What has Congress done about Coronavirus so far?
- H.R. 6074, Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, was introduced and passed under suspension of the rules in the House on March 4, passed the Senate on March 5, and became Public Law 116-123 when President Trump signed it on March 6. The bill includes a title to help facilitate emergency telehealth services, and provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding for a number of purposes, including:
- Vaccine and treatment R&D ($61 million to FDA, $836 million to NIH, $3.1 billion to HHS emergency fund)
- Grants for state and local governments ($950 million through HHS)
- Loans for small businesses ($20 million for SBA)
- Preparedness activities at U.S. government facilities ($250 million for the president)
- Humanitarian assistance and disease detection abroad ($300 million through HHS, $264 million through State, $435 million for bilateral Global Health Programs administered by USAID, $300 million for the President)
- S.Res. 497, Commemorating the life of Dr. Li Wenliang and calling for transparency and cooperation from the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Communist Party of China, passed the Senate on March 3.
What is the new relief bill that Pelosi and Trump (and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin) have been negotiating over—and that is apparently on its way to passage in the House as of the evening of Friday, March 13? (Since CRS has yet to write a summary, these are my descriptions, which may well be imprecise.)
- H.R. 6201, Families First Coronavirus Act, sponsored by House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY), is the House Democrats’ main vehicle. and contains 8 divisions.
- Division A is further Supplemental Appropriations, including: $900 million for Food and Nutrition Service, targeted at those children who usually receive free or reduced school lunches; $5 million for the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Program, to administer the emergency paid sick days program created by Title D; $250 million for HHS for Aging and Disability Services Program
- Division B, Nutrition Waivers, is meant to help the school lunches program continue reaching its usual recipients
- Division C, COVID-19 Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2020, instructs OSHA to create standards to protect healthcare workers
- Division D, Emergency Paid Leave Act of 2020, creates a program within Social Security to compensate people for emergency days off of work related to the COVID outbreak, including parents home with children whose schools or daycares have closed; this would pay 2/3 of usual wages, with a maximum of $4,000 per month, reduced by availability of state or local aid and by employer-provided paid sick leave. This program would cover one year, beginning January 19, 2020
- Division E, Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020, makes certain emergency adjustments to unemployment programs, including requiring that they waive the requirement to seek work for those suffering from COVID-19, and provides full federal funding for certain instances of extended unemployment insurance
- Division F, Paid Sick Days for Public Health Emergencies and Personal and Family Care, requires employers to have paid sick time for their employees, and sets outs various minimum requirements for such programs; and requires that this sick time be usable when an employee is obliged to respond to or miss work because of a public health emergency, and also when someone is responding to domestic violence; requires that employers make additional paid sick time available in the case of a public health emergency; creates various enforceable worker rights related to the sick leave requirement
- Division G, Health Provisions, requires health insurers to cover in vitro diagnostic products for COVID-19; requires waiver or copay for COVID testing; covers testing under Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and SCHIP; creates public payments for testing for uninsured individuals; temporarily increases the Medicaid matching rates for all states (FMAP)
- Division H, Budgetary Effects, non-substantive (clarifies that Division B and later are not subject to PAYGO)
What has Congress done with regard to its own operations?
- According to the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, “The Capitol Visitor Center will be closed for tours beginning Thursday, March 12, at 4:30 p.m. All tours are cancelled. We expect to reopen for tours Thursday, April 1, at 8:30 a.m. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we look forward to welcoming you to the Capitol Visitor Center at a future date.”
What other bills have been introduced?
- S. 3302, Global Health Security Act, would create a Global Health Security Special Advisor within the White House, to be appointed by the President, as well as a Global Health Security Review Council, and appropriate $300 million yearly between the CDC and USAID for promoting global health security
- S. 3370, Coronavirus Vaccine Act, would appropriate $250 million to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to support vaccine research
- H.R. 5997, Emergency Response Coordinator Act of 2020, would require HHS to designate an official with primary responsibility for coordinating federal COVID-19 activities
- H.R. 6019, Cure the Coronavirus Act, “expanding tropical disease product priority review voucher program to encourage treatments for coronavirus”
- H.R. 6070, Border Health Security Act of 2020, To establish grant programs to improve the health of border area residents and for all hazards preparedness in the border area including bioterrorism, infectious disease, and noncommunicable emerging threats; would make certain adjustments and appropriate $10.5 million to assist with health security on the southern and northern borders
- H.R. 6205, To amend the Trade Act of 1974 to provide adjustment assistance to certain workers adversely affected by disruptions in global supply chains from the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), and for other purposes
- H.R. 6207, S. 3476, To provide for unemployment benefits to workers affected by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus
- H.R. 6249, To temporarily prohibit the Federal financial regulators from requiring compliance with the CECL [Current Expected Credit Losses] Rule by persons impacted by Coronavirus
Image credit: ANUJAK JAIMOOK