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Senate Passes $484 Billion COVID-19 Relief Package

Earlier today, the U.S. Senate passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. This bipartisan bill supported by House and Senate leadership and the President will replenish depleted funding by providing $484 billion for small businesses to allow them to keep their doors open, reimburse hospitals and health care providers that have lost revenue, and expand coronavirus testing capacity across the nation.

The bill does not contain funding sought by Democrats for states and localities, but the President has indicated his willingness to consider such funding in the next coronavirus response package. The House is expected to pass the bill as soon as tomorrow and send it to the President for his signature.

The bill provides a crucial boost to the Paycheck Protection Program, which recently exhausted its loan authority, by providing another $310 billion for small businesses that have yet to receive loans through the program. The program, which allows the Small Business Administration to guarantee covered loans through private lending at regional banks, has seen unprecedented demand for loans from small businesses across the country. Of the dollars allocated to the Paycheck Protection Program, the bill ensures that $30 billion will be set aside for small business lending by minority financial institutions, community development financial institutions, community development corporations, and state and federal credit unions. The package also requires the Small Business Administrator to guarantee at least $30 billion in loans made by community financial institutions, credit unions, and insured institutions with less than $10 billion in assets. Another $30 billion in loans would be guaranteed for insured institutions and credit unions with assets between $10 billion and $50 billion.

Additionally, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act provides an additional $10 billion in funding for the Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grant program. This doubles the previous amount of funding for the program, which allows businesses to request up to $10,000 in advance emergency cash that can also be rolled into a Paycheck Protection Program loan. To shore up the farming economy, the bill also expands eligibility for the EIDL grant program to small businesses with less than 500 employees that are engaged in agriculture, ranching, aquaculture, and livestock.

The bill provides another $75 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) to support the nation’s health care systems, hospitals, health care providers, and public health agencies that have worked to halt the spread of coronavirus. These dollars will be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond domestically and internationally to the coronavirus. PHSSEF funding also may be used to build temporary structures, lease properties, medical supplies, and equipment, including personal protective equipment and testing supplies. Money obtained from the PHSSEF may also be used to expand and train the workforce, increase emergency operations centers, retrofit facilities, and improve surge capacity.

The bill also allows funding from the PHSSEF to reimburse health care providers through grants or other means for health care expenses and lost revenues due to coronavirus. The bill ensures that public entities, Medicare or Medicaid enrolled suppliers and providers, and for-profit entities and non-profit entities in the U.S. and its territories that diagnose, test, or care for people with possible or actual coronavirus cases are eligible. The bill makes clear that funding from the PHSSEF cannot be used to reimburse expenses or losses that will be reimbursed from other sources. Recipients of PHSSEF funding will be required to submit reports to the Health and Human Services Secretary to ensure compliance with this and other provisions.

The bill ensures that multiple forms of payment will be allowed by the Health and Human Services Secretary from the PHSSEF including pre-payment, prospective payment, or retrospective payment, and requires consideration of the most efficient payment system to provide emergency payments. To be eligible for payments from the PHSSEF, providers must have a valid tax identification number and submit an application that includes justification for the payment.

To help increase coronavirus testing around the nation, the bill provides $25 billion to research, develop, validate, manufacture, purchase, administer, and expand capacity. $11 billion of this money must go to states, localities, territories, tribes, and urban Indian health organizations to develop, purchase, administer, and process coronavirus tests. The package prioritizes testing for the workforce and employers, epidemiology, and scaling up testing by public health, academic, commercial, hospital labs community-based testing sites, and health care facilities engaged in testing, surveillance and contact tracing.

The bill describes testing to monitor and suppress the virus and test for active infection and prior exposure. Lastly, the bill itemizes a number of uses for funding including: (1) molecular, antigen, and serological tests; (2) manufacturing, procurement, and distribution of tests; (3) testing equipment and testing supplies including personal protective equipment used to administer tests; (4) development and validation of rapid, molecular point-of-care tests; (5) support for workforce, epidemiology, scaling up academic testing; and (6) conducting surveillance and contact tracing and supporting development of testing plans.

The Senate’s bipartisan bill also awards $600 million to federally qualified health centers and $225 million to rural health clinics for testing and related expenses. These dollars may be used to build temporary structures, lease property, and retrofit facilities as necessary in order to conduct coronavirus testing.

Finally, the bill requires the Health and Human Services Secretary to submit a comprehensive strategic coronavirus testing plan to Congress 30 days after the package is signed into law. The Health and Human Services Secretary’s plan must detail assistance to states, localities, territories, and urban Indian health organizations on testing for active infections and prior exposure. In addition, it must outline hospital-based testing, complex lab testing, point-of-care testing, mobile unit testing, and testing by employers.

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