On March 27, the third supplemental response package to the COVID-19 pandemic called “The CARES Act” was signed into law. Provisions included in the bill total over $2.2 trillion.

In general, there are priorities contained in this legislation that were called for in our letter signed by 309 mayors requesting direct emergency assistance, a major disappointment related to eligibility levels for “Coronavirus Relief Funds”, significant new funding in existing programs that benefit cities and their residents, and issues that will need to be amended in a fourth supplemental that is already under discussion. In addition, a number of new programs have been established that will need careful attention as we work with the federal agencies responsible for their implementation.

Below is a summary of the key provisions in the bill that relate to city priority programs, and the people who live and work in our cities.

The federal agencies are working on implementation guidelines for each of the programs, and Conference staff are working to make sure that these guidelines are most helpful to mayors and the cities they lead. As these guidelines are finalized, we will post direct links to them through this resource center. In addition, the lead staff member is listed next to each program area if you want to reach out to raise any questions or concerns about what you are seeing in the federal guidance.

Coronavirus Relief Fund

Coronavirus Relief Fund: $150 billion is provided under a formula that divides the funding among the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the territories, and tribal governments. Within a state, only “units of local governments” with populations that exceed 500,000 are eligible to receive direct funding from the federal government as a portion of the State’s allocation. As the text reads, “the term ‘unit of local government’ means a county, municipality, town, township, village, parish, borough, or other unit of general government below the State level with a population that exceeds 500,000.”  

The United States Conference of Mayors and our members fought HARD with one day’s notice to get this threshold down to the CDBG eligible level of 50,000 population. We now will push for additional funding for cities in the next supplemental using a 50,000 CDBG population threshold.

The funds under this program can be used to cover only those costs of the State, Tribal government, or unit of local government that are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19); were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of the date of enactment of this section for the State or government; and were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020. 

Other Major Provisions and Grant Funding

There are many important provisions in this massive legislation – such as:

Unemployment Insurance: The bill significantly expands eligibility and benefit levels for Unemployment Insurance. Specifically the bill:

  • Allows part-time, self-employed, and gig economy workers to access UI benefits through self-attestation (“self-certification” in the bill).
  • Increases weekly benefits by $600 on top of state UI benefits.
  • Waives waiting weeks, so benefits flow faster.
  • Provides an additional 13 weeks of federally-funded unemployment insurance benefits.

Health Care Providers: The bill provides $100 billion to reimburse eligible health care providers for health care-related expenses or lost revenues directly attributable to COVID-19. Eligible providers are defined as public entities, Medicare- or Medicaid-enrolled suppliers and providers, and other for-profit and non-profit entities as specified by the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary. Funding will be on a rolling basis through “the most efficient payment systems practicable to provide emergency payment.”

New: On Friday, April 10th, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began awarding to certain health care providers an initial $30 billion for health care-related expenses or lost revenues directly attributable to COVID-19 included in the CARES Act.  Specifically, this initial distribution of relief funds will go to hospitals and providers across the United States that are enrolled in Medicare – and based on their share of 2019 Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursements.

To disperse these funds, HHS has partnered with UnitedHealth Group (UHG) and Providers will be paid via Automated Clearing House account information on file with UHG, UnitedHealthcare, or Optum Bank, or used for reimbursements from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).   For Providers who normally receive a paper check for reimbursement from CMS, they will receive a paper check in the mail for this relief payment within the next few weeks. Within 30 days of receiving the payment, providers must sign an attestation confirming receipt of the funds and agreeing to the terms and conditions of payment. The portal for signing the attestation will be open the week of April 13, 2020 and will be linked from hhs.gov/providerrelief.

Lastly, HHS and the Administration continue to finalize details on awarding the remaining $70 billion in relief funds.  In a statement, HHS indicated that these remaining funds will be “targeted distributions that will focus on providers in areas particularly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, rural providers, providers of services with lower shares of Medicare reimbursement or who predominantly serve the Medicaid population, and providers requesting reimbursement for the treatment of uninsured Americans.”  For additional details, please click HERE.  

