COVID-19 Federal Responses: Wednesday, June 3, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Key points in this update:

  • New PPP flexibilities await President’s signature.
  • CMS makes some temporary telemedicine changes permanent.
  • Dr. Fauci predicts the U.S. will have a COVID vaccine by the end of the year.


The Senate succeeded in passing the House of Representatives' bill that makes significant changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The legislation would:

  • Lower the amount required to be spent on payroll costs to qualify for forgiveness from 75% to 60%.
  • Extend the covered period to 24 weeks (up until Dec. 31, 2020).
  • Allow PPP borrowers to defer payroll tax payments.
  • Establish a minimum maturity term of five years for the balance remaining after forgiveness. 
  • Provide greater flexibility for borrowers to rehire employees that would otherwise reduce the amount forgiven.

Once the President signs this legislation, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 will become law.

A bipartisan group of legislators, who lead committees with jurisdiction over Medicaid policy, is asking the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to direct more relief funding to Medicaid providers.

The debate over what to include in future COVID-19 relief legislation continues to play out in public. Republicans appear reluctant to include another round of payments to individuals. They believe the purpose of those payments was to help people as we entered a nation-wide economic “lockdown.” However, now that the economy is reopening, they feel there is no longer a need for the individual payments. 

The Senate confirmed Brian Miller as the special Inspector General who will lead the oversight of the federal $500 billion COVID-19 bailout fund.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is out with new long-term economic projections. According to the new projection, the CBO estimates that the gross domestic product (GDP) will decline by three percent over the next ten years, which equates to almost $8 trillion.


Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said some of the temporary Medicare telehealth changes will be made permanent in upcoming rulemaking, but was not specific as to which ones.

  • Some commercial payers also anticipate expanded telehealth policies.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also supports expanding telehealth coverage.

Administrator Verma also published a blog post describing flexibilities CMS is offering to some of its alternative payment models (APM) being tested by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI).

CMS announced new enforcement policies it will take against nursing homes that cannot manage their infection control practices. CMS is increasing enforcement for facilities with persistent infection control violations, and imposing enforcement actions on lower level infection control deficiencies.

  • As of May 24, 2020, about 12,500 nursing homes – approximately 80 percent Medicare and Medicaid nursing homes – had reported the required infection control data to the CDC. These facilities reported more than 60,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and almost 26,000 deaths. Of the nursing homes that reported data, approximately one in four facilities had at least one COVID-19 case, and approximately one in five facilities had at least one COVID-19 related death.

Vaccine and Testing

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said he believes the U.S. will have at least 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year. He also predicted we will have a few hundred million more vaccine doses by the beginning of 2021.

  • Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said he thinks the vaccine could be seasonal and may be needed on an annual basis.

Reports indicate that the White House’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine development initiative has selected companies that are finalists for the increased federal resources the initiative provides.

Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Admiral Brett Giroir will leave his role as the lead federal official overseeing COVID-19 testing by FEMA. He will return to his role at HHS full time.

Some public health experts are warning that the recent protests against racial injustice and inequality could cause COVID cases to spike in those areas.