The House and Senate passed an $8.3B coronavirus emergency spending bill this week and sent it to the President who signed it this morning. The House passed H.R. 6074 by a vote of 415 to 2. Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Ken Buck (R-CO) were the two dissenting votes. The Senate then cleared the package by a vote of 96 to 1. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) voted no after offering an amendment aimed at avoiding a deeper deficit by slashing more than $7B from foreign aid programs. The amendment was tabled by a vote of 81-15. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) criticized Paul’s amendment saying that it would not “do much for the debt, but it’s going to do a lot to make us less safe.”
The amount of funding provided in the emergency supplemental far exceeds the administration’s original $1.8B request submitted to Congress on February 24. The administration requested $1.25B in emergency funding for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the authority to transfer $535M from an account for the prevention and treatment of Ebola to the COVID-19 response. The funding comes as there have been 11 deaths attributed to the virus in the U.S. and the number of infections in the U.S. is 164 in 19 states (CDC data).
The bill provides the following:
- $61M for the FDA to facilitate the development and review, both pre-market and post-market, of medical countermeasures, devices, therapies, and vaccines to combat the coronavirus.
- $1 billion for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide loan subsidies to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture producers, and non- profit organizations that have been impacted by financial losses as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This funding could enable the SBA to provide an estimated $7B in loans to these entities. It also provides $20 million to administer these loans.
- $2.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus
- $300 million to replenish the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund
- $300 million for global disease detection and emergency response
- $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to prevent or treat the effects of coronavirus as well as a requirement that vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics developed using taxpayer funds must be available for purchase by the Federal government at a fair and reasonable price and must be affordable in the commercial market.
- $1 billion for procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to support healthcare preparedness and Community Health Centers, and to improve medical surge capacity
- Requirement to reimburse $136 million to programs across the Department of Health and Human Services that were temporarily transferred to support emergency preparedness and response activities at the CDC and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.
- $10 million for worker-based training through the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to prevent and reduce exposure of hospital employees, emergency first responders, and other workers who are at risk of exposure to coronavirus through their work duties.
- $2 million for the HHS Office of Inspector General to conduct oversight of activities related to coronavirus preparedness and response.
- Authority for HHS to hire public health experts, as expeditiously as necessary, to perform critical work relating to coronavirus.
- $264 million for consular operations, emergency evacuations of State Department staff and dependents, and other emergency preparedness needs at embassies around the world.
- $435 million to support health systems overseas to prevent, prepare and respond to the coronavirus, of which $200 million is for the Emergency Reserve Fund.
- $300 million to respond to humanitarian needs arising in countries coping with a coronavirus disease outbreak.
- $250 million to protect against the effects of an outbreak including economic, security, and stabilization requirements.
- $1 million for the USAID Inspector General to perform oversight of coronavirus response activities.
- Requires a comprehensive strategy to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and regular reporting on the use of funding.
- Ensures that the President cannot use funds appropriated in this bill for any other purpose, except for repayment of transfers within the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to waive certain Medicare telehealth restrictions during the coronavirus public health emergency. These waivers would allow Medicare providers to furnish telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries regardless of whether the beneficiary is in a rural community. This provision would also allow beneficiaries to receive care from physicians and other practitioners in their homes. This provision is estimated to cost $500 million.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) said even more funding would be provided if the current measure proves insufficient. “If they need money, we will provide it,” he said. “Money should be no problem or no object when it comes to the health of the American people, especially to prevent something this contagious.”
Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate