COVID-19: Federal Update (7/31)
Census Count Cut Short by a Month
NPR reported this morning that the Census will wrap up at the end of September instead of October 31. This is a huge concern for a state as large as Texas, and has been experiencing as much growth as we have in the last decade. The Census designates Congressional seats, and determines funding allocation for schools, roads, healthcare and emergency funding. We can help our state out with the Census. Self-reporting allows enumerators to focus on hard to count areas. Please take the Census online, and encourage your friends, family and colleagues to complete the Census. You can find our free resources here.
— MCCONNELL QUEUES UP COVID-19 LEGISLATIVE VEHICLE AS TALKS CONTINUE. With the enhanced unemployment benefits due to expire today, lawmakers are scrambling to reach a deal.
— HOUSE EYES PASSAGE OF SIX-BILL APPROPS PACKAGE. House lawmakers will close out July with a vote on final passage of a massive appropriations "minibus."
— CORONAVIRUS RECESSION HITS SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE, HIGHWAY FUNDING. The coronavirus recession is taking an axe to revenue streams for key government programs like Social Security, Medicare and highway infrastructure.
— TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES 'WARP SPEED' PARTNERSHIP WITH SANOFI, GSK. The "Operation Warp Speed" partnership will support advanced development of a COVID-19 investigational adjuvanted vaccine.
Capitol Hill Update
— MCCONNELL QUEUES UP COVID-19 LEGISLATIVE VEHICLE AS TALKS CONTINUE. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made a procedural move yesterday to queue up a legislative vehicle that would carry a potential deal on the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits, which are set to expire today. Senators will take up amendments to the underlying bill next week, with Republicans preparing offers that would scale back the enhanced $600 per week benefit. In particular, Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Mike Braun (R-IN) are expected to offer an amendment that would push the weekly boost back to $200, and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) will offer a proposal that would provide states with either an 80 percent wage replacement plan or a sliding weekly benefit of an extra $500 increase each week in August, $400 each week in September and $300 each week in October. Meanwhile, Democratic leadership is not expected to go along with a proposal that significantly scales back the current UI benefit regime, and has proposed to extend the policy through the end of the first quarter in 2021.
— HOUSE EYES PASSAGE OF SIX-BILL APPROPS PACKAGE. House lawmakers will close out July with a vote on final passage of a massive appropriations "minibus." The package — which includes the fiscal year (FY) 2021 spending bills for Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy-Water Development, Financial Services and General Government (FSGG), Labor-HHS-Education, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development — is expected to clear along party lines this morning, and is considered dead-on-arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate. In its Statement of Administration Policy issued yesterday, the Trump administration outlined a host of reasons why it opposes the second House minibus, notably taking issue with restrictions on funding transfers from the Pentagon and mandating masks on public transit, among other things. Once the bill clears the lower chamber, the House will have passed 10 out of its 12 spending bills for FY 2021, with the bills for Legislative Branch and Homeland Security still outstanding.
Washington Insider: What We're Reading
The coronavirus recession is taking an axe to revenue streams for key government programs like Social Security, Medicare and highway infrastructure. The high rate of unemployment during the pandemic means fewer payroll taxes are being collected to fund Medicare and Social Security, and less driving means the federal gas tax isn’t bringing in as much money for the Highway Trust Fund as it normally does. Many of those programs, which Congress established with dedicated funding, were already on borrowed time before the pandemic hit, but the record economic downturn in the second quarter and the deteriorating labor market are accelerating their decline.
Four Republican senators on Thursday introduced a bill that would create a second round of coronavirus relief payments, providing more money to children and less to adults compared to the first round. Under the bill from GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.), Steve Daines (Mont.), Mitt Romney (Utah), and Marco Rubio (Fla.), both adults and children would receive stimulus payments of $1,000. The payments that Congress provided for in legislation enacted in March, known as the CARES Act, were $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.
A group of Democratic senators on Thursday introduced companion legislation to the House's "Environmental Justice for All" bill aimed at addressing environmental inequalities faced by low-income and nonwhite communities. The legislation, unveiled by Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), would require the government to consider the cumulative effects of certain permitting decisions, meaning they would have to consider how a new permit would interact with existing sources of nearby pollution.
President Donald Trump said Thursday that he is looking at ways to extend the pause on monthly payments for federal student loans, an emergency benefit set to expire at the end of September. Speaking at the White House, Trump ticked through a list of actions his administration has taken so far to bolster the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic and said he is considering extending the payment freeze that — without action — will end for some 40 million Americans just weeks before the November election.
