COVID-19 Federal Response Update – Thursday, April 9, 2020

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By Capitol Associates, Inc. 

  • The Senate did not pass a bill to provide an extra $250 billion in funding for the paycheck protection program. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to pass the bill by a unanimous consent voice vote. A Democratic Senator objected so the vote failed to get unanimous consent to advance.
  • Democrats want to negotiate with Republicans to add more funding to this bill. Leader McConnell prefers to pass the small business assistance bill first and then negotiate with Democrats on the other provisions after. Democrats want the bill to also include additional funding for the healthcare system, additional funding for state and local governments and they want certain conditions on how the small business assistance can be allocated.
  • The Federal Reserve is about to undertake a massive new economic stimulus program that could provide an additional $2.2 trillion in economic assistance and ease requirements on banks that are facilitating the lending of $350 billion in assistance to small businesses under the paycheck protection program to facilitate more lending under that program.
    • The Fed has two primary purposes: manage inflation and manage unemployment. The national lockdown in response to the coronavirus has resulted in huge increases in unemployment as workers are laid off and furloughed until the economy can reopen and recover.
    • The Fed will purchase up to $600 billion in loans from banks under its Main Street Lending Program that provides loans to small and mid-sized businesses that were in good financial standing before the crisis. The program offers 4-year loans to companies employing up to 10,000 workers or with revenues of less than $2.5 billion. Principal and interest payments will be deferred for one year. Firms seeking Main Street loans must commit to make reasonable efforts to maintain payroll and retain workers. Borrowers must also follow compensation, stock repurchase, and dividend restrictions that apply to direct loan programs under the CARES Act. Firms that have taken advantage of the PPP may also take out Main Street loans.
    • The Fed will purchase up to $850 billion in corporate bonds.
    • The Fed is easing the requirements for certain banks to maintain a certain level of capital reserves in proportion to their lending. Some banks felt those capital reserve requirements would hinder their ability to make paycheck protection act loans. The Fed will back those loans instead.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new safety guidance for essential workers. States have flexibility to define essential workers. The CDC guidance essentially applies to anyone who is not working from home.
  • The White House is in the process of creating a new task force that will focus on economic recovery. This would be in addition to the current task force that is focusing on the healthcare response to the coronavirus.
  • The Strategic National Stockpile has completely distributed its supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators. The stockpile can be replenished with additional acquisitions. The current inventory is completely deployed.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has distributed over $50 billion in advanced and accelerated payments to providers. Yesterday, CMS reported that it had distributed $34 billion in advanced payments. CMS approved over 21,000 of 32,000 requests that it received.
    • A group of Senators are expressing concern about a 10.25 percent interest rate that would apply if the advanced payments are not repaid within 12 months.
  • CMS has now approved over 49 emergency Medicaid waivers and 26 state plan amendments.
  • The CDC issued a snapshot of data on the racial and other demographic data for COVID-19.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is now making information on the grants it has awarded for the coronavirus response on its official grant tracking website.
  • HHS is awarding $1.3 billion in new grants to Community Health Centers. The CARES Act provided the funding for these grants.
  • Korean health officials are warning that patients who recover from COVID-19 could become re-infected.
  • HHS issued new guidance that authorizes licensed pharmacists to administer COVID-19 testing.

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