Last night, Senate Republicans introduced a series of bills in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The series of proposals – collectively named the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act – were drafted by the chairs of various committees of jurisdiction including Senate HELP, Finance, Small Business and Entrepreneurship and Appropriations. The HEALS Act totals nearly $1 trillion in relief aid and is the starting point for bipartisan negotiations between the House and Senate as they look to finalize a deal before the end of this week.
Highlights of the HEALS Act proposals include:
- Extension of Medicare telehealth waivers through the length of the public health emergency, or December 31, 2021, whichever is later. The bill calls for a full analysis of the impact of expanded telehealth allowances and provides Congress the opportunity to legislate before the flexibilities expire. It also maintains telehealth expansions specific to federally qualified health centers (FQHC) and rural health centers (RHC) for five years beyond the end of the PHE
- $4.5 Billion Supplemental Appropriation to SAMHSA, including:
- Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. $25 billion in new money for the Health Care Provider Relief Fund.
- Liability Protections for Employers. The bill would create an exclusive federal cause of action for COVID-19 exposure lawsuits that runs retroactively from December 1, 2019 until October 1, 2024. It would establish a safe harbor for businesses that undertake reasonable efforts to comply with public health and safety guidelines. In cases where defendants do not take such efforts, plaintiffs must demonstrate that the defendant's gross negligence or willful misconduct caused the plaintiff's infection.
- Continuing Small Business Recovery and Paycheck Protection Program. The legislation would provide a second round of PPP loans for certain businesses that have already received a loan, setting aside $190 billion for business and nonprofits with at most 300 employees (down from the 500-employee threshold in the first round). To receive a second PPP loan, companies would have to demonstrate a 50 percent reduction in gross revenues over the same quarter last year.
The HEALS Act does not include an increase to the Medicaid FMAP as passed by the House's HEROES Act back in May. The National Council continues its efforts to secure inclusion of an increase in federal matching dollars to state Medicaid programs as negotiations continue.
The National Council is still reviewing the series of legislative proposals and will continue to update its members as negotiations unfold this week. Please reach out to the National Council's Policy Team with any questions.
Chuck IngogliaPresident and CEONational Council for Behavioral Health
Here is the chart comparing the House and Senate packages (HEROES and HEALS) for SAMHSA funding. Apologies it did not paste well in the chat feature today. Hope this helps!
Senate vs. House SAMHSA Funding
Mental Health Block Grant
Substance Abuse Block Grant
Project AWARE (schools)
Emergency Grants to States
Services to Homeless
Child Traumatic Stress Network
*Note: the House requires that not less than $150 million of the funding across programs goes to tribes.