vulnerable. For that reason, addressing this public health threat and helping senior nutrition programs navigate the quickly changing landscape of information and resources on the COVID-19 pandemic is currently one of our top priorities.
Due to the widespread impact of the pandemic, the federal government has thus far enacted a series of five emergency relief packages. The legislation has been necessary to respond to the health and economic crisis and has provided critical funding and support to individuals, programs and industries impacted by the virus including a combined $925 million in emergency supplemental funding for Older Americans Act (OAA) Congregate, Home-delivered, and Native American Nutrition Services. The four emergency relief bills that have become law to date include the:
- Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, P.L. 116-123 | Summary
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act, P.L. 116-127| Summary
- Coronavirus Aide, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, P.L. 116-136 | Summary
- Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, P.L. 116-139 | Summary
- Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, P.L. 116-260 | Summary
Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act: Congress passed the first emergency relief bill on March 5, 2020 nearly unanimously in both chambers, and it was signed into law by the President (i.e., enacted) the following day. This legislation provided $8.3 billion in federal funding to support activities to help respond to the COVID-19 crisis, including aid for state and local health agencies, development of vaccine and treatments, and other emergency funding initiatives for businesses to help ease associated economic burdens.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA): The second response package became law on March 18, 2020, passing Congress with broad bipartisan support. The bill included provisions to protect and expand federal nutrition and food assistance programs – including $240 million in emergency supplemental funding for Older Americans Act (OAA) congregate and home-delivered meals and $10 million for Title VI Native American Nutrition Services. Additionally, FFCRA ensured free coronavirus testing, emergency paid leave from work and funding for health and insurance programs needed to address the health and economic challenges initiated by the pandemic.
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act: The third and largest bipartisan relief bill to date passed unanimously in both chambers – the Senate first passed the package by a roll call vote (96-0) followed by passage in the House by voice vote – and was signed into law on March 27. The CARES Act provided over $2 trillion in additional emergency funding including $955 million for the Administration for Community Living (ACL), with $820 for OAA programs. Within OAA programs, $480 million in emergency supplemental funding was designated for Title III-C congregate and home-delivered meals and $20 million for Native American Nutrition Services under Title VI. Other key programs that received emergency funding to continue providing essential services to seniors and low-income families include: $1 billion for the Community Services Block Grants (CSBG); $5 billion for the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG); and $900 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
The CARES Act also included several provisions aimed at supporting senior nutrition providers as they adapt their operations to meet the changing landscape and increasing demand for meals. These provisions are temporary, defined as through the duration of the public health emergency and include:
- Transfer of funds of up to 100 percent between congregate and home-delivered meal programs
- Allowing ACL to waive the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) nutrition requirements for OAA meals
- The expansion of the homebound eligibility definition to include older adults who are confined to their homes due to COVID-19
Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act: The fourth COVID-19 response package enacted on April 24, 2020 appropriated an additional $484 billion in supplemental emergency funding for several programs passed in the earlier packages. Widely considered an “interim” bill, this measure was primarily needed to replenish funds for the Paycheck Protection Program, an emergency loan program for small businesses and nonprofits that was established by the CARES Act in March to help keep employees on payroll during the economic crisis related to COVID-19. The bill also included other disaster relief and emergency grants, as well as additional funding for hospitals and healthcare providers to scale up COVID-19 testing. The program was amended (H.R. 7010) later in June to make it more flexible for small business loan recipients by loosening the current restrictions on how the funds must be used to meet the requirements for forgiveness.
Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021: The fifth coronavirus relief package was enacted in December following months of stalled progress and negotiations. Congress passed this compromise legislation on December 21 and it was signed into law on December 27. The package combined all FY21 appropriations bill with a $900 billion emergency COVID-19 relief bill (Division M) that includes $175 million in additional funding for the OAA Nutrition Program – specifically, $168 million for Title III-C and $7 million for Native American Nutrition Services. It also extends the temporary OAA nutrition services waivers that were originally passed in the CARES Act through FY 2021; increases monthly SNAP benefits for six months for all recipients; provides $13 million in funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP); provides direct stimulus payments of $600 to eligible individuals and families; expands federal unemployment insurance, and includes funding for vaccine developments, healthcare providers, broadband, education, childcare, transit and rental assistance, and more.
Future Federal Response Packages
The urgency to provide additional federal pandemic relief remains and continues to grow, especially as states and localities are struggling to combat the continuing health and economic fallouts from the pandemic. An increasing number of federally supported programs are facing the need for more emergency funding, and millions of individuals and families are having difficulties affording basic living and health needs like food and rent. As a new Congress and Administration begin, additional targeted COVID-19 response proposals and legislation will likely be considered.
For more information on the policies and our advocacy around the COVID-19 response, reference these additional resources below:
For additional information and resources on the Meals on Wheels America’s COVID-19 response, please visit our primary resource page in Member Central or use our public COVID-19 page.
Fiscal Year 2021
Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) were also completed at year end of 2020. On December 21, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (P.L. 116-260) – a legislative package containing all 12 annual spending bills combined with a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill. The bill was signed into law on December 27, nearly three months after the fiscal new year began. Because no regular FY21 spending bills were signed into law before October 1, 2020, several short-term spending bills were needed to keep the government open and prevent a lapse in funding between then and the enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act.
The FY 2021 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill, which funds OAA programs and services, was also included in this package. For FY21 (now, through September 30, 2021), the OAA Nutrition Program will receive an increase of $15 million, bringing total funding to $951,753,000. Other federal funding sources that support your programs and the seniors you serve also saw increases or level funding, as outlined in the table below:
We will continue to keep you updated on the status of the budget and appropriations process as well as the work we are doing to advocate for strong federal funding to benefit your programs!
For more information about current federal funding efforts, reference these additional resources and statements below: