The Senate is slated to vote today on a targeted coronavirus relief package containing approximately $500 billion in federal aid focused on health care, education, and the economy. The package largely resembles the legislation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attempted to advance in September that was blocked by Democrats. It remains unclear whether Leader McConnell has the votes. The Senate is also expected to vote on a separate bill containing amendments to the Paycheck Protection Program.
Overall, the package modifies the Paycheck Protection Program, provides the same level of emergency appropriations to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and maintains other provisions relating to unemployment benefits and financial relief for schools and the U.S. Postal Service. Notably, the package also contains $350 billion in offsets that were included in the September version of the bill. The GOP targeted relief package provides liability protections for health care providers, businesses, and schools through at least October 1, 2024 – a red line for Leader McConnell and a nonstarter for Democrats. In addition, the package does not provide additional federal aid to states and localities and does not replenish the Provider Relief Fund (PRF).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) set Tuesday as the deadline for an agreement on a COVID-19 relief package before the election, but prospects on a deal continue to dim. As noted below, Democrats and Republicans remain at an impasse on the overall price tag of the next coronavirus relief package and far apart on various policy issues.
- May 15, 2020 – House passed the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act (H.R. 6800) along party lines (208-199) (WHG summary).
- July 27, 2020 – Senate Republicans release $1 trillion HEALS Act, a compilation of individual bills authored by Republican Committee leaders (WHG summary)
- August – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Democratic Leader Schumer (D-NY) offered to “come down 1 trillion if [Republicans] come up $1 trillion” and meet around $2 trillion. Both Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Leader McConnell rejected this offer.
- September 8, 2020 – Senate Republicans unveil $500 billion “targeted COVID-19 relief.”
- October – Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin continue to negotiate a package that would spend between $1.8 trillion (White House’s latest offer) and $2.2 trillion (House Democrats’ latest offer).
Below, we summarize key emergency appropriations to HHS in the GOP targeted relief bill:
- Testing, Contact Tracing, Surveillance – Provides $31 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF), to remain available through September 30, 2024, including:
- $20 billion for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for necessary expenses of manufacturing, production, and purchase of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and small molecule active pharmaceutical ingredients, as well as the potential construction or renovation of U.S.-based manufacturing facilities;
- $6 billion for activities to plan, prepare for, promote, distribute, administer, monitor, and track coronavirus vaccines to ensure broad-based distribution, access, and vaccine coverage.
- $2 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile; and
- $2 billion – to remain available until September 30, 2022 – for grants to establish and improve state medical stockpiles.
- Vaccine, Therapeutic, and Diagnostics Development – $16 billion for the PHSSEF – to remain available until September 30, 2022 – for necessary expenses for testing, contact tracing, surveillance, containment, and mitigation to monitor and suppress COVID–19, including:
- $15 billion for states, localities, territories, tribes, tribal organizations according to the formula that applied to the Public Health Emergency Preparedness cooperative agreement in FY 2019; and
- $500 million allocated in coordination with the Indian Health Service.
- Child Care –
- Provides $5 billion to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (available through September 30, 2021) to supplement state funding for child care assistance for families with low incomes. States may use funding to support to child care providers so that they can remain open or reopen. Additionally, states may use the funds to provide child care assistance to health care workers, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other essential workers.
- Provides $10 billion for Back to Work Child Care Grants (available through September 30, 2021), a new program that would provide grants (via states) to child care providers stay open or reopen
In addition, the legislation includes:
- $300 weekly enhanced unemployment benefits through December 27, 2020;
- $105 billion for schools and universities;
- $257.64 billion for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), allows certain PPP borrowers to obtain a second round of funding, and makes several programmatic changes;
- a provision converting a prior $10 billion loan (provided in the CARES Act, P.L. 116-136) to the U.S. Postal Service into a grant if certain financial conditions are met.
Lastly, the package includes several provisions to offset the total cost of the package by repurposing $350 billion in unspent funds mad available by the CARES Act. Specifically, the package:
- Rescinds $204 billion in funds appropriated to the Federal Reserve for the purposes of making loans, loan guarantees, or other investments that support eligible businesses, states and municipalities;
- Rescinds and deposits $146 billion in unspent CARES Act small business funding to the general fund of the Department of Treasury; and
- Terminates the Federal Reserve’s emergency authority to provide loans and claws back any unused money beginning January 4, 2021.