COVID-19: Federal policy updates

by | May 21, 2020

May 21, 2020

U.S. House of Representatives passes new COVID-19 relief package

On May 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR6800, also known as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. The $3 trillion House bill, which includes additional funding for several early childhood programs, has drawn heavy criticism from Senate Republicans as well as President Trump, making it likely that the Senate will introduce its own bill. Assuming this occurs, negotiations between Senate and House leadership teams will be needed to pull out acceptable provisions that can pass with the support of both legislative bodies.

Among its other provisions, the HEROES Act:

  • Appropriates an additional $7 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG)
  • Appropriates $850 million for the Social Services Block Grant to fund child and family care for the essential workforce*
  • Provides an additional $90 billion for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund


*HR6800 defines “essential workers” as:

  • a health sector employee;
  • an emergency response worker;
  • a sanitation worker;
  • a worker at a business which a State or local government official has determined must remain open to serve the public during the emergency; and
  • any other worker who cannot telework, and whom the State deems to be essential during the emergency.


May 15, 2020

CDC issues tools to guide reopening of child cares, schools, businesses

The Centers for Disease Control issued new documents on Thursday designed to provide guidance on how child care programs, schools, restaurants and bars and other establishments could begin reopening in the face of coronavirus.

The “decision tool” for child care programs recommends that businesses should consider reopening if reopening is consistent with state and local orders, and the businesses are ready to protect children and employees at higher risk for severe illness and are able to screen children and employees upon arrival for coronavirus symptoms and history of exposure.

Read more and download the Child Care Program Reopening Decision Tool.


April 27, 2020

Fourth COVID-19 relief package approved by Congress, signed into law

President Trump signed H.R. 266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. into law on Friday. This $484 billion COVID-relief bill is the fourth COVID related package passed by Congress. This bill provides an additional $310 billion in funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, $60 billion for the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), $75 billion to hospitals and $25 billion to a new coronavirus testing program.

Lawmakers are expected to return to the Capitol in person on May 4. At that time, negotiations will begin on the next recovery package. As many policymakers have signaled, more still needs to be done to help struggling industries and the economy during the pandemic.


April 1, 2020

CDC issues supplemental guidance for child cares that remain open

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published updated guidelines for home-, center- and school-based programs that will continue to offer child care services for the time being during the public health emergency. The guidance covers basic preparedness and operational concerns, tips for implementing to social distancing recommendations, cleaning and disinfecting facilities, equipment and toys, drop-off and pick-up policies, diapering and other sanitary procedures, food handling, addressing the needs of high-risk groups and more.

Naturally, First Five Nebraska recognizes that these recommendations may or may not be practical, depending on the structure and operations of specific providers. This information is presented simply to keep our readers current with information being produced by the CDC.


March 27, 2020

CARES Act passes House of Representatives vote and is signed into law

Today, the House of Representatives passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act with a voice vote in the affirmative and President Trump signed the bill into law. The bill will have significant implications for the viability of families and child care providers throughout the nation. For more details on the content of the bill, see below.


March 26, 2020

Senate approves $2 trillion CARES Act for COVID-19 financial relief

Late Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act with a vote of 96-0. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives, which is expected to vote on it Friday, March 27. If approved, the $2 trillion bipartisan legislation will be the largest financial relief package ever proposed by Congress.

The legislation offers significant assistance to the child care industry, including:

  • Establishes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides up to 39 weeks of Unemployment Insurance for self-employed, contract workers, and those individuals who have currently exhausted their regular or extended benefits.
  • Provides an additional $600 a week payment to everyone who receives Unemployment Insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This additional benefit is available for up to four months.
  • Establishes the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program which provides an additional 13 weeks of Unemployment Insurance for individuals who are still unemployed, have exhausted their current benefits, and are not eligible for any other benefits at this time.
  • Provides an additional $20 billion for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which would allow states to award additional funds to early childhood education programs and services.
  • Allows for-profit and non-profit child care programs with fewer than 500 employees to apply for small business loans to cover their expenses during this health crisis. Expenses may include payroll, mortgage or rent, utilities, etc.


First Five Nebraska thanks Senator Deb Fischer and Senator Ben Sasse for voting in favor of this important legislation. The U.S. Senate is now in recess until April 20.

March 25, 2020

Federal government begins mobilizing funds to respond to COVID-19

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S., state and federal officials have enacted policies and procedures to reduce its spread. As of today, 21 states have implemented some form of “shelter in place” regulation, while businesses and schools have shut down or moved to remote operations. To provide financial relief, Congress has proposed three COVID-19 packages.

  • Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. Passed nearly unanimously in the House and Senate and signed into law by the President on March 6, this bill provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the pandemic.
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This legislation provides further relief by establishing a federal emergency paid leave benefits program for certain employees. The legislation includes $1 billion in state grants to process applications and pay for unemployment insurance. Additional funding was included to support nutrition assistance programs and free coronavirus testing, among other services. This legislation was signed into law by the President on March 18.
  • Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. After several failed attempts, the Senate and White House appear to have arrived at an agreement to promote legislation intended to protect the health and economic welfare of American citizens. The final version of this legislation has not yet been voted on. In its current form, the bill offers approximately $6.3 billion to the Administration for Children and Families to support a wide range of services including:


    • Child Care and Development Block Grant: $3.5 billion in grants to states for immediate assistance to child care providers to prevent them from failing financially and to support child care services for essential personnel such as healthcare professionals, first responders and others.
    • Head Start: $750 million for grants to all Head Start programs to enable them to respond to needs of children and families associated with the public health emergency.
    • Community Services Block Grant: $1 billion in direct funding to community-based organizations to provide social services and emergency assistance for people in need.
    • Child Welfare Services: $45 million in state grants to support child welfare needs and keep families together during the crisis.


Among the most urgent questions is whether the CARES Act will address the status of unemployment insurance assistance for early childhood professionals—we expect to know more after the Senate votes and the legislation is taken up by the House of Representatives. Check the Daily Digest for updated information about this legislation.

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