The new bipartisan federal stimulus legislation, known as the CARES Act, was signed yesterday. The $2.2 trillion bill — the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — is the third piece of federal coronavirus response legislation passed in recent days and contains significant new resources to assist in COVID-19 recovery.

AFT President Randi Weingarten tweeted about the bill “The #CARES Act wasn’t perfect, but it contains a lot of needed relief for workers and our communities.” The AFT’s formal statementthanked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in particular for fighting for workers and families.

The law will help address public health; help millions of Americans caught in the wheels of the downturn; help stabilize the economy and begin to put a floor under funding for state and local services. It addresses the massive, immediate budget problems due to COVID-19, though states will almost certainly need more aid in coming months.

This package takes several important steps toward helping create some relief, by:

  1. Expanding unemployment insurance;
  2. Enacting a “Marshall Plan” for our healthcare system’s response to the virus, particularly for the healthcare professionals working on the frontlines;
  3. Creating a state expenditures fund to help states pay for new expenses related to this crisis;
  4. Laying the groundwork for critical emergency school investments, from K-12 to higher education, and including student loan assistance.

CARES Act apportionment for California

California will receive $15.321 billion from the federal stimulus CARES Act. Of that, $5.8 billion will be allocated to local governments in California with populations over 500,000. The CARES Act also includes an Education Stabilization Fund totaling $31 billion. See how that breaks out for California education in the AFT summary below.

Expanded unemployment benefits

The CARES Act funds a new type of unemployment insurance — Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) — relief that will be provided in addition to a state’s regular unemployment benefit.

Those who can telework or who are receiving paid leave are not eligible. But the CARES Act extends PUA eligibility to gig workers and the self-employed, part-time or furloughed workers, newly employed workers, and those unable to work due to COVID-19.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance offers the following relief:

  • Adds $600 per week to the Unemployment Insurance benefit, which in California is a maximum of $450 per week.
  • The additional federal benefit of $600 per week lasts lasts four months, from March 29 through July 25.
  • Extends benefits at an individual’s regular benefit rate for an additional 13 weeks.