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Summary of the Coronavirus Aid Packages: What Philanthropy Needs to Know

Last updated July 28, 2020

In late March, Congress reached a bipartisan agreement on a $6 trillion package, including $2 trillion in direct spending, to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, called the CARES Act. Thanks to the advocacy and hard work of many, more than $12 billion for HUD programs was included in the bill.

Partners have said philanthropy's voice made a difference in pushing for and securing the critical homelessness and housing funds and advocates are grateful for the ways funders stepped up and supported the call to action.

What’s In the CARES Act Package

Highlights of the aid package include:

  • $4 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG)
  • $5 billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
  • $1.25 billion for the Housing Choice Voucher program (section 8)
  • $1 billion for project based rental assistance
  • $685 million for public housing
  • $300 million to address tribal housing needs
  • $25 million for Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) programs at Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB)
  • A moratorium on evictions for renters in homes with federally backed mortgages and most federally subsidized apartments

Of note, the package also indicates that none of the funds provided may be used to require people experiencing homelessness to receive treatment or perform any other prerequisite activities as a condition for receiving shelter, housing, or other services.

While advocates were asking for $15.5 billion for ESG funding, this package includes $150 billion of flexible funds, called the Coronavirus Relief Fund, to state, tribal, and local governments that can be used broadly for rental assistance, housing needs, medical supplies, and other needs related to COVID-19.

Upcoming Relief Packages Updates - The HEROES Act

On May 15, the House passed the most recent COVID-19 relief bill called the HEROES Act, which included notable funding for homelessness and housing needs including:

  • $11.5 billion in Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG)
  • $100 billion in emergency rental assistance
  • $5 bill towards Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
  • $4 billion for Tenant Based Rental Assistance, including $1 billion for new, temporary, vouchers for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, or fleeing domestic violence
  • $200 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities
  • $15 million for Housing for Persons with Aids
  • Cancellation of the 2020 CoC NoFA language
  • A national moratorium on evictions

For more information on what the bill includes, see this analysis from the National Alliance to End Homelessness and this report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities


On July 27, the Senate Republicans released their proposed COVID-19 relief package. While the bill does include $3.3 billion towards federally assisted households, it does not include any emergency rental assistance, a moratorium on evictions, resources to protect people experiencing homelessness from outbreaks, or additional resources to ensure housing security. It also cuts unemployment insurance (UI) from $600 to $200 per week.


How Philanthropy Can Take Action

If you are a public foundation or United Way and can engage in direct lobbying, call the offices of your Senators and members of Congress to demand homelessness funding in the next phase of the Coronavirus response package.

If you are a private foundation or unable to partake in direct lobbying activities, contact your federal policymakers to educate and inform them about what you are seeing in your community and hearing from grantee partners around COVID-19 impacts, especially in communities that have been historically underserved or marginalized. 

Remember: Both Public and private foundations may educate legislators about a broad range of issues without referencing or providing views on specific legislation. Also, both should encourage grantee partners to contact their Representatives and Senators on behalf of their community around the next COVID-19 aid package and talk about how the initial funds are helpful, but more is needed.

As you engage in conversations with policymakers, it is critical to keep racial equity at the forefront of our community relief and recovery efforts as well as our policy asks. Funders need to be firm in voicing the need to prioritize people of color, youth, and LGBTQ folks experiencing homelessness or housing instability. We cannot become complacent and perpetuate racial and LGBTQ inequities in the name of crisis and urgency. You can find resources related to equity and COVID-19 responses on our COVID-19 Resources for Philanthropy page.


What Philanthropy Should Be Thinking About

With an influx of resources coming into communities, funders should be thinking about how we build the capacity for overstressed systems to be able to receive and utilize these funds. Right now, leaders are strapped for capacity to be strategic as they are in “crisis mode” and working to simply maintain. Funders can take ownership in this role by convening mutli-sector tables and provide space to think about the initial funds with a strategic, systems level, and racial equity lens.

Now is also the time for philanthropy to be utilizing relationships and expertise to influence where funds are spent. The $150 billion in flexible funds through the Coronavirus Relief Fund present a unique opportunity for philanthropy to partner with state and local officials to ensure funds are distributed to where they are most needed. While the competition for these dollars will be high, there is a potential of communities who have been historically marginalized to fall through the gap. Funders need to be firm in voicing the unique need to prioritize people experiencing homelessness or housing instability, especially those in historically marginalized communities. We must not perpetuate racial and LGBTQ inequities in the name of crisis and urgency. 


Partner Resources on the CARES Act

Deeper analysis on the CARES Act can be found in various resources from our partners: 

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
COVID-19 Aid Package Congressional Updates
How Will States and Localities Divide the Fiscal Relief in the Coronavirus Relief Fund?

Community Solutions: What the CARES Act Mean for the COVID-19 Homelessness Response

Heartland Alliance: COVID-19 Bill: Much-Needed Emergency Funding but Doesn’t Go Far Enough in Helping Families

National Alliance to End Homelessness: What’s in the Coronavirus Bill for Homelessness?

National Health Care for the Homeless Council: Summary of Key Provisions in Congress' COVID-19 Bills

National Low Income Housing Coalition: Congressional Leaders Agree to Coronavirus Response Package with Funding for Homelessness and Housing

Youth Collaboratory: Progress on $2 Trillion Relief & Stimulus Bill for COVID-19

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