Economic Impact Payments for Working Americans: Economic impact payments of $1,200 will be provided to individual recipients who make up to $75,000 AGI and heads of household making $112,500 AGI. $2,400 will be available to joint filers making up to $150,000 AGI. Eligible recipients will also be able to receive $500 for each child under 17. Those making over the above income thresholds may be eligible for smaller stimulus payments.  Click here for a more detailed outline on the Economic Impact Payments for mayors and residents. Go to IRS.gov/coronavirus to remain updated on the payment process.

Below are highlight of many of other key GRANT, LOAN AND REIMBURSEMENT FUNDING that was included in The CARES Act and relates directly to USCM city priority programs – organized by federal departments or agencies.

For More Information

Dave GattonDirector, Council on Metro Economies and the New American City

Department of Housing and Urban Development

CDBG: $5 billion to address COVID-19 (services for senior citizens, the homeless, and public health services). Of this, $2 billion will be distributed using the normal formula (70 percent to entitlement cities and counties, and 30 percent to the states). $1 billion will go to the states based on a formula developed by HUD for COVID-19; the states will allocate the funds to entitlement and non-entitlement communities. And $2 billion will go to the states and localities based on a formula to be developed by HUD in 30 days.

Homelessness Assistance Grants: $4 billion to state and local governments to address coronavirus among the homeless population. Additional waiver authority is provided to more effectively target the assistance to contain the spread of coronavirus among the homeless.

Tenant-Based Rental Assistance: $1.25 billion for the Section 8 voucher rental assistance program. The funding is for seniors, the disabled, and low-income working families, who will experience loss of income from the coronavirus.

Public Housing Operating Fund: $685 million for the additional operating assistance Public Housing Agencies will need to make up for reduced tenant payments, and to help contain the spread of coronavirus in public housing properties. 

Project-Based Rental Assistance: $1 billion to make up for reduced tenant payments as a result of coronavirus. 

Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA): $65 million to benefit low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

Section 202 Housing for the Elderly: $50 million to maintain housing stability and services for low-income seniors. Seniors are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities: $15 million to make up for reduced tenant payments as a result of coronavirus. 

Fair Housing: $2.5 million for additional fair housing enforcement.

Mortgage Relief for Federally-Backed Mortgages: The CARES Act offers two primary protections for borrowers with federally-backed mortgages, such as homeowners with FHA loans. Homeowners without federally-backed mortgages may qualify for mortgage relief that may have been enacted through their states.

The new provision in the CARES Act for federally backed mortgages includes:

  1. A Foreclosure Moratorium that suspends the foreclosure process for homeowners who fail to meet payments. The new law prohibits lenders or loan providers from foreclosing on you for 60 days beginning March 18, 2020. Lenders and servicers may not begin a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure or finalize a foreclosure judgement or sale during this time.
  2. A Right to Forbearance for homeowners experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the new law, homeowners have the right to request a forbearance for up to 180 days, by contacting their loan servicer. There will be no fees or penalties added to borrowers’ accounts for obtaining a forbearance, and no documentation required other than a claim to have a pandemic-related financial hardship. Click here for more information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,  as well as a brief video from the CFPB for borrowers.

For More Information

Gene LoweAssistant Executive Director for Community Development and Housing

Small Business Administration

Emergency EIDL Grants: $10 billion for SBA emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for small business operating costs.

Business Loans Program Account, CARES Act: $17 billion for SBA to cover 6 months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.

Paycheck Protection Program: $349 billion was made available to the Small Business Administration to launch the Payment Protection Program, designed to help small businesses and nonprofits cover payroll and additional costs for 8 weeks. The program offers SBA loans of up to $10 million, which can be forgiven if employers maintain employee wages for the entire 8-week period. Participants in the program must apply through designated SBA lenders. Click here for more information on how to applyClick here for the Treasury Payment Protection Program Fact Sheet.

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Gene LoweAssistant Executive Director for Community Development and Housing

Department of Commerece

Economic Development Administration: $1.5 billion to support economic development for states and communities suffering economic injury as a result of the coronavirus. The EDA plays a critical role in facilitating regional economic development efforts in communities across the nation. The additional funds will be used to provide financial assistance to help local communities build greater capacity for economic development based on the conditions and needs of local businesses. Funds will also be used  to assist local communities experiencing economic distress by helping them take control of their future, and position themselves for economic prosperity and resiliency. 

