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April 24, 2020

Congress approves $484B stimulus package with funds for providers, Covid-19 testing

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    The House on Thursday voted 388-5 to approve Congress' fourth stimulus package intended to help offset the economic effects of the country's new coronavirus epidemic, which includes billions of dollars in health care funds, such as $75 billion for grants intended to support providers combating Covid-19.

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    The package, which the Senate approved earlier this week, now heads to President Trump. Trump is scheduled to hold a signing ceremony on Friday to enact the legislation.

    US Covid-19 cases surpass 867K, death toll tops 44K

    The House passed the measure as the number of reported cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, continued to increase. As of Friday morning, U.S. officials had reported 867,105 cases of Covid-19 in the country—up from 834,340 cases as of Thursday morning.

    Officials as of Friday morning also had reported 44,464 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 42,501 deaths reported as of Thursday morning.

    Congress passes $484B coronavirus relief package

    The $484 billion stimulus package includes billions of dollars in funding for health care providers and initiatives.

    For example, the package includes $75 billion in additional funding for grants available to providers under the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. That funding builds on the $100 billion Congress had allocated for the fund in a separate stimulus package enacted late last month.

    The new package also would allocate $25 billion for Covid-19 testing, which includes $11 billion designated for states. The package would mandate that the Trump administration establish a national testing strategy to help states and local governments develop their testing plans. According to public health experts, a national testing strategy is critical to helping states safely reopen businesses and ease social distancing requirements.

    In addition, the stimulus package would allocate:

    • $6 billion for HHSOffice of Inspector General to use on oversight activities;
    • $1.8 billion for NIH;
    • $1 billion to cover the costs of testing uninsured Americans for the new coronavirus;
    • $1 billion for CDC;
    • $1 billion for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority;
    • $825 million for community health centers, rural health centers, and other health facilities; and
    • $22 million for FDA.

    The legislative package also includes funding intended to stimulate the economy and help Americans and businesses grappling with the epidemic. For example, the measure would allocate an additional $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program established under the stimulus bill enacted late last month, which aims to help small businesses prevent layoffs and rehire employees. Some hospitals and physician practices with fewer than 500 employees could qualify for forgivable loans under the program, but observers say they expect the program's funds will run out quickly and go to applicants with pending loan applications.

    CDC awards $631M to states, localities to boost testing, contact tracing, and more

    As several states across the United States begin to scale back social distancing measures and business closures that were intended to curb the new coronavirus' spread, CDC on Thursday announced that it will dole out $631 million in funding to state and local public health departments to increase testing for the new coronavirus, contact tracing, and other containment measures. CDC said the funding comes from the economic stimulus package Congress enacted late last month.

    CDC will distribute the funds to 64 jurisdictions through the agency's Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases cooperative agreement.

    CDC said states and local public health departments can use the funds for efforts to:

    • Collaborate with health systems to manage and monitor their capacity;
    • Control the spread of the new coronavirus among vulnerable populations and in high-risk settings;
    • Establish or boost capacity to identify Covid-19 cases, trace the contacts of individuals who test positive for the new coronavirus, and implement other containment measures;
    • Improve morbidity and mortality surveillance; and
    • Increase testing for the new coronavirus.

    CDC Director Robert Redfield said, "This infusion of additional funding into the nation's public health infrastructure will strengthen our capacity to implement tried and true containment measures. The ability to implement aggressive contact tracing, surveillance, and testing will be fundamental to protecting vulnerable populations as the nation takes steps to reopen and Americans begin returning to their daily lives" (Taylor/Fram, Associated Press, 4/24; Werner, Washington Post, 4/23; Davis et al., NPR, 4/23; Wan, Washington Post, 4/23; Kelley, "Changing America," The Hill, 4/23; New York Times, 4/24).

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