Democratic leaders are beginning to float proposals for a fifth COVID-19 relief package that could rival the $2 trillion CARES Act (Pub. L. 116-136). However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated another package would likely not be considered until members return to Washington next week at the earliest. Leader McConnell has also expressed serious concerns over the national debt and suggested states declare bankruptcy (currently not allowed under current law) instead of receiving federal aid, setting up a political battle that could further delay legislative action.
Meanwhile, President Trump has already tweeted his wish list for the next legislative package – including “fiscal relief to state/local governments for lost revenues from COVID-19,” “infrastructure investments for bridges, tunnels, broadband” and “payroll tax cuts.”
When asked last Friday how much funding is needed in the next bill for state and local governments, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called for a level comparable to the amount given to small businesses, which would be close to $700 billion. A bipartisan bill unveiled by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), which would create a $500 billion fund to provide relief to states and localities, may be a viable option, especially since its aligns with a recent request made by the National Governors Association. The legislation would also expand eligibility to include counties and towns with populations of 50,000 or greater and allow funds to be used for lost revenues. The $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund, made available in the CARES Act, is limited to jurisdictions with at least 500,000 people and may only be used to cover new costs of responding to the pandemic.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also said Democrats would continue to push for other priorities, including federal assistance for people having trouble paying rent; hazard pay for essential workers, and a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
Today, health care providers can begin registering for the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA)’s program in order to seek reimbursement for COVID-19 related testing and treatment for uninsured patients furnished on or after February 4, 2020. Providers will be reimbursed at Medicare rates, subject to available funding. Regarding next steps, providers can begin submitting claims electronically on May 6 and expect to receive reimbursements in mid-May.
In addition, $10 billion allocated for rural health clinics and hospitals and $400 million to Indian Health Service facilities may be distributed as soon as this week. Funding will be allocated based on operating expenses. HHS noted that certain providers, including skilled nursing facilities, dentists, and providers that solely take Medicaid, will receive further, separate funding. The administration did not provide further insight into how much these providers should expect or what factors will be considered when determining the additional amounts.