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  • Writer's pictureAssociation of Academic Physiatrists

March 2021 Update

House Passes New COVID Relief Package

Members of the House and Senate are racing to pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package using March 14, 2021 as their target date. Current unemployment benefits will expire on March 14th if not renewed by Congress, providing members with an incentive to move the bill to prevent a lapse in benefits.

The package will not be a bipartisan effort as Republicans are opposed to the size and scope of the Biden package and have called for a smaller scaled-down version. Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, have rejected calls from Republicans for a smaller package and have instead moved forward with their own relief package using the budget reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority for passage, but comes with some limitations.

Here is an update of the provisions included in the package as passed by the House on February 26, 2021:

  • Provides $7.5 billion in funding for CDC to prepare, promote, administer, monitor, and track COVID-19 vaccines;

  • Allocate $500 million to the FDA for the development and post-market surveillance of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, and to address drug shortages;

  • Establishes mandatory coverage of COVID-19 vaccinations and administration, as well as treatment under the Medicaid program without cost to the beneficiary or the state until one year after the end of the public health emergency has ended;

  • Allocates $45 billion to HHS to detect, diagnose, trace, and monitor COVID-19 including the creation of a national testing strategy;

  • Provides $7.6 billion to HHS to create a permanent, expanded public health workforce;

  • An additional $400 per week in unemployment benefits through September;

  • Another round of direct assistance to households by $1,400 per person;

  • Raises the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over four years and end the tipped minimum wage and the sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities;

  • Includes provisions designed to improve worker safety, including the creation of a COVID-19 OSHA standard;

  • Extends paid sick and family leave benefits of the FFCRA to September 31, 2021 and would require all employers to offer FFCRA leave, including health care providers and those with fewer than 50 employees. Requires up to 14 weeks of paid sick, family, and medical leave and expands the list of parental caregiving situations that will be covered. Would reimburse employers with fewer than 500 workers the full cost of providing the leave;

  • Lowers eligibility requirements for ACA subsidies and increases the size of the premium subsidy for 2021 and 2022;

  • State Medicaid programs will receive a 5 percent increase in the federal contribution for both its existing Medicaid population and its expansion population for two-years.

Senate passage will be more complicated as the package must meet several parliamentary requirements in order pass through the reconciliation. Several of the House-passed provisions are expected to be challenged by Senate Republicans and if the Senate changes the legislation, it would have to go back to the House again.

Update provided by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP

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