This week in Congress: Another Day, Another (Billion) Dollars?

Legislation | April 21, 2020 | by Marsha R. Greenfield

The two big coronavirus relief funds – the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) run by the Small Business Administration, and the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (Public Health) – created by the CARES Act are already out of (PPP) or almost out of (Public Health) funds. How is Congress planning to replenish them?

The two big coronavirus relief funds – the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) run by the Small Business Administration, and the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (Public Health) – created by the CARES Act are already out of (PPP) or almost out of (Public Health) funds. 

The PPP went through its $328B appropriation within days of accepting applications for the program. LeadingAge and our state affiliates worked diligently to assist our members understand and apply for these funds designed to help small businesses retain their employees and stay open during this crisis, but we know many were left out. 

And last week HHS distributed the first $30B out of the Public Health Fund to all Medicare Fee For Service providers, which provided needed assistance to LeadingAge member nursing homes, home health, hospice and other aging service providers.  The second tranche is expected to be distributed this week or next to Medicaid providers, again, across the spectrum. It is not clear if all the Public Health Fund monies will be distributed or if any will be held back to address higher need situations, nonetheless it is clear that that the original appropriation of $100B is not enough to resolve this crisis.

To address the exhaustion of PPP, Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) proposed amending the CARES Act by adding approximately $300 Billion to the PPP as an emergency measure. Democratic leadership countered with a proposal to add funding for the Public Health fund, state and local governments, SNAP (the food stamp program), and the additional funding for the PPP along with some programmatic changes.

Both sides and the Administration spent the past week negotiating a compromise, and as of Monday morning, April 22, it looks like an agreement is close. News reports indicate that the compromise is likely to include additional funding for the PPP and for the Public Health fund (although the news reports say the health dollars are for hospitals, we understand and strongly urge that in fact all health care providers will be included), funding for another SBA loan fund, and funding for testing. Reports are that the sticking point is a Democratic demand for a national testing strategy.

LeadingAge strongly supports additional funds for these programs. We know that many members were not able to access PPP funding because of the short time frame available, and that our health care members are and will have unexpected costs around infection control, PPE, isolation, staffing, etc. that will need to be addressed through the Public Health fund. 

But this battle over increased funding is not the end of efforts to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our healthcare and housing members.  LeadingAge has a much broader agenda that we want Congress to address in other legislation that is still being drafted. Watch for our advocacy alerts to share our stories with Congress.