After two weeks of tense negotiations, Congress completed action this afternoon on a bipartisan $484 billion package to replenish funding for the popular small business loan program, provide additional supports for hospitals and health care providers, and expand COVID-19 testing nationwide. The Senate passed the legislation unanimously on Tuesday night, the House approval was forced to wait until today as certain members insisted on a recorded vote so members needed to time to return to town. The final House vote was 388 – 5 (and one abstention), and the President is expected to sign the legislation into law as quickly as possible.The bulk of the legislation – $310 billion – is funding to continue the popular Small Business Administration Payroll Protection Program (PPP) that provides forgivable loans to small businesses. With the substantial need in this community, the PPP ran out of the initial $350 billion provided in the CARES Act on March 27. To address concerns that these loans were not reaching the most vulnerable business, portions of the new funding are set aside for small and community banks and lenders. The package also provides another $10 billion for small business emergency grants. The deal also includes an additional $75 billion to support hospitals and health care providers as well as $25 billion mainly for testing but also to support research and development.
Funding to Support COVID-19 Testing
Within the $25 billion for testing, $1.8 billion will go to NIH to accelerate research, development, and deployment of new tests and technologies, including $1 billion to support the agency’s new pandemic-focused public-private partnership with the pharmaceutical industry, dubbed Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV). Across all three COVID-19 relief packages and this bridge funding agreement, NIH has received a total of $3.58 billion in emergency supplemental funding, which is outside of its regular annual appropriation.
Of the remaining funds for testing, $11 billion is reserved for states, localities, and territories to expand their testing capabilities, $1 billion will go to the CDC for its public-health efforts, such as contact tracing, and $1 billion will go to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to increase manufacturing of COVID-19 related diagnostic products. Across all COVID-19 relief legislation, BARDA has received $4.5 billion total in emergency supplemental funding.
Future Relief Package
While the package this week took some effort to negotiate, it is widely viewed as a supplement to the third coronavirus response package, the $2 trillion CARES Act (more information in our March 25 update here) – given that it pluses up funding in several of key areas of that bill. Even as they complete this bill, House, Senate, and Administration negotiators are simultaneously working on the next – or “fourth” – COVID-19 relief package. That fourth package may more closely resemble the original CARES Act in breadth and scale, with additional economic stimulus likely in the form of loans, loan guarantees, direct payments to individuals, tax relief, and other forms of government assistance.
As the situation continues to evolve in Washington, and legislation is developed, Harvard’s Office of Federal Relations will remain closely engaged with federal lawmakers and agencies in strong support of the University’s priorities in research and education.
If you have any questions on this update or Harvard’s advocacy in Washington, please feel free to be in touch with Suzanne Day (email@example.com) or Kara Haas (firstname.lastname@example.org) in our DC office.