Congress Approves Second COVID-19 Emergency Funds

Following passage by the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, the President is expected to sign into law H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, first introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY).

H.R. 6201 will aid state and local communities to combat the impact of the COVID-19, or Coronavirus. Additionally, the soon to be law would mandate that insurers fully cover testing for the Coronavirus, cover paid leave, and expand unemployment insurance. This would include appropriating $1 billion to the National Disaster Medical System to be used towards reimbursement costs associated with testing those individuals without insurance.

H.R. 6201 would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency temporary standard for health-care facilities to protect workers from exposure to the coronavirus. This standard would also cover employees in other high-risk sectors identified by OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), requiring employers to implement comprehensive infectious diseases exposure control plans.

H.R. 6201 would establish a National Paid Leave Program (NPLP) which would require public and private sector employers to allow employees to accumulate up to 56 hours, or seven days of paid annual sick leave. Emergency sick leave of up to 14 additional days under the NPLP would be available to full-time employees, while part-time or hourly workers would be eligible for time off that’s equivalent to their scheduled or standard hours of employment.

On March 13, in conjunction with pending action on H.R. 6201, the President made a National Emergency Declaration, thereby invoking the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Public Law (PL) 100-707, which was enacted in 1988 and empowers the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist state and local governments during "natural catastrophes" and coordinate the nation's response. This would allow the federal government to tap into the over $45 billion in emergency funds through the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF).

States can request a 75% federal cost-share for expenses that include emergency workers, medical tests, medical supplies, vaccinations, security for medical facilities, and waive certain hospital requirements permitting greater access to treatment, all in an effort to enhance state’s and local’s abilities to combat the Coronavirus.

The President also announced that the federal government would be seeking public/private partnerships to expedite testing for the Coronavirus, and waiving interest on all student loans.

Earlier this month, Public Law No: 116-123, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, was enacted, providing over $7.8 billion in aid to help address the ongoing effect of the Coronavirus.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided a list of products they recommend to use as disinfectants for the COVID-19/Coronavirus.

According to the CDC as of March 17, there have been more than 7,500 cases in the United States, and more than 123 deaths attributed to the Coronavirus.

Congress and the Administration are also in ongoing discussions over a third emergency supplemental, ranging in cost from $750 billion to $1 trillion.