COVID-19 Federal Responses: Thursday, March 26, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Thursday, March 26, 2020


In the late hours of March 25, 2020, the Senate passed its $2 trillion “Phase III” response to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), the CARES Act by a vote of 96-0. The final version of the bill is the product of more than a week of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the White House.

The House, which is currently out of session, is scheduled to vote on the bill on Friday.

President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law as soon as it reaches his desk.

After the House votes, Congress is expected to leave Washington for their districts until at least April 20th. House and Senate Leadership put their Members on notice that they could be called back with 24 hours’ notice if there is pressing business. The Capitol complex is expected to be mostly closed during this time period. Congressional staff will work remotely.

Congress is already beginning to talk about a “Phase IV” bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) described the CARES Act as “emergency mitigation.” She said Phase IV will focus on recovery. She indicated her priorities for Phase IV include continuing to fund social benefit programs such as food assistance and unemployment and providing more funding to state and local governments. Work on Phase IV will probably intensify after Congress returns on April 20th.

Rep. Ben McAdams (R-UT), who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, published an OpEd describing his experience with the virus.

White House and Federal Agencies

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is expected to issue a revised version of its telehealth coverage flexibilities guidance to clarify that providers do not need to enroll their homes as practice locations for providing telehealth services.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is trying to quickly increase the number of ventilators available to treat COVID-19 patients.

  • New FDA guidance allows manufacturers to modify devices into ventilators.
  • The FDA also issued guidance on how certain ventilator products can be modified to support two patients at once.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell appeared on the Today Show this morning. He believes we are currently in a recession, but he expressed optimism that it will be a short recession because the economy is fundamentally strong.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a draft request for proposals for contracts that can convert hotels, convention centers and other large spaces, into temporary healthcare facilities should a need arise.

CMS granted 12 new state Medicaid waivers. CMS has now granted Medicaid waivers to 29 states.

CMS also published new guidance on how it will implement federal Medicaid matching increases for COVID-19 as required by the the Families First Coronavirus Response Act: