Third Round of Federal COVID-19 Legislation Discussions Continue

Last night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released the details of a Senate Republican plan for a third round of proposals aimed to address the COVID-19 crisis. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act is a nearly $1 trillion package. Major provisions include:

  • $300 billion for loans for impacted small businesses.
  • Direct funding to taxpayers in amounts ranging from $600-1,200 per taxpayer ($1,200-2,400 joint) with a cap on those income eligible held at $75,000 for individuals or $150,000 jointly. There are also provisions extending $500 per child, depending on family income.
  • Delay of the IRS tax filing deadline until July 15, 2020.
  • Delays in certain tax payments for corporations and employers.
  • $208 billion in emergency relief funding through loans and loan guarantees for airlines, air cargo carriers, and other eligible businesses.
  • Caps on paid leave and emergency paid sick leave for employers.

Of interest to local health departments, the CARES Act also contains a few health-related provisions including:

  • Moves responsibility for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and removes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Tasks the National Academies with preparing a report on America’s medical product supply chain focused on critical drugs and devices sourced or manufactured outside of the US and directs the Academies to consult with a variety of stakeholders including State and local health departments.
  • Requires the SNS to include certain types of medical supplies including personal protective equipment, ancillary medical supplies, and other applicable supplies required for the administration of drugs, vaccines, and other biological products, medical devices, and diagnostic tests.
  • Allows for the emergency use of lab developed tests for SARS CoV-2 detection, within prescribed guidelines.
  • Requires health insurers to provide diagnostic testing coverage for COVID-19 enrollees and not impose any cost-sharing provisions. Also requires health insurers to reimburse providers for diagnostic testing.
  • Requires each provider of a COVID-19 diagnostic test to make public the cash price for the test on their public website.
  • Requires health insurers to cover any qualifying coronavirus preventive service including an item, service, or immunization intended to prevent or mitigate coronavirus 2019.
  • Provides $1.3 billion in supplemental funding to Health Centers for the detection of SARS CoV-2, and for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19.

Negotiations continue between Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats today and will likely extend into Saturday. Democrats have been critical of the cash assistance limitations, particularly that it would provide no relief for the poorest of Americans (those earning less than $2,500 of qualified income). Democrats are also pushing for increased funding for hospitals and an increase in Medicaid FMAP, they have raised concerns about limitations on paid leave the Republicans are offering, and they have been very critical of the size of corporate loans. Moreover, talks are complicated by requests from the White House to include additional funding for response activities. It is Senator McConnell’s stated intent to have the bill up for consideration on the Senate Floor starting on Sunday, March 22.

For more information on the previous COVID-19 related packages passed by Congress, please see our memo released on Wednesday, March 18.