Congress Enacts $2 Trillion COVID-19 Emergency Response

Jennifer A. Vasiloff

By a vote of 96-0, on March 25 the US Senate passed the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, which commits $2 trillion in emergency spending to address the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis. The House of Representatives passed the bill by voice vote and President Trump signed the CARES Act into law on Friday, March 27.

Over the past few weeks, OFN and our partners advocated strenuously for significant new funding ($1 billion) for the CDFI Fund grant programs to be included in the legislation. Thousands of CDFI leaders and supporters urged their elected officials to support increased resources for CDFIs. OFN’s own letter to House and Senate leadership reinforced this urgent request.  

Regrettably, the CARES Act does NOT include new monies for the CDFI Fund.  

Disappointed but determined, OFN is pressing on. We are committed to continuing the fight for new federal resources to assist CDFIs in serving low-wealth markets. While the COVID-19 pandemic affects all of us, low- and moderate-income individuals are particularly vulnerable to the severe economic disruption already impacting millions of Americans.  

The CARES Act does include important measures to help CDFI customers and other low- and moderate-income Americans. A significant expansion of unemployment benefits, direct cash payments to individuals, food, and nutrition benefits included in the legislation will help. 

In addition, the enacted legislation includes $850 billion in new measures to assist small businesses. OFN is already advocating with the Small Business Administration, Treasury, and the Federal Reserve Board for CDFI participation in all of these initiatives. We are also asking the CDFI Fund for flexibility in meeting deadlines, compliance, and reporting requirements for awardees in their programs. 

Congressional leadership has indicated that additional relief packages are very likely in the coming months. OFN will continue to advocate for $1 billion for the CDFI Fund and for other programs to bring needed resources to low-income people and communities.  

A positive note in an otherwise disappointing week was the inclusion of $200 million in new appropriations in FY 2020 for the CDFI Fund in the COVID-19 legislation Speaker Pelosi introduced. While the new appropriations were not voted on, this support is a welcome development. OFN will build on this House of Representatives support as we argue for the CDFI Fund to be included in the next round of COVID-19 legislation, which Congress will consider in the coming months. You can help OFN’s efforts by taking action to support $1 billion for the CDFI Fund. Contact your Member of Congress and the President here

In the days and weeks ahead, OFN will report on opportunities available to the CDFI industry in the new programs and initiatives included in the CARES Act. Please reach out to me or any member of the Public Policy staff with questions or recommendations about our advocacy on behalf of CDFIs.  

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