President Donald Trump signed into law the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (H.R. 266), a $484 billion interim supplemental spending package, on April 24 to provide relief and response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The signing follows passage by unanimous consent in the Senate on April 21 and House passage in a 355-8 vote on April 23.
Following Senate passage, AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, issued a statement on April 21 applauding the legislation and emphasizing that the “additional $75 billion for the provider relief fund will support teaching hospitals and faculty physician practices that are leading the response to this epidemic by treating complex patients, serving as key testing sites, and building surge capacity.”
The package provides an additional $75 billion for the provider relief fund established in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) [see Washington Highlights, March 27] to supplement the initial $100 billion. Prior to passage, the AAMC sent an April 9 letter to Congress requesting additional funding for the provider relief fund [see Washington Highlights, April 10].
The legislation also includes $25 billion for costs related to COVID-19 testing. Included in the $25 billion is:
- $11 billion for the states, localities, territories and tribes to bolster testing capabilities
- $1 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- $1.8 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), distributed as $306 million for the National Cancer Institute, $500 million for the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and $1 billion to the Office of the Director, which includes support for public-private partnerships
- $1 billion for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority;
- $22 million for the Food and Drug Administration
- $825 million for Community Health Centers and rural health clinics.
The package also directs states to submit their plans for testing to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 30 days, including a month-by-month estimate of tests needed and testing capacity, and it directs HHS to issue to Congress both a strategic COVID-19 testing plan and a report on COVID-19 testing, including demographic information.
Congress has passed three comprehensive COVID-19 packages prior to passage of this “interim” package. Lawmakers are expected to begin working on another comprehensive supplemental recovery package in the coming weeks.