We continue our conversations with policymakers to ensure access to PPE and testing, and increased regulatory and financial relief are included in the negotiation process and final bill language.
The House introduced the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act this week to further address the pandemic and provide additional relief and assistance to those impacted by it. Here are some of the key policies included that would impact gastroenterology.
- Heroes’ Fund for essential workers: Establishes a $200 billion Heroes’ Fund to ensure essential workers who have risked their lives receive hazard pay.
- Grants for small businesses: $10 billion for COVID-19 emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
- Modifications to the Paycheck Protection Program funds:
- Allocate 25% of existing funds to be used for small businesses with 10 or fewer employees
- Allocate 25% of existing funds to be used for all non-profits, with half of the funds to be used for small nonprofits under the 500-employee threshold
- Amendments to the Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness:
- Extends the covered period for borrowers from the 8-week period to 24 weeks (June 30 to Dec. 31)
- Eliminates the 75/25 rule on use of loan proceeds
- Creates a safe harbor for borrowers who cannot rehire in the prescribed timeframe
- Additional funds for the Provider Relief Fund: $100 billion into the Provider Relief Fund and clearer guidance to ensure that funds are distributed to providers in the most equitable and efficient way
- Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund: $175 billion to reimburse for health care related expenses or lost revenue, as well as to support testing and contact tracing to effectively monitor and suppress COVID-19, including:
- $100 billion in grants for hospital and health care providers to be reimbursed health care related expenses or lost revenue directly attributable to the public health emergency resulting from coronavirus
- $75 billion for testing, contact tracing, and other activities necessary to effectively monitor and suppress COVID-19
- Improvements to the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program: Lowers the interest rate for loans to Medicare providers made under the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program, reduces the per-claim recoupment percentage, and extends the period before repayment begins
- Imputed rural floor: Requires CMS to reestablish a rural floor for the Medicare hospital area wage index for hospitals in all-urban states
Testing, PPE and surveillance
- Workforce training and protections: $2 billion to Dept. of Labor to support worker training.
- $100 million for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workplace protection and enforcement activities in response to coronavirus
- Surveillance and prevention: $2.1 billion to CDC to support federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus.
- Improvements to the Strategic National Stockpile and PPE supply chain
- Testing and testing infrastructure improvements: Provides $75 billion in grants to state and local health departments to support testing, contact tracing, and isolation or quarantine efforts.
Relief for underserved populations
- Indian Health Service: $2.1 billion to address health care needs related to coronavirus for Native Americans.
- Health Resources and Services Administration: $7.6 billion to support expanded health care services for underserved populations.
- National Institutes of Health: $4.745 billion to expand COVID-19 related research on the NIH campus and at academic institutions across the country and to support the shutdown and startup costs of biomedical research laboratories nationwide.
Based on our initial discussions with congressional leadership and staff, the House will vote on the bill within the next week and is projected to pass the chamber. However, Senate leadership has indicated the bill is “dead on arrival” and will likely begin negotiations following the Memorial Day recess.