COVID-19 Federal Responses: Friday, April 3, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Friday, April 3, 2020

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) released an interim final rule that provides many important details for how lenders will implement the paycheck protection program.

  • Friday, April 3 is the first day that eligible small businesses and nonprofits can submit applications for paycheck protection program assistance. News reports and anecdotes indicate that lenders are facing challenges processing applications under the program. The Treasury Department did not issue the interim final rule linked above until Thursday evening. Lenders are asking applicants for patience as they figure out how to process the applications. Many think it will only take a few days before they are fully operational.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends that people wear cloth or fabric facemasks when out in public.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is changing her list of priorities for “Phase IV” legislation to respond to the public health emergency. Earlier this week, Pelosi voiced support for domestic spending projects such as $800 billion in new infrastructure spending. Now, she prefers that the next major coronavirus relief bill should focus building onto the “Phase III” CARE Act’s programs to provide more assistance to states, local governments, businesses and individuals. She does not believe the CARES Act provided as much money for small businesses as they will ultimately need. This would mean programs such as the paycheck protection program could receive more funding to give out additional loans and grants to small businesses. 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, will cost the federal government $192 billion over ten years. H.R. 6201 is the “Phase II” bill that Congress passed. The first bill was an $8.3 billion supplemental appropriations bill. The “Phase III” CARES Act is expected to cost more than $2 trillion.

The CBO also updated its Q2 economic forecast due to the impact of the coronavirus. According to CBO, gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to decline by more than seven percent during Q2. The CBO also expects that the unemployment rate will exceed 10 percent and that interest rates on 10-year Treasury notes will drop below one percent.

Due to shortages of donated blood supplies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is changing a controversial policy that prohibits certain groups of people from donating blood. Currently, men who have had sex with other men within the last 12 months are prohibited from donating blood. The FDA is reducing that 12-month abstinence requirement to three months. The FDA is also reducing the 12-month abstinence to three months for people who use injected drugs. The restrictions were originally put in place during the AIDS crisis. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new guidelines that it will not enforce safety standards against the reuse of N95 protective masks or the use of expired N95 masks. Many hospitals are facing extreme shortages of these masks. These guidelines are intended to help preserve supplies on an emergency basis.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working with retailers and third-party marketplace platforms (e.g. Amazon) to help police fraudulent coronavirus disinfectant products.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued new guidance for nursing homes. The recommendations include implementing symptom screening procedures and following all CMS and CDC infection control guidance.

CMS announced a new ICD-10-CM diagnosis code – U07.1, for COVID-19; it became effective April 1, 2020. Additional materials on the new coronavirus codes include:

CMS announced it has now granted emergency Medicaid waivers to 44 states.