COVID-19 Federal Responses: Tuesday, March 24, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Tuesday, March 24, 2020


Congress and the White House are still in negotiations on the bipartisan Phase III stimulus bill, but a deal appears close. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said negotiations were on the “two-yard line” this afternoon. Senate Democrats were holding out for additional funding for hospitals and more restrictions on the corporate financial assistance.

The cost has supposedly increased to $1.8 trillion.

House Democrats released their own version of Phase III stimulus legislation – Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, H.R. 6379. That bill could exceed $2.5 trillion. The Democratic bill is not expected to receive any Republican support if it ever comes up for a vote.

  • A summary of H.R. 6379 is here.

House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said he expects the House will consider at least two more bills after the Phase III bill is passed.

A group of Senate Democrats introduced legislation that would federalize the domestic medical supply chain during the public health emergency. The purpose of that drastic action would be to prevent hoarding and prevent state governments and healthcare systems from bidding against each other for the supplies.

White House and Federal Agencies

President Trump issued an Executive Order directing the federal government to prevent companies from hoarding and price gouging medical supplies. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will designate a list of essential products. It appears that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will enforce the order with prosecutions. Attorney General William Barr reassured Americans that their efforts will be focused on businesses, not families.

During a televised townhall from the White House, President Trump expressed optimism that the economy will be much improved by Easter and that we can begin winding down social distancing soon.

President Trump is delaying the October 1 deadline for all Americans to have Real IDs. Obtaining a Real ID requires an in-person visit to DMV office. Delaying the deadline will help people maintain social distancing. Americans will need a Real ID to enter federal buildings and board flights after the deadline. President Trump did not announce a new deadline.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created an online COVID-19 Self-Checker chatbox. The purpose of the Self-Checker is to help people make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care. This system is not intended for the diagnosis or treatment of disease or other conditions, including COVID-19.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is distributing 8 million N-95 masks and 13.3 million surgical masks. New York City and Washington State are receiving the bulk of the distributions.

The CDC issued guidelines for when healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 can return to work. Under the guidelines, healthcare workers must test negative twice before they can return to work.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it has granted Medicaid waivers to 11 more states. The waivers should allow states more flexibilities during the public health emergency.

CMS is increasing its infection control inspections of nursing homes due to the prevalence of COVID-19 cases. CMS believes 147 nursing homes across 27 states have at least one confirmed case.