COVID-19 Relief Bill State of Play
Legislation | September 09, 2020 | by Mollie Gurian
Congress returned this week, but whether there will be another COVID-19 relief package remains up in the air.
Both the Congress and the White House say they are open to a deal but remain far apart of what that deal should look like. One major sticking point is the amount of money for a relief package. The House passed the “Heroes Act” back in May which provided $3.5 trillion dollars in relief across multiple sectors and Speaker Pelosi has said she is willing to come down a trillion dollars. Senate Republicans responded with the $1 trillion dollar HEALS Act in July. Money for state and local government and the size of an extended unemployment benefit are two places where the parties remain far apart; though with such large amounts of money and a broad range of relief needed, there are many other areas that would need to be hammered out.
Senate Republicans released draft text of the “Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act” on Tuesday September 8th. The legislation aims to pull together policies that can provide some targeted COVID-19 related relief. The Senate Republican caucus, led by Leader Mitch McConnell, are seeking through this “skinny” bill to have a package that they can get a majority of Senate Republicans to vote “yes” on. This bill has an estimated price tag of about $500 million dollars which underscores the role of cost in trying to get Senate Republicans to coalesce around a bill.
The bill contained very little of what we have been advocating for and that supports aging services providers. The bill includes:
- $16 billion dollars for state and local governments to pay for testing. This is less than what LeadingAge believes is needed for aging services providers alone and contains no language regarding a national testing strategy.
- $31 billion for vaccine, therapeutic and diagnostic development; vaccine distribution; the Strategic National Stockpile and grants for the establishment of state stockpiles. At least 6 billion dollars of this must be used for activities related to vaccine distribution, access, and coverage. 20 billion is for necessary expenses related to manufacturing, production, and purchase of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics. Of the amount remaining that is not specifically allocated, the bill does provide some other uses such as medical surge capacity and telehealth access and infrastructure that the monies can be used for.
- The liability provisions that were in HEALs and in the earlier “skinny” bill remain in this bill and are unchanged. The bill creates exclusive federal causes of action related to coronavirus “exposure” and “medical liability” claims, with the first claim being directed at protections for general businesses and the later specifically for health care providers. The proposed bill does not provide complete immunity for providers, but rather changes various elements of bringing a coronavirus-specific claim, including the standard of proof, damages, proportionate liability, and causation. The definition of “health care provider” in the bill is broad and includes both practitioners and providers. See more at https://leadingage.org/legislation/civil-liability-protections-safe-work-act
- The opportunity for a second round of PPP with reforms to require new applications show revenue loss and maintain loan documents consistent with IRS requirements. This bill allows for a second round of loans for businesses that (1) meet the SBA’s revenue size standard, if applicable; (2) have 300 or fewer employees; and (3) demonstrate at least a 35 percent reduction in gross revenue in a 2020 quarter relative to the same 2019 quarter to receive a second PPP loan. The 35% revenue loss number is a change from previous bills. If enacted, these second round PPP loans would be equal to 2.5X average monthly payroll costs, with a maximum loan value of $2 million. The uses of these loans will be subject to existing regulations implemented by the SBA and Treasury, with eligible uses expanded to cover certain worker protective, supplier, and operational expenses. The bill also simplifies the forgiveness application process for current and future PPP borrowers receiving loans of under $150,000 or less.
- There is $105 billion dollars aimed at educational support and childcare.
- The federal pandemic unemployment assistance that was offered under the CARES Act and ended July 31st would be extended to December 27th by this legislation but at a level of $300 dollars/week.
The Senate is set to vote Thursday September 10th on the GOP’s narrow relief proposal that even Republicans acknowledge will not pass.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Trump administration’s lead negotiator, is reportedly tamping down expectations that an agreement can be reached. Mnuchin has said his main focus is making sure Congress passes a stopgap spending measure to keep federal government open beyond September 30th. He and the Speaker have agreed to a clean continuing resolution in principle, but the details still need to be worked out.
LeadingAge will continue advocating for a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package in addition to the passage of a continuing resolution to keep the government funded before Congress leaves again at the beginning of October. Please stay tuned for more opportunities to take action!