COVID-19: Federal Update (8/7)
— COVID-19 RELIEF TALKS YIELD NO PROGRESS AS TRUMP EYES EXECUTIVE ACTION. An executive order that would extend the moratorium on evictions and student loan repayments, suspend payroll taxes, and renew the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits could be issued as soon as today.
— U.S. EMPLOYERS ADDED 1.8 MILLION JOBS IN JULY, UNEMPLOYMENT RATE FELL TO 10.2 PERCENT. Employers added 1.8 million jobs in July, and the unemployment rate fell to 10.2%, so far recovering less than half of the jobs lost due to the coronavirus pandemic.
— WHITE HOUSE PUSHED TO RELEASE DOCUMENTS ON PROJECTS EXPEDITED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS. More than 50 Democratic lawmakers are asking the Trump administration to turn over documents after the White House directed agencies to create a shortlist of construction projects that could be fast tracked to boost the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
— TRUMP SIGNS EO TO STRENGTHEN DOMESTIC MEDICAL SUPPLY CHAIN. Click here to read TRP's summary of the executive order.
Capitol Hill Update
— WH OFFICIALS SET FRIDAY DEADLINE FOR COVID-19 RELIEF AGREEMENT. Negotiations on the next round of COVID-19 relief talks are on the brink of collapse after talks yesterday failed to produce any new progress. White House officials and Congressional Democrats were working against an artificial deadline of the end of this week imposed by the administration during Thursday's meeting. However, the two sides remain far apart on numerous issues pertaining to the size and scope of the overall package, and it is unclear whether they will resume talking over the weekend or into next week. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is expected to issue an executive order as soon as today that would extend the moratorium on evictions and student loan repayments, suspend payroll taxes, and renew the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits. However, it's not clear whether the forthcoming order will have the necessary legal backing to significantly address these areas given Congress' "power of the purse."
Washington Insider: What We're Reading
Employers added 1.8 million jobs in July, and the unemployment rate fell to 10.2%, so far recovering less than half of the jobs lost due to the coronavirus pandemic. July’s job growth followed May and June’s combined payroll gain of 7.5 million as many states lifted lockdown restrictions on businesses. There are now about 13 million fewer jobs than in February, the month before the coronavirus hit the U.S. economy.
More than 50 Democratic lawmakers are asking the Trump administration to turn over documents after the White House directed agencies to create a shortlist of construction projects that could be fast tracked to boost the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. A June executive order from President Trump expedites the permitting of construction projects and energy projects overseen by several federal agencies, using emergency authorities to skirt environmental regulations with little public notice. Agencies had 30 days to report which projects will be expedited under the order, but there was no requirement for that list to be publicized.
House Coronavirus Crisis Subcommittee Chair Jim Clyburn on Thursday pressed the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department on why they didn’t include job retention requirements in an emergency lending program for midsized businesses or make it more accessible to smaller firms. Companies that take advantage of the Fed’s “Main Street” program have to make “commercially reasonable efforts” to retain employees, but unlike the “paycheck protection” goal of the small business rescue, they don’t have to formally pledge to use the money for payroll.
President Donald Trump has ordered a sweeping but vague ban on dealings with the Chinese owners of popular social media apps TikTok and WeChat on security grounds, a move China’s government criticized as “political manipulation.” The twin executive orders Thursday — one for each app — add to growing U.S.-Chinese conflict over technology and security. They take effect in 45 days and could bar the apps from the Apple and Google app stores, effectively removing them from U.S. distribution.
COVID-19: What We're Hearing
— COVID-19 TALKS. Negotiations over the course of this week have touched on a wide array of issues outside of the more pressing areas concerning unemployment insurance and housing. These topics include boosting food security through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), bolstering the nation's broadband infrastructure, shoring up the U.S. postal service, providing additional funding for child care and education purposes, addressing additional health care and testing needs, as well as addressing a pension fix. However, officials acknowledged they are still "trillions" of dollars apart on the next round of aid, clouding the likelihood of a deal prior to the end of this week.
— HEALS Act. 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:
Click here to view TRP's side-by-side of the Senate GOP HEALS Act and the House Democratic HEROES Act.
COVID-19 Legislative & Regulatory Trackers
— TRUMP SIGNS EO TO STRENGTHEN DOMESTIC MEDICAL SUPPLY CHAIN. President Trump signed an executive order (EO) aimed at increasing domestic manufacturing and onshoring supply chains for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to decrease the likelihood of potential shortages. Click here to read TRP's summary of the EO.
— NIH LAUNCHES NEW AI-BASED NETWORK FOR COVID-19 DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT, AND MONITORING. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the launch of the Medical Imaging and Data Resource Center (MIDRC). This new multi-institutional collaboration will seek to leverage artificial intelligence and medical imaging as new tools that physicians can use for early detection and personalized therapies for COVID-19 patients.
— CMS ANNOUNCES TEMPORARY POLICY FOR PREMIUM REDUCTIONS. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that the agency is temporarily exercising enforcement discretion to allow issuers, when consistent with state law, to offer premium reductions for one or more months for 2020 coverage. This temporary policy will be in effect until the end of 2020.
— CRAPO FLOATS PROPOSAL ON EXPANDED EMERGENCY LENDING, RELAXED BANK CAPITAL RULES. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) rolled out a proposal yesterday that would give the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve more flexibility to take risks in emergency lending with the goal of keeping the economy stable during the balance of the pandemic. The measure was filed as an amendment to the Senate's COVID-19 legislative vehicle that's currently pending before the upper chamber.
The proposal would provide the central bank with temporary authority during "unusual and exigent circumstances" to ease a set of bank capital requirements established by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law's Collins amendment.
It would also provide Treasury with the authority to approve loans and other investments even if it appears they "may incur losses," thus providing more flexibility for the $454 billion in emergency lending authority Congress provided Treasury and the Federal Reserve.
— TRUMP EO SEEKS TO MAKE PANDEMIC-RELATED TELEHEALTH FLEXIBILITIES PERMANENT. President Trump signed an executive order on August 3rd aimed at improving rural health and boosting access to telehealth, while also amplifying the administration’s work to codify some of the telehealth flexibilities offered through the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The order also instructs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to develop new value-based payment models for telehealth that will provide flexibilities from existing Medicare rules and establish predictable financial payments.
— HHS ANNOUNCES EXTENSION, REOPENING OF PROVIDER RELIEF FUND OPPORTUNITIES. On July 31, HHS announced a second extension of the deadline to apply for the $15 billion Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) allotment. The new deadline is August 28. Eligible providers may receive up to two percent of reported revenue from patient care.
HHS also announced that, starting the week of August 10, the department is offering another opportunity for Medicare providers to apply for additional funding from the $20 billion portion of the $50 billion Phase 1 Medicare General Distribution.
Providers will have until August 28, 2020, to complete an application to be considered for the balance of their additional funding up to two percent of their annual patient revenues.
Finally, starting the week of August 10, HHS is also allowing providers who experienced change in ownership challenges to submit their information by August 28 for consideration for Provider Relief Fund payment.
— NIH AWARDS FUNDING FOR NEW COVID-19 TESTING TECHNOLOGIES. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced nearly $250 million in new contracts for companies developing COVID-19 testing as a part of the agency's Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative.
— 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.