• ntcdfw

COVID-19: Federal Update (9/1)


Quick Takes

— SENATE GOP PLOTS VOTE ON 'SKINNY' PANDEMIC RELIEF BILLTiming on the vote still needs to be ironed out by Senate Republican leadership.

— HOUSE OUTLINES LEGISLATIVE SCHEDULE FOR SEPTEMBERHouse Democratic Leadership is planning a busy September legislative session as lawmakers look to address a host of key priorities.

— MNUCHIN TO TESTIFY AS COVID-19 RELIEF IMPASSE DRAGS ON. The Treasury Secretary's testimony comes as a stalemate continues over a new emergency relief package for struggling workers, cities and states.


— HHS OUTLINES LIABILITY PROTECTIONS FOR NURSING HOMES TO ADMINISTER ASYMPTOMATIC COVID-19 TESTING. Legal protections will be provided for health providers who administer COVID-19 tests to screen people without symptoms in group living facilities such as nursing homes. 


Capitol Hill Update

— SENATE GOP PLOTS VOTE ON 'SKINNY' PANDEMIC RELIEF BILL. Senate Republicans are pushing for action on a slimmed-down version of their HEALS Act legislation when they return from the August district work period. GOP Conference Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) told reporters that he's hopeful that the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act will be called up for a vote next week, noting that timing still needs to be ironed out by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) following a Conference call with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The draft version of the legislation contains pandemic-related provisions on testing, treatment, vaccines, the postal service, small business relief, education, unemployment insurance, and liability protections. For more on the Senate GOP's "skinny" relief bill, click here to read TRP's analysis.


— HOUSE OUTLINES LEGISLATIVE SCHEDULE FOR SEPTEMBERHouse Democratic Leadership is planning a busy September as lawmakers look to address a host of key legislative priorities. In a "Dear Colleague" letter yesterday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) acknowledged that Members will need to take up a stopgap funding measure in order to keep the government funded past the Sept. 30 deadline, adding that the vehicle will likely carry reauthorization measures for expiring flood insurance and surface transportation programs. In addition to the forthcoming action on appropriations, Leader Hoyer noted that the House will take up: (1) legislation that would decriminalize marijuana and expunge nonviolent federal cannabis convictions; (2) clean energy and innovation measures out of the Energy and Commerce and Science, Space, and Technology Committees; and (3) Education and Labor Committee bills focused on diversity, inclusion, and equity. 


Washington Insider: What We're Reading

The Hill: Mnuchin to Testify as COVID-19 Relief Impasse Drags On

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is slated to testify Tuesday afternoon before the special House committee investigating the federal response to the coronavirus crisis as a stalemate continues over a new emergency relief package for struggling workers, cities and states. Democrats on the panel, led by Chairman Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), are expected to grill Mnuchin on why the Trump administration has proposed figures for the next round of stimulus that Democrats have blasted as inadequate to meet the needs of suffering Americans.

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Payroll-Tax Deferral Leaves Employers Wary as Plan Starts ($)

President Trump’s payroll-tax deferral plan started Tuesday, but many employers seem unlikely to adopt the policy, which would effectively give their workers a short-term interest-free loan. Employers participating in the president’s plan would stop withholding some Social Security taxes for the rest of 2020, then withhold twice as much as usual early next year to pay the delayed taxes. That would put more money in workers’ pockets temporarily and give them a chance at keeping that money permanently if Congress later forgives the taxes.


The Hill: Mnuchin to Testify as COVID-19 Relief Impasse Drags On

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is slated to testify Tuesday afternoon before the special House committee investigating the federal response to the coronavirus crisis as a stalemate continues over a new emergency relief package for struggling workers, cities and states. Democrats on the panel, led by Chairman Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), are expected to grill Mnuchin on why the Trump administration has proposed figures for the next round of stimulus that Democrats have blasted as inadequate to meet the needs of suffering Americans.

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Payroll-Tax Deferral Leaves Employers Wary as Plan Starts ($)

President Trump’s payroll-tax deferral plan started Tuesday, but many employers seem unlikely to adopt the policy, which would effectively give their workers a short-term interest-free loan. Employers participating in the president’s plan would stop withholding some Social Security taxes for the rest of 2020, then withhold twice as much as usual early next year to pay the delayed taxes. That would put more money in workers’ pockets temporarily and give them a chance at keeping that money permanently if Congress later forgives the taxes.