COVID-19 Legislative & Regulatory Trackers
Senate Republicans officially introduced their opening offer proposal for the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation following days of intraparty negotiations between GOP Senators and White House officials. The legislative package was officially released as multiple pieces of legislation, with six total sections:
President Donald Trump reiterated his desire to see a smaller relief package that would address the expiring unemployment benefits, extend the moratorium on housing evictions, and provide another round of direct payments — an approach that has been rejected by House Democrats thus far. As the sides remain far apart on the size and scope of the next package, it remains to be seen whether the talks can produce a bipartisan agreement prior to the start of Congress' August district work period next Friday.
Click here to view TRP's side-by-side of the Senate GOP HEALS Act and the House Democratic HEROES Act.
— TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES 'WARP SPEED' PARTNERSHIP WITH SANOFI, GSK. The Departments of Health and Human Services and Defense announced a new "Operation Warp Speed" partnership with Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to support advanced development of a COVID-19 investigational adjuvanted vaccine.
— HHS OIG UPDATES COVID-19 FAQs. The (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has updated its list of frequently asked questions pertaining to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
— CMS, CDC ANNOUNCE PROVIDER REIMBURSEMENT FOR COUNELING PATIENTS. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that payment is available to physicians and health care providers to counsel patients, at the time of COVID-19 testing, about the importance of self-isolation after they are tested and prior to the onset of symptoms.
— HHS ISSUES TRENDS REPORT ON TELEHEALTH UTILIZATION. HHS has published a report detailing utilization trends of telehealth services for primary care delivery in Fee-for-Service (FFS) Medicare during the COVID-19 pandemic.
— CMS UPDATES DATA ON COVID-19 IMPACTS ON MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES. CMS released its first monthly update of data that provides a snapshot of the impact of COVID-19 on the Medicare population, including data for American Indian/Alaskan Native Medicare beneficiaries. Information on the is here and an FAQ on the data release is here.
— FED EXTENDS COVID-19 LENDING FACILITIES THROUGH END OF 2020. The Federal Reserve announced a three-month extension for pandemic-related lending facilities that were scheduled to expire on or around Sept. 30.
The extensions apply to the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility, the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, the Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility, and the Main Street Lending Program.
— CDC ISSUES GUIDANCE ON REOPENING SCHOOLS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new resources and tools for school administrators, teachers, parents, guardians, and caregivers regarding school reopening efforts.
— AZAR RENEWS COVID-19 PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY. HHS Secretary Alex Azar officially renewed the COVID-19 public health emergency last week. Click here to read TRP's analysis.
— CMS ALLOCATES ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR NURSING HOMES. CMS announced the agency will allocate additional resources for nursing homes to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes $5 billion in funding from the Provider Relief Fund for Medicare-certified long term care facilities and state veterans’ homes, as well as a requirement that all nursing homes in states with a five percent positivity rate or greater test all nursing home staff each week.
— HHS ISSUES REPORTING GUIDANCE FOR PROVIDER RELIEF FUND. HHS released initial information for the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) reporting requirements, including the timing for submissions. HHS indicated that detailed guidance and materials will be released by August 17, 2020.
— HHS ANNOUNCES NEW NATIONAL TESTING IMPLEMENTATION FORUM. HHS announced the rollout of a new National Testing Implementation Forum. The Forum will bring together representatives from key stakeholder groups to share information and provide input to federal leaders about the virus, testing and diagnostics.
— HHS, DOD TO PROCURE PFIZER COVID-19 VACCINE. HHS and the Department of Defense (DoD) announced an agreement with Pfizer Inc. for large-scale production and nationwide delivery of 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States following the vaccine’s successful manufacture and approval.
— WAYS AND MEANS REPUBLICANS CIRCULATE TELEHEALTH DISCUSSION DRAFT. The Republicans of the House Ways & Means Committee issued a discussion draft of a bill to make permanent several of the temporary telehealth flexibilities implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to read TRP's analysis of this legislation.
— HHS OCR ISSUES GUIDANCE ON CIVIL RIGHTS PROTECTIONS DURING COVID-19. HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance to ensure that recipients of federal financial assistance understand that they must comply with applicable federal civil rights laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in HHS-funded programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
— HHS ANNOUNCES DISTRIBUTION OF $10B FOR HIGHLY IMPACTED HOSPITALS. HHS announced that it would distribute $10B to hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots beginning this week. Click here to read TRP's updated provider relief fund memo.
This distribution, which was first announced June 8, is based on data that HHS collected from hospitals in June detailing COVID-19 admissions through June 10. In addition, the agency extended the deadline for Medicaid and CHIP providers to apply for relief funds from June 20 to August 3.