Federal Response to COVID-19
As you know, the first coronavirus cases in the US were confirmed on January 14 and the Federal government has responded in various ways.
Emergency Federal Funding Package #1—
PL 116-123, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act
On March 6th and after quick passage in the House and Senate that week, President Trump signed into law PL 116-123, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act.
The $8.3 billion package allocates:
More than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics;
$2.2 billion in public health funding for prevention, preparedness, and response, $950 million of which is to support state and local health agencies;
Nearly $1 billion for procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to support healthcare preparedness and Community Health Centers, and to improve medical surge capacity;
$435 million to support health systems overseas to prevent, prepare, and respond to the coronavirus;
$300 million to respond to humanitarian needs;
$61 million to facilitate the development and review of medical countermeasures, devices, therapies, and vaccines and to help mitigate potential supply chain interruptions; and
Allows for an estimated $7 million in low-interest loans to affected small businesses.
You can find a House Appropriations Committee summary of the funding package HERE.
National Health Emergency Declaration
On March 13th, the President declared the public health fight a national emergency. This declaration authorizes the federal government to expend an additional nearly $50 billion of the Disaster Relief Fund to help manage the crisis. Additionally (per the previously linked article):
The declaration empowered Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to waive revisions of applicable laws and regulations to give hospitals and health care providers "maximum flexibility" to respond to the virus and care for patients. Among the actions Azar could take are waiving:
Laws to enable telehealth;
Certain federal license requirements so out-of-state doctors can provide services in states with the greatest need;
Requirements that limit the number of beds in critical access hospitals to 25 and the length of stay to 96 hours;
Requirements of a 3-day hospital stay prior to admission to a nursing home;
Rules hindering hospitals ability to bring additional physicians on board; and
Rules that severely restrict where hospitals can care for patients within the hospital.
Emergency Federal Funding Package #2—
HR 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
In the early morning hours of March 14th, the House passed a second multi-billion dollar COVID-19 emergency supplemental, HR 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The Senate followed suit this week, and the President signed the package into law on March 18th.
This bill, very briefly, provides:
Free COVID-19 testing;
Paid sick leave for certain groups;
Paid family leave;
An expansion of unemployment insurance benefits;
Expanded food assistance; and
Additional assistance for small businesses.
The House Appropriations Committee title-by-title summary (as passed by the House on Saturday, March 14th) can be found HERE, and a summary of paid leave provisions incorporating changes made by technical correction can be found HERE.
The Defense Production Act
On March 18th, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) which allows the Federal government to make prioritized “requests” to individual companies. These requests will most likely be carried out by the Department of Defense and, at this time, be focused on meeting national needs for masks, respirators, ventilators, and other critically needed medical supplies.
Queuing Emergency Federal Funding Packages #3 and #4
With the coronavirus crisis still escalating, Congress and the White house are looking toward additional emergency response packages. The White House has unveiled an additional $1.3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which proposes to provide $500 billion in direct payments to Americans, $50 billion in loans to the distressed airline sector, and $150 billion to “severely distressed sectors” of the economy.
The Senate remains in session, and recently released a third package entitled, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the CARES Act. You can find the HELP section-by-section summary here. The House Democrats are at the negotiation table and are reportedly focused on economic support for families, mortgage/student/other loan support initiatives, and efforts to bolster the health care sector.
A fourth coronavirus relief package is already being discussed that could provide additional relief resources to US agencies.