Washington Insider: What We're Hearing

— THE LATEST ON PANDEMIC RELIEF LEGISLATIONWhite House officials and Congressional Democratic Leadership remain far apart on key issues such as unemployment insurance, state and local aid, funding for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and education assistance, among other things. Despite the willingness to resume discussions, a deal is unlikely to come together until later in September. Meadows noted that the White House would support tacking the measure onto a forthcoming continuing resolution (CR) needed to avert the Sept. 30 government funding deadline, adding that President Donald Trump is continuing to mull over additional executive actions in lieu of legislation.

PANDEMIC EXECUTIVE ORDERS. With negotiations on the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation at a standstill, President Donald Trump issued a series of executive orders on pandemic-related priorities. The orders seek to restore the enhanced federal unemployment benefits at a rate lower than the CARES Act allocation, defer payroll taxes until early 2021, renew the moratorium on evictions, and continue deferring student loan payments and accrued interest under the CARES Act statute. The executive actions do not touch on any health-specific priorities such as testing and treatment, nor do they address liability-related issues — leaving employers at risk of litigation until a compromise deal is hammered out. 


Details on the orders include: 

  • Unemployment Insurance. This order seeks to extend the pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) established by the CARES Act, lowering the weekly bonus from $600 to $400. The administration calls on states to front 25 percent of the cost — equivalent to $100 toward the weekly benefit — with the federal government covering the remaining 75 percent. To fund the revamped PUA, the White House outlined hundreds of billions in federal funding that the administration plans to “reprogram” in a manner similar to the way it has diverted Pentagon funding for wall construction on the U.S.-Mexico border. The president says he will tap into roughly $80 billion in unallocated money from the CARES Act State, Local, and Tribal Coronavirus Relief Fund, as well as more than $40 billion from the Federal Emergency Management’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund, to fund these efforts.


  • Payroll Tax. This order directs the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payment of employee-side Social Security payroll taxes through the end of 2020 for employees earning less than about $100,000 annually. While the text of the EO states that the intended deferral period would start Sept. 1, President Trump suggested that it could be retroactive to Aug. 1, saying that he hopes to forgive the deferred payroll taxes and make permanent payroll tax cuts if he is reelected in November. While the tax code does give the Treasury secretary authority to delay tax filing and collection amid presidentially-declared disasters, it remains to be seen whether employers will stop withholding payroll taxes given the risk of future liability. Critics of this particular order have also expressed concerns about the impact this action could have on both the short and long-term solvency of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.

  • Housing. This EO outlines potential policy actions that federal agencies could take to address housing evictions during the balance of the pandemic, but does not offer an explicit pause on evictions. Specifically, the order instructs agencies to: (1) consider whether halting evictions will help stem the spread of COVID-19 across state lines; (2) identify available funds available to provide temporary financial assistance to renters and homeowners; (3) promote the ability of renters and homeowners to avoid eviction or foreclosure by encouraging and providing assistance to public housing authorities, affordable housing owners, landlords, and recipients of Federal grant funds in minimizing evictions and foreclosures; and (4) review all existing authorities and resources that may be used to prevent evictions and foreclosures for renters and homeowners. Congressional Democrats reportedly agree that the president does have the authority to address housing evictions via executive order, but are unlikely to be satisfied with what they would consider to be the administration’s watered-down approach in this executive action. 


COVID-19 Legislative & Regulatory Trackers

NEW TODAY...

— HHS OUTLINES LIABILITY PROTECTIONS FOR NURSING HOMES TO ADMINISTER ASYMPTOMATIC COVID-19 TESTING. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance outlining legal protections for health providers who administer COVID-19 tests to screen people without symptoms in group living facilities such as nursing homes. 


RECENT DEVELOPMENTS...

— TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ISSUES GUIDANCE ON PAYROLL TAX EO. The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued guidance outlining implementation steps for the President's executive order on the payroll tax deferral. The guidance postpones some payroll taxes that would normally be due between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31 and makes them due between Jan. 1 and April 30, 2021.

— CMS ISSUES NEW FAQS ON PROVIDER RELIEF FUND. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released an additional list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to Medicare providers regarding the Provider Relief Fund and the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program payments. 

  • The FAQs address how to report provider relief fund payments, uninsured charges reimbursed through the Uninsured Program administered by Health Resources and Services Administration, and Small Business Administration (SBA) Loan Forgiveness amounts. The FAQs also address that provider relief fund payments should not offset expenses on the Medicare Cost Report.  

— HHS ANNOUNCES $2.5 BILLION PROVIDER RELIEF FUND DISTRIBUTION TO NURSING HOMES. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it has distributed $2.5 billion of a planned $5 billion in funding to nursing homes aimed at supporting increased testing, staffing, and personal protective equipment (PPE) needs.

