Washington Posts –  The Latest:  March, 2020

Dear NAGE Colleagues:

What follows is some of the coronavirus related information I have written or pulling together. It’s probably too much, but feel free to skip what is not of interest to you.

I hope that you and your families are safe and well.


What Congress Has Done and Where Are We Now:

  • Starting with where we are now (then how we got here)…It’s been a bad day or two in the Senate. Over the weekend, the Senate tried but was unable to pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act due to disagreements on provisions for corporations getting federal assistance as well as unemployment insurance and worker protections. Right now it’s a political mess with significant disagreements over this third coronavirus legislative package. Both sides are attempting to make the other party look like they are playing games while the economy is in peril. The R’s are trying to force the D’s to accept their bill without much compromise and the D’s are not willing to do that (yet). Bottom line, they need to come up with a bipartisan bill and probably merge it with a House bill and get it done quickly in order to try to prevent further economic harm to the country. Senate Republicans had hoped to have the bill passed today, but negotiations continue. See also below that the Speaker released a bill today.
    • SPECIAL NOTE: NAGE requested that Senator Collins and Rep. Schakowsky work to include the GWEP/GACA reauthorization bill and additional funding in one of the coronavirus packages because of our important role in training those serving older adults who are particularly susceptible to the virus. We are pleased that the Senate draft bill does include the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) passed GWEP/GACA reauthorization bill. But the funding level remains at $40.737 million, not the $51 million we have requested. NAGE continues to advocate for at least $51 million in this bill and appropriations vehicles.
  • On Friday, March 6, 2020, the President signed into law: H.R. 6074, the “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020” (Public Law 116-123), which provides additional fiscal year 2020 emergency supplemental funding for combatting the spread of the coronavirus at the local, State, national, and international levels and to prepare for the impacts that it may have on the Nation. It includes money for developing, manufacturing, and procuring vaccines, grants for state, local, and tribal public health agencies, loans for affected small businesses, evacuations and emergency preparedness activities.
  • On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the President signed into law H.R. 6201, the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act, (PL 116-127)” which provides for supplemental appropriations related to the COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as waivers and modifications of Federal nutrition programs, employment-related protections and benefits, health programs and insurance coverage requirements, and related tax credits during the COVID-19 public health emergency
  • The Senate is drafting the third bill to address the crisis.
    • Things started out pretty civil the other day with the senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has outlined the key elements: help for small business, money for people from the middle-income down, loans for industries, and extensive help in the health care sector. The proposal would also address some of the costs to employers for the benefits they provide to employees.
    • The minority leader then said has said the most important thing is the need to have this bill focus on the workers of America, with no bailout of industry without strict provisions to make sure workers are protected and executives are not benefitting. He also addressed the need to focus on hospitals, ventilators and other supplies, the health care workers, using the Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary hospitals, and keeping transportation running.
      • Senator Schumer’s COVID-19 Public Health and Economic Emergency Proposal: See Attached
      • C-3 Appropriations and Policy Summary (as of 3-17-20): See Attached
    • Here are links to the legislation that Senator Casey and other Democrats have drafted to address the needs of people with disabilities and older adults. Much of this did not make it into McConnell’s bill Republican bill. The Coronavirus Relief for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act would:
      • Increase funding for nursing home surveys to promote infection control, and fund long-term care ombudsmen
      • Cover the cost of treatment for low-income seniors and boost the economy
      • Promote home and community-based services and protect home health workers
      • Make sure seniors and people with disabilities have healthy food and other services at home
    • Bill Text (linked here)
    • One-pager (linked here)
  • The House bill (Speaker Pelosi) become available today (March 23) as well. The PDF COVID19-3-xml is attached. The bill would provide more than $1 billion for the Administration for Community Living programs for older Americans and individuals with disabilities.
  • Letter from The Disability and Aging Collaborative to Leaders McConnell and Schumer: We are asking these leaders to support the provisions in the package passed by the House on Saturday, providing increased reimbursement for state Medicaid programs, emergency requirements for all health insurers to cover COVID-19 testing free of charge, paid sick days and paid leave, and expanded nutrition assistance. The letter attached.
  • The OMB sent a letter to Congress on March 17 with the following request, which the Democrats in the House called inadequate:

“At this time, the Administration is requesting additional fiscal year (FY) 2020 funding in the amount of $45.8 billion. In addition to the emergency supplemental resources requested in this letter, the Administration also seeks to amend its FY 2021 Budget request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). This FY 2021 Budget amendment increases funding for CDC to ensure that the Agency has the resources beginning October 1, 2020, to continue its critical public health mission. This amendment requests a total FY 2021 funding level of $8,329,102,000 for CDC, which is $1,328,196,000 above the FY 2021 Budget request. The additional funding will support priority CDC activities such as Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Global Health, Public Health Preparedness and Response, and the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund, among other activities. The additional funding is also for the proposed America’s Health Block Grant to allow States and localities to address their most pressing non-infectious disease issues.

The Budget amendment would also increase funding for NIAID to ensure it has the resources beginning October 1, 2020, to continue critical basic and applied research on coronaviruses and other infectious diseases. NIAID is NIH’ s leading institute on infectious disease research and is at the forefront of the Federal Government’s pursuit of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. This FY 2021 Budget amendment would increase the NIAID total funding level within: the NIH to $5,885,470,000, which is $439,584,000 above the FY 2021 Budget request.”

CCD Task Force Appropriations Letter: Draft to Chairs Shelby and Lowey, Vice Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Granger. The letter is attached.

AARP Letter to Senators and Representatives: to protect residents in nursing homes and other residential facilities. Read the letter here: https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/politics/advocacy/2020/03/03172020-aarp-federal-legislative-recommendations-covid19-final.pdf?intcmp=AE-HP-LL1

Employee Considerations – March 16: http://www.wnj.com/Publications/COVID-19-Important-Employee-Benefit-Considerations

Healthsperien COVID-19 Resources: Executive Summary – COVID-19 Analysis of Potential Impacts on Health Care System: See Attached

COVID-19 Issue Brief #1: Potential short and long-term effects on health care utilization and spending (March 2020): See Attached

National Hospice Stakeholders: Legislatives Asks to Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Final Letter: See Attachment

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Coronavirus (COVID-19): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Emergency Preparedness and Recovery Resources for Health Center – COVID-19 Resources: https://bphc.hrsa.gov/emergency-response

Brian W. Lindberg, NAGE Public Policy Advisor

1612 K Street, NW, Suite 200

Washington, DC 20006