On the Hill: Summary of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)

By Pam Bowman posted 03-27-2020 14:04


Editor's Note: As the preservation community grapples with the changes to how we do our work during this time, we at Preservation Leadership Forum are here to support you. Check out our resources, and share your problems and questions with others in the preservationists community on Forum Connect. For more information on the recently passed CARES Act and its implications for historic preservation, watch the recording of our April 2 webinar. 

On Wednesday, March 25, the Senate unanimously passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) by a vote of 96-0. The nearly 900-page bill provides approximately $2.2 trillion in funding for our healthcare system, workers, businesses, organizations, and industries impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19). The House passed the bill by voice vote this afternoon.

View of the U.S. Capitol Building in Spring
Credit: Architect of the Capitol

Summary of Provisions

The National Trust for Historic Preservation continues to closely monitor legislative developments responding to the COVID-19 outbreak and actively engage lawmakers and our partners to sustain and support the important work of the preservation community in the face of this unprecedented disease outbreak.

Below is a summary of select provisions in the CARES Act and various legislative summaries, which we will continue to update as additional analysis and resources become available.

Arts and Humanities Funding

The legislation includes appropriations for select federal agencies and programs, including $75 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for grants and administration. The funds are available until September 30, 2021, and distributed through grants to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus. Included is a stipulation that 40 percent of the funds are distributed to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations and 60 percent for direct grants.

Small Business Provisions

  • Division A of the stimulus bill provides more than $377 billion in support for small businesses, including providing up to $10 million for emergency small business loans (Small Business Administration (SBA) 7(a) loans) for eligible nonprofits and small businesses.
  • Applies to nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees.
  • Loans can be used to cover payroll costs (including health insurance premiums), rent, mortgages, and utility payments.
  • Loan forgiveness is also available subject to restrictions. For example, the loan amount eligible for forgiveness will be reduced proportionally by any reductions in employees; however, employers won’t be penalized for rehiring employees already laid off.
  • Senate Small Business Committee Minority Staff Summary: Small Business Provisions
  • Senate Small Business Committee Minority Staff Summary: Section-by-Section Summary

Charitable Giving Provisions

The legislation includes a universal (or non-itemizer, above-the-line) deduction allowing all taxpayers to deduct up to $300 in charitable contributions made in 2020. It also lifts the annual contribution cap for individuals who itemize their tax returns and raises it from 60 percent of adjusted gross income to 100 percent, and for corporations, raises the annual limit from 10 percent to 25 percent.

Nonprofit Employer Provisions

Additional provisions of the CARES Act may be of interest to nonprofit employers, such as an Employee Retention Payroll Tax Credit (employers receiving emergency SBA loans are not eligible) and amendments to the New Paid Leave Mandates outlined in the second coronavirus relief package (the Families First Coronavirus Response Act). Our friends at the National Council of Nonprofits developed a summary of these provisions and others, including information about an Industry Stabilization Fund that may apply to the nonprofit sector.

Additional Resources and Advocacy

The National Trust will continue our advocacy at the federal level to ensure that the voice of the preservation community is heard. We anticipate that a fourth bill will be considered in the weeks ahead. This will afford another opportunity to seek additional investments in preservation programs. We will host a webinar on Thursday, April 2, 2020 (recording) to discuss the recent coronavirus legislation and future advocacy opportunities. We will also continue to share additional resources as policy provisions are developed supporting the preservation community, historic sites, and cultural and historic institutions. 

Pam Bowman is the director of public lands policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.