  • The funding allocation was made through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) as a targeted distribution from the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund.

— FHFA EXTENDS COVID-19 FORBEARANCE POLICY. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) will extend buying qualified loans in forbearance and several loan origination flexibilities until Sept. 30, 2020. 

— CMS ISSUES GUIDANCE FOR IMPLEMENTING NEW TESTING REQUIREMENTS IN NURSING HOMES AND LABS. CMS issued guidance for nursing homes and clinical laboratories aimed at preventing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

  • The guidance requires all nursing homes to test all residents and staff for COVID-19 and includes new survey tool. It also recommends that facilities that conduct patient lab tests use authorized detection antigens as another deterrent in infection prevention and control.

— FDA APPROVES RAPID COVID-19 TEST FOR EMERGENCY USE. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Abbott's antigen test where results can be read directly from the testing card, a similar design to some pregnancy tests. 

— HHS EXTENDS PROVIDER RELIEF FUND APPLICATION DEADLINE. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has extended the deadline to apply for funding through the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund to Sunday, Sept. 13.

— TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PUBLISHES NEW RULES AIMED AT BOLSTERING COVID-19 DATA. The Trump administration published new rules outlining COVID-19 testing and reporting requirements aimed at fighting outbreaks in nursing homes and gaining more data on the pandemic from hospitals and laboratories.

  • The new interim final rule mandates that hospitals report a slew of data daily, such as the number of confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients and how many ICU beds are occupied. It also levies fines against laboratories and nursing homes conducting COVID-19 testing for individual patients if they do not report daily results to HHS.

— CMS LAUNCHES NEW NATIONAL NURSING HOME TRAINING PROGRAM. CMS announced that it has launched a new national training program for frontline nursing home staff and management aimed at providing more knowledge to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

— CMS ISSUES BULLETIN ON MEDICAID REIMBURSEMENT STRATEGIES TO PREVENT SPREAD OF COVID-19 IN NURSING FACILITIES. CMS issued a Medicaid Informational Bulletin outlining guidance to states on flexibilities that are available to increase reimbursement for nursing facilities that implement specific infection control practices.

  • This includes information on the Disaster State Plan Amendments (SPA) template and describes how states may use state-directed payments to increase reimbursement to nursing facilities in managed care

— HHS ADDS HEALTH PLANS TO JUNE 2020 PLASMA DONATION GUIDANCE.

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at HHS issued amended guidance on how the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule permits covered health care providers and health plans to contact their patients and beneficiaries who have recovered from COVID-19 to inform them about how they can donate their convalescent plasma.

  • The guidance emphasizes that, without individuals' authorization, the providers and health plans cannot receive any payment from, or on behalf of, a plasma donation center in exchange for such communications with recovered individuals.

— FDA GRANTS EMERGENCY USE FOR CONVALESCENT PLASMA TREATMENTS. FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for investigational convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients.


— TRUMP ADMINISTRATION INVOKES DPA FOR NURSING HOME RAPID TESTS. HHS announced that it has invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to secure rapid COVID-19 tests and supplies for roughly 14,000 nursing homes across the country. 

12 views

Recent Posts

See All

COVID-19: Federal Update (9/30)

Quick Takes — PELOSI, MNUCHIN SET TO PICK UP PANDEMIC RELIEF TALKS. Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Steven Mnuchin are set to resume their negotiations on the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation th

COVID-19: Federal Update (9/29)

Quick Takes — HOUSE DEMS REINTRODUCE HEROES ACT. Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin will pick up negotiations today in hopes of striking a bipartisan agreement. — TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PUSHES TO END

COVID-19: Federal Update (9/23)

Quick Takes — HOUSE PASSES CR; SENATE VOTE LIKELY NEXT WEEK. Senators are expected to vote on the stopgap funding measure early next week. — DOJ TO SEEK CONGRESSIONAL CURBS ON IMMUNITY FOR INTERNET CO

I'm a paragraph. Click here to edit and add your own text. Is easy! Just click on "Edit Text" or double-click on me and you can add your own content and change fonts.

Contact Us
COVID-19: Federal Update (9/30)
COVID-19: Federal Update (9/29)
COVID-19: Federal Update (9/23)
Last Days to Make North Texas Count
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn

© 2016 The North Texas Commission, All Rights Reserved
8445 Freeport Parkway, Suite 640, Irving, TX 75063
972-621-0400