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. Older adults, individuals with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems, and healthcare workers are at increased risk for contracting the disease and experiencing its harmful effects. Many seniors who rely on congregate and home-delivered meals have the risk factors that make them among the most vulnerable to this new infectious disease. For that reason, addressing this emerging 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 this evolving crisis, the federal government has enacted a series of four emergency relief bills, with an additional COVID-19 package expected to be passed in the coming months. The legislative packages were needed to provide critical funding and support to individuals, programs and industries impacted by the virus, and included a combined $750 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
Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act: Congress passed this first emergency relief bill on March 5 nearly unanimously in both chambers and 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 response the COVID-19 crisis, including aid for state and local health agencies, development of vaccine and treatments for the disease, 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 after passing with broad bipartisan support. The bill includes 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 Nutrition Services and $10 million for Title VI Native American nutrition services. Additionally, FFCRA ensures 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 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 provides over $2 trillion in additional emergency funding including $955 million for programs provided through the Administration for Community Living (ACL), with $480 million in emergency supplemental funding designated for OAA congregate and home-delivered meals and $20 million for Title VI Native American nutrition services. 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 policies include transfer of funds of up to 100 percent between congregate and home-delivered meal programs, allowing ACL to waive temporarily – defined as through the duration of the public health emergency – the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) nutrition requirements for OAA meals and 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 appropriated an additional $484 billion in supplemental emergency funding for 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 and to scale up COVID-19 testing.
On June 3, Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (H.R. 7010), legislation to amend the PPP to make the program more flexible for small business loan recipients by loosening the current restrictions on how the funds much be used to meet the requirements for forgiveness. Specifically, it extends the timeframe in which the loan must be spent from 8 to 24 weeks and increases the amount of funds that can be spent on non-payroll items, such as rent or utilities, from 25 percent of the loan to 40 percent.
Future Federal Response Packages
Since enactment of the fourth “interim” COVID-19 response bill, consensus among lawmakers, advocates, key industries affected by the pandemic and other stakeholders is growing stronger that additional emergency aid packages are needed to continue mitigating the economic and health effects of the pandemic. However, the scale and scope of such relief legislation has not been agreed upon in Congress.
Wanting quick action on broad and comprehensive relief legislation following the interim coronavirus bill, House Democrats introduced a $3 trillion aid package, which passed on May 15 with almost no Republican support (208-199). The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800) – included a number of provisions for which we have advocated including additional support for the Aging Network and older adults. Notable policies include $20 million in additional funding for OAA congregate and home-delivered meals; supplemental funding for key block grants and programs that support essential services in the community; an increase in SNAP benefits; dedicated funding for Medicaid Home- and Community-based services (HCBS); and additional provisions that support nonprofits and voter access and safety initiatives for upcoming elections.
However, the Senate has not yet acted on the HEROES Act or their own version of the next coronavirus response bill, indicating at times that another bill may not even be needed. However, bipartisan agreement appears to be growing stronger for another aid package, and Senate Majority Leader McConnell and other Republican Senators have indicated they would work on such legislation in the late June and early July, but perhaps not considering any legislation until after the July 4th recess period. The scope of the Senate bill will be narrower in scope than the House-passed HEROES Act, with current partisan sticking points including the overall cost of the bill.
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
The budget and appropriations process for the upcoming fiscal year began on February 10, with the release of the President’s Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget proposal, A Budget for America’s Future.
Though Congress is ultimately responsible for determining funding for the federal government through 12 annual appropriations bills, the President’s budget is an opportunity for the Administration to message its policy priorities and how it would like to see taxpayer dollars spent. Like previous proposals from the current Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) budget summary requested level funding for the OAA Nutrition Program; an amount of $937 million for FY21.
Even as the federal government continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the annual appropriations process is also moving forward. The table below outlines the current and proposed funding levels for several federal programs that impact Meals on Wheels programs and the Aging Network, and we will continue to keep it updated as the House and Senate release their proposed FY21 funding levels in the coming weeks.
For FY21, Meals on Wheels America is requesting $1,028,753,000 for the OAA Nutrition Program at in FY21 – a $92 million (10 percent) increase above FY20 levels. This request reflects the total proposed funding level for the program included in the OAA reauthorization law – the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 (P.L. 116-131) and acknowledges the immense need for services resulting from coronavirus response. In our joint advocacy letters Committees with National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP), we are also asking the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for a minimum 20 percent funding increase for Title VI Native American Nutrition Services.
Once the Appropriations Subcommittees – including the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over OAA programs – write and introduce their respective spending bills, they will hold various markups to debate, modify and vote on these bills before being approved by the full Appropriations Committee. Due to the spread of COVID-19, the timeline of the FY21 appropriations process has been uncertain given changes to voting procedures and legislative schedules since the onset of the pandemic.
However, Appropriations Committee leaders in both chambers have indicated tentative plans to begin their Committee markups of their respective FY21 spending proposals in July. House Appropriations Chairwoman Lowey announced that markups are to begin in early July, with the goal of bringing all 12 spending bills to the floor for votes during the weeks of July 20 and 27. Senate leaders, including Appropriations Chairman Shelby, have reported that they tentatively plan to mark-up their FY21 appropriations bills in Committee during the third week of July.
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: