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Commerce Playing Key Role in COVID-19 Response and Recovery

Under the leadership of Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, the U.S. Department of Commerce is playing a key role in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. Commerce bureaus are providing economic assistance through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to U.S. communities and businesses affected by the pandemic; trade and export assistance to U.S. businesses; real-time data on the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses and people to policymakers and the American people; and critical research to help slow the spread of virus.

The CARES Act was passed by Congress with overwhelming, bipartisan support and signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020. This more than $2 trillion economic relief package is delivering on the Trump Administration’s commitment to protecting the American people from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The CARES Act is providing fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses, and preserving jobs for our American industries.

“From technical assistance and development grants to export support and supply chain analysis, our Department will be at the forefront of providing American businesses and workers with the resources they need during Coronavirus pandemic,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

Economic Relief to States and Communities

Trade and Export Assistance to U.S. Businesses

  • The International Trade Administration (ITA) has provided assistance to U.S. businesses and exporters affected by the Coronavirus pandemic on supply chains, barriers to trade, and enforcing U.S. trade remedy laws. Since March 1 of this year, ITA has worked with its Federal partners and has provided support to more than 22,000 organizations in 53 states and territories, 4,400 of which received assistance for COVID-19-related cases and activities. On June 4, Secretary Ross announced significant cost reductions for many key export and investment services for U.S. businesses affected by COVID-19. Since the announcement, nearly 1,500 individual American companies have benefited from reduced and waived fees, 92 percent of which are U.S. small businesses.
  • The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has taken, and continues to take, specific actions to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on America’s exporters while protecting U.S. national security. These actions include: (1) issuing a number of  Defense Priorities and Allocations System (DPAS) authorizations for industrial resources, CARES Act funding and other production equipment; (2) expediting licenses for the export of products to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to facilitate foreign collaboration to develop a vaccine; (3) and adding questions to industrial base surveys to inform government stakeholders about the impact of COVID-19 on U.S. companies.   

Assistance Through Research and Technology

  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is playing a vital role in COVID-19 research and technology to help slow the spread of the virus. In April, NIST and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) launched a joint effort to support the development of search engines for research that will help in the fight against COVID-19. Also in April, NIST launched a tool that can help hospitals and medical professionals determine which rooms should be used to disinfect N95 masks. In June, NIST researchers completed a study of how well a variety of natural and synthetic fabrics filter particles of a similar size to the virus that causes COVID-19; built an online tool that could help decrease the concentration of aerosols containing the virus in the hospital rooms of COVID-19 patients; and released high-speed visualizations to illustrate how air flows when breathing and coughing, with and without homemade face coverings. In July, NIST launched a study into the effect of face masks on facial recognition technology. In August, NIST researchers produced synthetic gene fragments from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This material, which is non-infectious and safe to handle, can help manufacturers produce more accurate and reliable diagnostic tests for the disease.
  • The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is working to ensure the country has the connectivity it needs to meet increased demand, released key data on how Americans are using the Internet, and collaborated with stakeholders to better understand the challenges associated with COVID-19. NTIA is working to gain insights into how the pandemic has impacted the digital divide and what potential policy responses might address it. Additionally, NTIA’s Minority Broadband Initiative has participated in tele-townhalls with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to discuss how COVID-19 is presenting challenges to HBCUs, their faculty and students.
  • The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), housed within Commerce’s NTIA, has delivered a nationwide broadband network to America’s first responders, helping them communicate, save lives and protect our communities. Healthcare workers and first responders are using the FirstNet network to communicate and coordinate operations at COVID-19 testing centers, field hospitals, and incident command posts. For more information, see FirstNet’s fact sheet on Connecting the frontlines during COVID-19 response: How FirstNet supports public safety during emergencies.
  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO) launched the COVID-19 Response Resource Center to assist the public with accessing all of the various USPTO initiatives and programs regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes a new web-based intellectual property (IP) marketplace platform, Patents 4 Partnerships, that is providing the public with a user-friendly, searchable repository of patents and published patent applications related to the COVID-19 pandemic that are indicated as available for licensing.

Providing Real-Time Economic and Environmental Data

In the wake of the pandemic, fast-moving changes to the U.S. economy increased the public and policymakers' need for more frequent and timely economic data. Commerce agencies are taking the lead and is delivering real-time data to policymakers and the American people.

  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is measuring the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumer spending using credit card transaction data. BEA also developed special materials showing how transactions related to Federal stimulus programs, including the CARES Act, are captured in BEA’s economic statistics.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau is delivering real-time data to policymakers and the American people to measure the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses and the social and economic effects of COVID-19 on American households. Earlier this year, they launched the Household Pulse Survey, collecting data to measure household experiences during COVID-19. In mid-May 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau pioneered and launched the Small Business Pulse Survey, a new weekly survey to get a better understanding of how America’s small businesses are faring in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The survey was so successful that on August 9, the Census Bureau launched Phase 2. Census also continues to conduct household and economic surveys and the constitutionally mandated 2020 Census.

For more information on the Commerce Department’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, please visit the Commerce Actions to Respond to the Coronavirus page.