Washington Snapshot: Senate passed $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus funding package
In This Week's Edition of Snapshot...
- The White House
- House Ways and Means Committee
- Department of the Interior
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Education
- Department of Homeland Security
- Happening in the States
The Senate passed the $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus funding package on March 5 that funds the development of new treatments, boosts funding to purchase medical supplies and provides more than $400 million in grants to states and localities for preparedness within 30 days. The bill was signed by President Trump this morning. The House passed the bi-partisan bill, H.R. 6074 (116), March 4. The lower chamber approved the measure in an overwhelming 415-2 vote.
Among the key provisions:
- Vaccines and Treatments – $826 million in funding for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to drive the development of coronavirus vaccines, treatments and tests. The FDA would get $61 million to speed up review of these new therapies and respond to possible drug and device shortages stemming from manufacturing disruptions at the virus epicenter in China.
- States and Localities – $950 million in state and local grants, with half of the money due within 30 days. States will receive a minimum of $4 million. The funding comes as a coronavirus response is already putting major stress on state and local health departments. The legislation would reimburse states and counties for what they spent to prepare for and mitigate the virus between January 20 and whenever the funding package is enacted. Funds can be used to build or renovate facilities.
- Stockpiles and Supplies – $3.1 billion to purchase medical supplies for state and local health departments to beef up the Strategic National Stockpile, the largest national repository of emergency treatments. It will also provide additional resources for states and assist federal efforts to develop vaccines and therapeutics, as well as hospital preparedness. Another $300 million would help the government buy vaccines and treatments once they are approved.
- Community Health Centers - Community health centers would get $100 million just as their funding is set to expire at the end of May. Another $10 million would go to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to put together trainings for health care workers on the front lines of the outbreak to avoid becoming infected.
- Telehealth – the legislation would also lift constraints on Medicare’s payments for telehealth so beneficiaries could freely consult their doctors remotely, avoiding hospital and physician offices where they might risk exposure to the virus. Telehealth groups were hoping for a provision that would waive restrictions during all national emergencies, but this appears more narrowly tailored to the coronavirus.
- International Programs – $300 million to continue the CDC’s programs to detect and respond to international disease outbreaks, and $435 million for global health programs at the State Department. State’s international disaster assistance fund would get $300 million to provide humanitarian aid and address health needs in countries where the coronavirus is spreading.(Source: PoliticoPro)
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the Ways and Means Committee on March 3rd that the IRS would ramp up audits on higher-income taxpayers with funding proposed for fiscal 2021. The agency has been under pressure over the increasing share of audits on lower-income taxpayers, while its audit rate has declined for those at the upper end of the income scale. Data referenced in the hearing suggested that 30 percent of taxpayers at the top of the income scale were audited about a decade ago but just 7 percent faced audits in 2018. Those at the low end, particularly taxpayers who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), now account for 39 percent of all audits.
In addition to $12 billion in funding for the IRS for 2021, the budget called for an additional $400 million, called a cap adjustment, to fund new and continuing investments in expanding and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the IRS's tax enforcement program. Current-year funding for the IRS totals $11.5 billion.
Funders concerned with the ecological and environmental impacts of water shortages in the West might want to check out the fact sheets from Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. On February 25, the Bureau announced the initial 2020 water supply allocation for Central Valley Project contractors in California. Those amounts are based on an estimate of water available for delivery to the valley’s water users, and reflects current reservoir storage, precipitation and snowpack in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada.
Department of Commerce
The U.S. Census Bureau hosted an event at the end of February to highlight efforts to ensure all young children are counted in the 2020 Census. Children under five years old are among population groups historically undercounted in the census. The Census Bureau is making a concerted effort to address this issue by creating community partnerships, educational programs, awareness campaigns and operational innovations with the goal of raising awareness of the importance of counting young children.
Bureau of Economic Analysis
Learn more about January’s increases in personal income and consumer spending from the BEA’s report on Personal Income and Outlays for January 2020.
The Department of Education launched a web page this week for administrators of child care programs and K-12 schools with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control on the coronavirus. Federal public health officials have urged schools to brace for more cases of the virus in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that schools across the country develop contingency plans for school dismissals and closures as well as the continuation of classes online. As schools contemplate how to prepare for the virus, one in ten K-12 schools have no school nurse. According to the Journal of School Nursing, the average school nurse serves three schools on a part-time basis, and 11 percent of schools have no access to a nurse at all.
The Department also may have announced prematurely a shift that would have tightened how states qualify for money under the Rural Education Achievement Program and potentially jeopardized funding for more than 800 rural, low-income schools. That prompted a stream of bipartisan criticism this week, including a letter signed by Senators from rural states. The action has now been put off for a year, allowing states to continue submitting the number of students participating in free school lunch programs to qualify for rural school grants. Secretary Betsy DeVos maintained in an Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee hearing this week that the data on which the grants have been allocated has been inaccurate and not in compliance with the law. The year-long extension is meant to give rural schools time to transition and make adjustments. Congress will ultimately have to decide how to make the fix.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
The FEMA National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC) has been activated as part of the Interagency Crisis Action Task Force, supporting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Lead Federal Agency for our nation’s response to COVID-19. The NBEOC Operations Dashboard is active and being used to post incident updates. The Crisis Action Task Force and NBEOC are operating daily (M-Fri) from 8:00am -5:00pm EST. Recurring meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the coming weeks will occur. Businesses and organizations can sign onto the NEBOC Operations Dashboard to join conversation threads and to find updated information being posted by the national task force.
The CDC also released Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to COVID-19. The guidance includes recommended strategies for employers to use now, planning considerations, and recommendations for an outbreak response plan.
Exclusive from our Colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits
Growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak are leading State and city public officials across the country to take action. Public health officials are in the forefront of the response, closing schools and businesses, limiting public events, and addressing immediate and anticipated health emergencies. Policymakers, likewise, are engaging. In California and New York, lawmakers have considered emergency funding of $20 million and $40 million, respectively, while Hawaii and Maryland have each pitched in $10 million. States of emergencies have been declared in California, Florida, Hawaii, and Washington, granting public officials extraordinary power. Washington Governor Inslee, whose state is at the epicenter of the outbreak in this country, is using the emergency powers to secure access to “all resources necessary” and cut red tape. Oregon Governor Brown is requesting that the federal government provide “flexibility” under federal guidelines, additional medical supplies, and federal funding to offset the estimated $7 million to $10 million per month cost. Utah’s Governor has taken tax cuts off the table for now to ensure resources are available to address the public health and economic concerns. For its part, the Utah Legislature is considering setting aside $57 million for increased demand on Medicaid during the crisis, while also declaring the State Capitol a “Handshake-Free Zone”.