For More Information

Larry JonesAssistant Executive Director for Taxes and Budget

Department of Justice

Byrne Justice Grants: $850 million, to be awarded using FY 2019 formula allocations to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus. The legislation specifies that the funding shall not be subject to the restrictions and conditions imposed on awards in FY 2018 that forbid interference with federal law enforcement (the immigration-related conditions that Conference members are exempt from due to our thus far successful court challenge).

NEW: On Tuesday, March 31 the Bureau of Justice Assistance at Justice published the solicitation for the $750 million in Byrne JAG grants included in the CARES Act, the third Coronavirus supplemental enacted March 27.  These funds are allocated on a formula basis to states and directly to some local governments to support a wide range of public safety purposes.  A portion of the funding that goes to the states must be passed through to local governments.  In cities these funds generally go directly to police departments.

Under the supplemental, allowable projects and purchases include, but are not limited to, overtime, equipment (including law enforcement and medical personal protective equipment), hiring, supplies (such as gloves, masks, sanitizer), training, travel expenses, and addressing the medical needs of inmates in state, local, and tribal prisons, jails, and detention centers.  You can link to the application guidance and the allocations to your state and local governments within it HERE.  Applications are due May 29.

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Laura DeKoven WaxmanDirector of Public Safety

Department of Homeland Security

FEMA Disaster Relief Funding: $45 billion in total, with $25 billion of this to go to areas with major disaster declarations and $15 billion for all purposes allowed under the Stafford Act.  Every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and all but one of the other territories now have approved major disaster declarations.

Firefighter Grants: $100 million.

NEW: On April 23 FEMA announced it will accept applications for the FY 2020 Assistance to Firefighters Grant – COVID-19 Supplemental Program (AFG-S) from April 28 to May 15, 2020.  FEMA will competitively award AFG-S grants to fire departments, nonaffiliated emergency medical services organizations, and state fire training academies.  Activities under this solicitation are limited to the purchase of PPE and supplies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19 made since January 1, 2020.  Information is available here.

Emergency Management Performance Grants: $100 million.

NEW: On April 13 DHS and FEMA released the Notice of Funding Opportunity and Final Allocations for the $100 million in supplemental funding made available to the Emergency Management Performance Grant Program (EMPG) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The FY 2020 EMPG-S program assists states, local governments, tribes and territories with their public health and emergency management activities supporting the prevention of, preparation for and response to the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency. FEMA will award funding to support planning and operational readiness for COVID-19 preparedness and response, as well as the development of tools and strategies for prevention, preparedness, and response, and ensure ongoing communication and coordination among federal, state, local, tribal and territorial partners throughout the response.

Cities receive EMPG funding through their states. The deadline for states to submit their initial applications is April 27, 2020. Here is information on the funding opportunity.

For More Information

Laura DeKoven WaxmanDirector of Public Safety

Department of Transportation

Amtrak/Intercity Passenger Rail: $1 billion is provided in support of intercity passenger rail services, with operating assistance to Amtrak to cover losses related to the coronavirus and to states for their share of the costs of state-supported routes.

Federal Transit Administration: $25 billion is to be made available by FTA within 7 days to all transit providers, allocating grant funding in proportion to selected (FY 2020) program apportionments. All operating and capital costs related to the coronavirus are eligible, with the expressed goal of keeping all transit systems running. 

Federal Aviation Administration Grants: $9.9 billion is available in emergency assistance to commercial service airports through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), with a share of this additional AIP grant funding allocated to airports using new formula factors (e.g., outstanding debt service and unrestricted reserves) beyond passenger enplanements. This additional AIP grant funding, to be available until expended, allocates $9.4 billion to airports to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus and $500 million to raise the federal share to 100 percent for projects funded with FY 2020 AIP funding. The legislation also provides $100 million in 100 percent federal funding for general aviation airports.

For More Information

Kevin McCartyAssistant Executive Director for Transportation

Department of Health and Human Services

Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund: $27 billion in funding to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund within HHS to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus – including the development of necessary countermeasures and vaccines, prioritizing platform-based technologies with U.S.-based manufacturing capabilities, the purchase of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, necessary medical supplies, as well as medical surge capacity, addressing blood supply chain, workforce modernization, telehealth access and infrastructure, initial advanced manufacturing, novel dispensing, enhancements to the U.S. Commissioned Corps, and other preparedness and response activities. Within this amount, $250 million will be made available in grants or cooperative agreements to entities that are either grantees or sub-grantees of the HHS’ Hospital Preparedness Program. In addition, at least $16 billion of these funds must be used to purchase products for the Strategic National Stockpile. Lastly, the funding bill includes a provision that additional funds that are provided in the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund may be used for grants for the construction, alteration, or renovation of non-federally owned facilities to improve preparedness and response capability at the State and local level. However, the legislation does not provide an approximate figure that will be allotted for this purpose.

