On Wednesday, March 18, the President signed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” shortly after the Senate approved the legislation with a 90-8 vote. Last week, the House of Representatives approved a version of the bill which incorporated bipartisan technical changes, including paid sick leave and changes to the temporary increase of federal medical assistance percentages for Medicaid. The bill text can be found here. A high-level analysis of key public health provisions in the legislation is provided below.
Public Health Provisions
- Requires private health plans to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing at no cost to the consumer.
- Mandates that personal respiratory protective devices be treated as covered countermeasures under the PREP Act declaration.
- Provides a temporary increase to the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) of 6.2% to each state, including the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands. The increase will remain in effect until the close of the fiscal quarter during which the public health emergency ends.
Domestic Nutrition Assistance Programs
- Provides an additional $500 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
- Grants an additional $400 million to the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
- Permits the Department of Agriculture to approve new state SNAP plans in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Provides $100 million in nutrition assistance grants for the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, America Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
- Releases $250 million for the senior nutrition program in the Administration for Community Living. Funding will provide meals to low-income seniors who:
- Are home-bound
- Have disabilities
- Have multiple chronic illnesses
- Permits the Secretary of Agriculture to issue new nationwide school meal waivers.
Paid Sick Leave
- Grants $5 million to the Department of Labor to administer emergency paid sick leave.
- Requires employers with fewer than 500 employees and government employers to provide employees with two weeks of paid sick leave.
- Amends the Family and Medical Leave Act to grant the aforementioned groups the right to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave.
- Requires OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard within 30 days requiring healthcare employers to develop and implement a comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plan to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19.
- Releases an additional $1 billion in FY2020 emergency grants to states to process and pay unemployment insurance benefits.
Mandates that state emergency operations centers receive real-time reporting on aggregated COVID-19 testing data as well as results from state and local public health departments. This data is also required to be shared with the CDC.