April 23, 2020

Congress Poised to Pass Additional Stimulus Package

Congress and the Trump Administration reached a deal this week on a new round of federal spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation totals $484 billion and delivers funding to small businesses, hospitals and COVID-19 testing sites.

According to a summary of the deal, the legislation includes $321 billion for the depleted Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), of which $60 billion is set aside for underbanked businesses, a priority for Democrats. The Paycheck Protection Program ran out of its initial $349 billion round of funding last week.

The deal also includes $60 billion in loans and grants for economic disaster assistance, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing. Of that testing money, $11 billion will go to states, localities, territories and tribes to develop, purchase, administer, process and analyze COVID-19 tests, scale up laboratory capacity, trace human contacts and support employer testing. Funds are also made available to employers for testing.

Democrats admitted defeat on their demands for $150 billion for states and local governments after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took a hard line against including that money. Instead, the legislation will grant flexibility for unspent money from previous relief bills to be used for revenue shortfalls. Democrats will seek more money in the next round, according to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

At the time of this writing, the Senate planned to pass the Payment Protection Program Increase Act of 2020 by unanimous consent. The House will not be able to pass the legislation unanimously, and lawmakers have been instructed to prepare to return to the Capitol this week. President Trump has indicated his support for the measure and his intention to sign it into law.

Undoubtedly, there will be further COVID-19-related aid packages for the foreseeable future. The American College of Radiology® will continue to advocate for provisions that stabilize and improve physicians’ ability to maintain their practices and better serve their patients. To that end, the College will continue to make the case for waiving the budget neutrality mandate associated with the impending 2021 Medicare evaluation and management (E/M) code adjustment. Waiving budget neutrality will avoid significant physician reimbursement cuts at a time when physicians can least afford them.