COVID-19 Federal Response Update – Tuesday, April 21, 2020

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By Capitol Associates, Inc. 

  • Congress reached a deal on a $484 billion relief package. This “Phase 3.5” bill is not nearly as large as the $2.2 trillion “Phase 3” CARES Act and it is mostly limited to adding funding and enhancing programs from the CARES Act.
    • $310 billion of the total is for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Another $10 billion is for the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and another $50 billion is for the SBA Disaster Loans Program.
    • Last week, the SBA finished distributing $349 billion in PPP funding and $10 billion in EIDL funding that it received from the CARES Act.
    • The SBA stopped accepting new applications under the two programs until funds were replenished. Banks that are processing the PPP loans for the SBA say the new funding might not last for more than two days based on the application volume.
    • The bill provides $75 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to distribute to hospitals and healthcare providers for COVID-19 related expenses and lost revenue.
    • It also provides $25 billion to support federal efforts to research, develop and produce COVID-19 tests. $11 billion of this total is reserved for state and local governments for testing costs. It also provides $1 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for various surveillance and epidemiologic purposes and $1.8 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for testing research.
    • $225 million will be distributed to rural health clinics and $600 million will be distributed to community health centers. Up to $1 billion is allocated for covering testing costs for uninsured people.
    • The Senate passed the bill, H.R. 266, this afternoon by a unanimous consent voice vote, about an hour after the text was released.
    • The House will not be able to get a unanimous consent vote and will therefore need to bring enough Members back to reach a quorum for a roll call vote. A House vote is expected on Thursday. The House is considering changing its rules to allow proxy voting in place of the current requirement that a Member must be present to vote.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology announced they will grant certain enforcement flexibilities for providers to implement the provisions of two final rules on electronic health record (EHR) interoperability and data blocking. The two regulations were issued around the same time as the coronavirus began spreading in the U.S. Most of the provisions of those regulations are to take effect on January 1, 2021 but some provisions are set to take effect as soon as July of 2020.
  • Vice President Mike Pence says the country has the testing capacity needed to begin reopening the economy from lock down.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new COVID-19 test that allows patients to collect samples at home instead of traveling to a healthcare provider or testing facility.
  • The Treasury Department began making $2.9 billion in payments to airline companies. The funding was provided by the CARES Act.

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