Congress passes $1.9 trillion COVID-19 bill
Washington — Congress passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill March 10 aimed at helping the people and businesses nationwide devastated by the pandemic.
The relief package makes all COVID-19 student loan relief tax free — something the ADA has advocated for since the pandemic began. The bill also allocates $7.5 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for distributing, administering and monitoring COVID-19 vaccines, including $1 billion to strengthen vaccine confidence. It also designates more than $6 billion for the Indian Health Service's COVID-19-related efforts, including funds for telehealth, vaccines, testing and the agency’s electronic health records system.
The ADA sent a Feb. 12 letter to leaders of the House and Senate urging lawmakers to pass additional COVID-19 relief legislation with provisions the Association believes are crucial to ensuring the safety and economic stability of dental practices.
President Joe Biden signed the bill into law on March 11.
Other significant measures:
- Allocates $15 billion for targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loans and designates an additional $7.25 billion for forgivable loans in the Paycheck Protection Program. This includes allowing nonprofits that meet certain size and lobbying restrictions to apply for PPP loans.
- Designates $160 billion for vaccine and testing programs to help stop the spread of COVID-19. This includes funds to create a national vaccine distribution program that would offer free shots to all U.S. residents regardless of immigration status and would also establish community vaccination centers and deploy mobile units in hard-to-reach areas.
- Allots $10 billion for manufacturing and procuring medical supplies and equipment, including PPE, diagnostic products and medical devices.
- Earmarks more than $15 billion to enhance, expand and improve the distribution and administration of vaccines.
- Provides $47.8 billion to continue implementing an evidence-based national testing strategy with an emphasis on detection, diagnosis, tracing and monitoring.
- Requires Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage of COVID-19 vaccines and treatment without beneficiary cost sharing. Vaccines and vaccine administration costs would be matched at a 100% federal medical assistance percentage until one year after the end of the pandemic. States also would have the option to provide coverage to the uninsured for COVID-19 vaccines and treatment without cost sharing at 100% of the federal medical assistance percentage. The bill also encourages states to expand Medicaid and allows states to provide full Medicaid coverage for women after childbirth for up to one year.
- Includes direct payments of up to $1,400 to qualifying individuals based on income.
- Extends pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits — $300 a week — through Sept. 6.
- Covers 100% of the costs of continuing health insurance through September for workers who have been laid off.
- Provides paid-leave benefits and tax credits for employers with fewer than 500 employees to reimburse them for the cost of the sick time.
- Provides $50 million to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- Provides $7.6 billion to Community Health Centers, $800 million for the National Health Service Corps and $330 million for Teaching Health Centers.
- Provides $5 million for enhanced Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcement activities at high-risk workplaces, including health care facilities.
For more information about the ADA's advocacy efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit ADA.org/COVID19Advocacy.