After a two-week impasse with Democrats and Republicans proposing competing COVID-19 pandemic relief bills, the Senate (on April 21, 2020) and the House (on April 23, 2020) approved a total of $480 billion of additional funds for various COVID-19 pandemic relief programs, including additional funding to the Payroll Protection Program, health care providers treating COVID-19 patients, and state and federal agencies for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
$310 billion of the total is added to the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) that provides government-backed loans to cover payroll costs, benefits, mortgage interest, and rent payments that can be forgiven if the recipient continues paying employees through the crisis. The PPP covers eight weeks of costs. The earlier PPP funding of $349 billion ran out on April 16 and it is anticipated that this second funding will be claimed in just a few days.
The relief package also includes an expansion of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program by $60 billion.
Also included in the relief package is an additional $75 billion for health care providers treating COVID-19 patients. These funds are available to eligible health care providers defined as Medicare or Medicaid enrolled suppliers and providers, including physician practices and hospitals, that provides diagnoses, testing, or care for individuals with possible or actual cases of COVID-19.
The funds are available for “necessary expenses to reimburse, through grants or other mechanisms eligible health care providers for healthcare-related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus.” The relief package defines such expenses as building or construction of temporary structures, leasing of properties, medical supplies, and equipment including personal protective equipment and testing supplies, increased workforce and training, emergency operation centers, retrofitting facilities, and surge capacity. The funds may not be used to reimburse expenses or losses that have been reimbursed from other sources or that other sources are obligated to reimburse.
The relief program also includes $25 billion for state and federal agencies for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, including the manufacturing, procurement, and distribution of tests, testing equipment and supplies, and personal protective equipment needed for administering tests, the development and validation of rapid, molecular point-of-care tests and support for workforce, epidemiology, to scale up academic, commercial, public health and hospital laboratories to conduct surveillance and contact tracing.
The House included in the bill the creation of an investigative panel to review the federal coronavirus response and to work toward a more perfect response to this and future pandemics. The relief package now goes to President Trump for his signature. He has expressed support for the legislation and indicated that he will sign it.
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