(UPDATED - 3/13/20): This bill has been amended prior to reaching the House floor for a vote. Known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, this bill would ensure coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for all at no cost to the consumer; provide paid leave related to the outbreak; reform & expand unemployment benefits during the outbreak; and increase funding for food security programs. A breakdown of the current provisions of the bill can be found below.
Supplemental Appropriations & Nutrition Waivers: This section would provide additional appropriations to address aspects of the coronavirus outbreak, including:
$500 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to support low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children through FY2021;
$400 million for the commodity food assistance program to purchase food, up to $100 million of which could be used to cover distribution & storage costs, through FY2021; and
$100 million in grants to U.S. territories and commonwealths for nutrition assistance in response to a designated COVID-19 public health emergency.
$82 million for the Defense Health Program for COVID-19 related items & services.
$64 million for the Indian Health Services for COVID-19 related items & services.
$30 million for the Veterans Health Administration for COVID-19 related items & services, including those provided through VA Community Care.
$15 million for taxpayer services through FY2022 to fund the Internal Revenue Service’s processing of tax returns filed under extension.
A $1 billion Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund would be established under the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) to pay claims of providers for reimbursement of health services & items related to COVID-19, including those for uninsured patients. All healthcare funds appropriated under this bill would be subject to the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions, which prohibit the use of federal funds for abortions.
During FY2020, any case in which a school is closed for at least 5 consecutive days during a designated public health emergency would a household with at least 1 eligible child to receive nutrition assistance benefits under a state agency plan. Those benefits would be at least the value of meals at the free rate over the course of 5 school days for each eligible child.
Additional appropriations include:
$250 million for aging & disability services programs at the Dept. of Health & Human Services (HHS), including $160 million for Home-Delivered Nutrition Services, $80 million for Congregate Nutrition Services, and $10 million for Nutrition Services for Native Americans, through FY2021.
These programs would help low-income seniors who are home-bound, have disabilities, have multiple chronic illnesses, as well as their caregivers.
This bill would waive requirements to allow meal and meal supplement programs to continue for children under school lunch and other child and adult care food programs in compliance with appropriate COVID-19 safety measures in individual settings. Meal pattern requirements could be waived if there is a food supply disruption in the course of the public health emergency.
Low-income jobless workers would be eligible for supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits unless they fail to comply with the requirements of the state agency’s program for the duration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency.
Paid Leave: Employees of employers with less than 500 employees and government employers who’ve been on the job for at least 30 days would have the right to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for any of the following reasons:
To adhere to a requirement or recommendation to quarantine due to exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus;
To care for an at-risk family member who is adhering to a requirement or recommendation to quarantine due to exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus; and
To care for a child of an employee if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the child-care provider is unavailable, due to coronavirus.
After two weeks of paid leave, employees will receive a benefit from their employers that will be no less than two-thirds of the employee’s usual pay.
Unemployment Insurance: This section would provide $1 billion in 2020 for emergency grants to states for activities related to processing and paying unemployment insurance (UI) benefits under certain conditions. Of the total, $500 million would be used to provide additional funding to all states for staffing, technology, systems, and other administrative costs so long as they met basic requirements about ensuring access to benefits for eligible workers, including:
Require employers to provide notification of potential UI eligibility to laid-off workers;
Ensure that workers have at least two ways (such as online or by phone) to apply for benefits.
Notify applicants when an application is received and being processed and if the application can’t be processed, provide information to the applicant about how to ensure successful processing.
States would be required to report on the share of eligible individuals who received UI benefits and the state’s efforts to ensure access within one year of receiving the funding, which would be distributed in the same proportions as regular UI administrative funding provided through annual appropriations.
The remaining $500 million would be reserved for emergency grants to states which experienced at least a 10% increase in unemployment. Those states would be eligible to receive an additional grant in the same amount as the original grant to assist with costs related to the unemployment spike and would be required to take steps to temporarily ease eligibility requirements that may limit access to unemployment insurance during the COVID-19 outbreak, like work search requirements, waiting periods, and requirements to increase employer UI taxes if they have high layoff rates. Depending on the state, those actions may require changes in state law or policy. There would be temporary flexibility for UI restrictions in federal law.
Health Provisions: This section would require private health plans to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the cost of a provider, urgent care center, and emergency room visits to receive testing. Coverage would have to be provided at no cost to the consumer.
Diagnostic testing, including the cost of the visit in order to receive testing, would be provided at no cost to the beneficiary under:
Medicare Part B;
Medicaid and CHIP; and
Additionally, uninsured individuals, veterans, federal civilians, American Indians, and Alaska Natives would receive COVID-19 diagnostic testing at no cost.
States would receive a temporary increase to the federal medical assistance percentage for the duration of the public health emergency of 6.2%.