CDC: $4.3 billion for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of which $1.5 billion will be designated to CDC’s State and Local Preparedness Grants for state and local preparedness and response activities. Additionally, funds provided under this account can be used for grants for the rent, lease, purchase, acquisition, construction, alteration, or renovation of non-federally owned facilities to improve preparedness and response capability at the State and local level.

Child Care and Development Block Grant: $3.5 billion in grants to states for child care assistance for low-income families within the United States due to decreased enrollment or closures related to coronavirus.  States are encouraged to use a portion of funds received to continue to pay the salaries and wages of childcare workers’ staff and to provide child care assistance to health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other workers deemed essential during the response to coronavirus by public officials – without regard to the income eligibility requirements.

Health Centers: $1.3 billion in funding for HRSA Community Health Center Program to expand the capacity to provide testing, triage, and care for COVID-19 and other health care services at existing health centers across the country.

UPDATE: On Wednesday April 8th, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded more than $1.3 billion dollars included in the CARES Act to 1,387 local health centers.  Local health centers may use these awards to detect coronavirus; prevent, diagnose, and treat COVID-19; and maintain or increase health capacity and staffing levels to address the current public health emergency.

To see the full list of award recipients and local health centers in your city, please visit HERE.

Community Services Block Grant: $1 billion in funding for HHS’ Community Service Block Grant Program for grants to states and local community-based organizations to provide a wide-range of human, social services and emergency assistance. 

Older Americans: $955 million for HHS’ Administration for Community Living, Aging and Disability Services Programs which includes funding to state and local governments for aging and disability services programs, including senior nutrition; home and community-based supportive services; family caregivers; elder justice; and independent living.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): $900 million in grants to states to support home energy assistance for low-income households affected by coronavirus.

UPDATE: On Monday, May 11th, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)  Office of Administration for Children and Families (ACF) announced they have released $900 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) supplemental funding to States included in the CARES Act.  The funding is intended to help households “prevent, prepare for, or respond to” home energy needs during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

State and local administering agencies may use these funds for any purpose normally authorized under the federal LIHEAP statute, including heating, cooling, crisis, weatherization assistance, case management for the reduction of home energy burden, and limited administrative costs.  Cities can contact their State agencies HERE for more information on how these additional funds will be distributed to households in their community; and a full list of each state award can be accessed HERE.

Head Start: $750 million for grants to local agencies providing Head Start services that support children’s growth and development.

Mental Health: $425 million to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA) to address mental health and substance use disorders as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This includes $250 million for Community Behavioral Health Clinics Expansion Grant Program; and $100 million for SAMHSA Emergency Response Grants in flexible funding to address mental health, substance use disorders, and provide resources and support to youth and the homeless during the pandemic.

New: On Wednesday, April 1st the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that applications for $100 million in Emergency Grants included in the CARES Act are due soon.  The purpose of the grant program is to provide crisis intervention services, mental and substance use disorder treatment, crisis counseling, and other related supports for children and adults impacted by COVID-19.

Funds are allocated on a formula basis to states, territories, and tribes; and SAMHSA plans to issue 60 grants of up to $2 million per State or up to $500,000 for territories and tribes for 16 months.   States have wide discretion on how they administer these funds, and mayors should consult with their State Director for Substance Services (learn more here) to highlight your cities’ efforts to support this vulnerable population.   Applications are due by States on Friday, April 10th and more information can be found here.

Maternal Care and Infant Mortality: $125 million for HRSA Maternal and Health Care Health Start Program and funds the program at this amount annually from fiscal year 2021 through 2025.

HIV/AIDS: $90 million for HHS’ Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.

