The $484.4 billion package will shore up the Paycheck Protection Program and make another $75 billion available for provider relief through HHS.
The COVID-19-related grant funds intended for distribution to health care providers will likely receive another $75 billion as part of a $484 billion "phase 3.5" coronavirus relief bill approved by the U.S. Senate. The legislation is expected to be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives as early as April 23.
Known as the Paycheck Protection and Health Care Enhancement Act, the $484 billion relief measure focuses mainly on replenishing the U.S. Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program, the loan program that saw its previously allotted $384 billion quickly depleted. This time around, the program will receive $310 billion.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will also get an infusion of cash to be used for provider grant programs. The CARES Act enacted in late March carved out $100 billion for health care provider assistance; the latest package adds another $75 billion. The additional funds are intended to be used to support "eligible health care providers" that include public entities, Medicare or Medicaid-enrolled providers (including PTs), and nonprofit entities that diagnose, test, or care for individuals with possible or actual cases of COVID-19.
To date, HHS has designated about $30 billion for deposit directly into providers' bank accounts or via paper checks. More information on that program is available in this PT in Motion News story published when funds were released, along with two follow-up reports — one on how providers can verity if they're to receive the money, and another that addresses more details of the program.
With additional funding now provided to these programs, Congress can now focus on the next COVID relief package, known as COVID Phase 4, which could be considered as early as May, according the Justin Elliott, APTA's vice president of government affairs.
"Congress was facing a crisis-within-a-crisis in trying to quickly shore up the Paycheck Protection Program," Elliott said. "This interim coronavirus aid bill is not the last one we'll see, and we are continuing our efforts to include our policy recommendations in the COVID Phase 4 relief package."
Those recommendations from APTA are spelled out in a letter to both chambers of Congress that outlines seven steps lawmakers should take to ensure patient safety and protect health care providers.
APTA also continues to urge members and stakeholders to join the association in a grassroots effort to press lawmakers for changes — some temporary, others lasting — that will protect patients and support providers both during the emergency and in years to come. Among the changes recommended: a permanent recognition of PTs and PTAs as approved telehealth providers under Medicare, a suspension of requirements that CMS believes forces it to make significant payment cuts to more than three dozen health professions, and more support for health care providers with small businesses.
Other funding in the package includes $50 billion for Economic Disaster Loans, $10 billion for Economic Disaster Loans advance grants, and $25 billion for COVID-10 testing, $11 billion of which will go directly to states.