House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement on the announcement from the incoming Biden-Harris Administration outlining their emergency relief package. Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer endorsed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package released Thursday night. Included in this proposal is increased emphasis on vaccine deployment including efforts to set up community vaccination sites, increasing access to necessary supplies, and additional attention to testing and tracing capabilities. The President-elect is requesting Congress provide $160 billion to fund these programs and execute his national vaccination program. The President-elect plans to create a modernized public health jobs program by investing large sums to fund 100,000 public health workers, nearly tripling the country’s community health worker roles. His plan also places an increased emphasis on addressing health disparities and protecting vulnerable populations.
Timing on the next COVID-19 relief package is unknown. The plan that the President-elect outlined in the release is not expected to be exactly replicated in the final bill text that will be considered by the House and Senate, but rather, it will serve as an opening offer to kickstart negotiations. NRHA expects the House and Senate to use this as a framework for initial conversations when crafting the next COVID-19 relief package. In any future COVID-19 relief package, NRHA is calling on Congress to provide technical changes to rural health clinic (RHC) provisions included in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, make permanent telehealth provisions from the CARES Act, continue Medicare sequestration relief through the end of 2021, and provide sufficient investments to providers through the PRF with a 20 percent carveout for rural providers. As discussions on the next COVID-19 relief package continue over the coming weeks, NRHA will keep members apprised via NRHA Connect.