Family Violence Prevention and Services: $45 million to HHS’ Family Violence Prevention and Services Formula Grants to States to provide additional support to family violence shelters, and $2 million in additional support for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs: $25 million in funding for the HHS Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs which provides grants to community-based public and private agencies for the provision of outreach, crisis intervention, emergency shelter, counseling, family reunification and aftercare services to runaway and homeless youth.

For More Information

Dalen HarrisAssistant Executive Director for Children, Health, and Human Services

Department of Agriculture

SNAP: $15.5 billion in additional funding for the Supplement Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP). 

Child Nutrition Programs: $8.8 billion in additional funding for child nutrition programs – which includes the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the School Breakfast Program (SBP), the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP), School Milk Program and others.

Emergency Food Assistance Program: $450 million for commodities and distribution of emergency food assistance through community partners, including food banksbusinesses.

For More Information

Dalen HarrisAssistant Executive Director for Children, Health, and Human Services

Department of Labor

Dislocated Worker National Reserve: $360 million in funding to help states and cities respond to workforce impacts and layoffs resulting from the coronavirus. This includes $15 million in funding for Program Management to implement the paid leave and emergency Unemployment Insurance (UI) stabilization activities.

Local Workforce System: The bill increases the administrative set-aside for local workforce development boards to 20 percent, to assist in emergency response. The same section also gives governors authority to immediately spend unobligated “governor’s reserve” funds for rapid response.

For More Information

Kathy AmorosoAssistant Executive Director for Jobs, Education, and the Workforce

Department of Education

Elementary and Secondary Education: $13.5 billion in formula funding to help schools respond to coronavirus and related school closures, meet the immediate needs of students and teachers, improve the use of education technology, support distance education, and make up for lost learning time.

Higher Education: $14.25 billion in funding to directly support students facing urgent needs related to coronavirus, and to support institutions as they cope with the immediate effects of coronavirus and school closures. This provides targeted formula funding to institutions of higher education, as well as funding for minority serving institutions and HBCUs.

State Flexibility Funding: $3 billion in flexible formula funding to be allocated by states based on the needs of their elementary and secondary schools and their institutions of higher education.

Project SERV: $100 million in targeted funding for elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education to respond to the immediate needs of coronavirus and the effect on students. 

Federal Student Loan Relief: The CARES Act provides an automatic suspension of principal and interest payments on federally-held student loans, through September 30, 2020. Borrowers are not required to take any action in order to participate in this automatic suspension. Click here for more information on Federal  Student Loan relief from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

For More Information

Kathy AmorosoAssistant Executive Director for Jobs, Education, and the Workforce

Independent Arts and Humanities Agencies

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA): $75 million to state and local governments’ arts agencies and nonprofit arts organizations for operating expenses with matching requirements waived.  A 60-40 percent (local-state) split in funding.

NEW: To learn how NEA will award funds to nonprofits to endure the economic hardships due to the spread of COVID-19, click here.

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): $75 million to state and local governments’ humanities agencies and nonprofit humanities organizations for operating expenses with matching requirements waived. A 60-40 percent (local-state) split in funding. 

NEW: To learn how NEH will award funds to nonprofits to endure the economic hardships due to the spread of COVID-19, click here.

For More Information

Tom McClimonManaging Director for Tourism, Arts, Parks, Entertainment, and Sports


$454 billion “Economic Stabilization Fund”:  This provision permits the U.S. Treasury to “purchase obligations {of States, local governments, instrumentalities and political subdivisions of them} or other interests in secondary markets or otherwise” thus permitting the Federal Reserve to participate as an institutional investor in securities that mature in greater than 6 months. This fund also provides loans and loan guarantees to small businesses.

Paid Sick Leave Fix: The bill does NOT contain an amendment we sought to remove a provision from the “The Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (H.R. 6201)  that requires states, local governments and their political subdivisions and instrumentalities to provide paid sick leave, and expressly prohibits these governmental entities from receiving the tax credits available to private employers. 

Medicaid DSH: The bill eliminates the $4 billion in Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) cuts in FY 2020, and reduces the cut for FY 2021 to $4 billion from $8 billion. The legislation does not add any additional cuts after the current end-date of FY 2025.

TANF: The bill provides a very short extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program until November 30, 2020. 

For More Information

Larry JonesAssistant Executive Director for Taxes and Budget
Dalen HarrisAssistant Executive Director for Children, Health, and Human Services