Written By: Mark McAndrew
On March 11th, H.R. 6201 was introduced in the House, and yesterday, it was passed by the Senate and President Trump has signed it. Although a more thorough analysis of the 110 page bill is warranted, the following are my initial takes on the bill.
Food and Nutrition Service – Includes funding to ensure the domestic nutrition assistance programs have adequate resources to help those impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Emergency Paid Sick Days Program – Includes $5 million for the Department of Labor to administer the emergency paid sick days program. Senior Nutrition Program – Includes $250 million for the Senior Nutrition program in the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to provide approximately 25 million additional home-delivered and pre-packaged meals to low-income seniors who depend on the Senior Nutrition programs in their communities.
Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students Act Section 101. Short Title. The short title for the bill is the Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students Act or the MEALS Act. Section 102. Waiver Exception for School Closures Due to COVID-19. Provides the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to issue nationwide school meal waivers during the COVID-19 emergency, which will eliminate paperwork for states and help more schools quickly adopt and utilize flexibilities. Title II – COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act Section 201. Short Title. The short title for the bill is the COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act. 3 Section 202. National School Lunch Program Requirement Waivers Addressing COVID19. Allows all child and adult care centers to operate as non-congregate (i.e. they can serve outside the school or in individual settings) and waive all meal pattern requirements if there is a disruption to the food supply as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. Title III – SNAP COVID-19 Response Waivers Section 301. SNAP Flexibility for Low-Income Jobless Workers. Suspends the work and work training requirements for SNAP during this crisis. Section 302. Additional SNAP Flexibilities in a Public Health Emergency. Allows states to request special waivers from the Secretary to provide temporary, emergency CR-SNAP benefits to existing SNAP households up to the maximum monthly allotment, as well as give the Secretary broad discretion to provide much more flexibility for States in managing SNAP caseloads. Additionally, this language requires the Secretary to make State requests for waivers and the USDA response, as well as any USDA guidance on State flexibilities, publicly available.
Emergency Paid Leave Benefits. This section creates a new federal emergency paid leave benefit program. Eligible workers will receive a benefit for a month (up to three months) in which they must take 14 or more days of leave from their work due to the qualifying COVID-19-related reasons. Days when an individual receives pay from their employer (regular wages, sick pay, or other paid time off) or unemployment compensation do not count as leave days for purposes of this benefit. The program will be administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Specifications include the following: 5 • Benefit amount: Two-thirds of the individual’s average monthly earnings (based on the most recent year of wages or self-employment income for which records are readily available), up to a cap of $4,000.• Program and benefit period: The benefits will be available for leave that occurs from January 19, 2020 (the date of the first U.S. COVID-19 diagnosis) through one year after the bill’s enactment.• Retroactive benefits: Benefits can be paid retroactively, and applications can be filed up to 6 months after enactment.• Application: Applications will be taken online, by phone, or by mail. Individuals will not visit SSA field offices to apply. Payments will in most cases be issued electronically.• Program integrity: Applicants must attest that they meet the criteria for eligibility and existing penalties for fraud or misrepresentation with regard to Social Security benefits are applied to the federal emergency paid leave benefits program.
Paid Sick Days for Public Health Emergencies and Personal and Family Care Act The emergency paid sick days legislation: ▪ Requires all employers to allow employees to gradually accrue seven days of paid sick leave and to provide an additional 14 days available immediately in the event of any public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis; ▪ Requires all employers to provide an additional 14 days of paid sick leave, available immediately at the beginning of a public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis; ▪ Ensures paid sick leave covers days when your child’s school is closed due to a public health emergency, when your employer is closed due to public health emergency, or if you or a family member is quarantined or isolated due to a public health emergency; ▪ Reimburses small businesses—defined as businesses with 50 or fewer employees—for the costs of providing the 14 days of additional paid sick leave used by employees during a public health emergency; ▪ Enables construction employees to receive sick pay based on hours they work for multiple contractors; and ▪ Makes the bill effective immediately so that employees in areas covered under a qualifying Public Health Emergency, upon the date of enactment, can take 14 days of paid sick leave in order to address COVID-19.
Coverage of Testing for COVID-19. This section requires private health plans to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the cost of a provider, urgent care center and emergency room visits in order to receive testing. Coverage must be provided at no cost to the consumer.
Section 102. Waiving Cost Sharing Under the Medicare Program For Certain Visits Relating To Testing For COVID-19. This section requires Medicare Part B to cover beneficiary cost-sharing for provider visits during which a COVID-19 diagnostic test is administered or ordered. Medicare Part B currently covers the COVID-19 diagnostic test with no beneficiary cost-sharing. 8
Section 103. Waiving Cost Sharing Under the Medicare Advantage Program for Certain Visits Relating to Testing for COVID-19. This section requires Medicare Advantage to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the associated cost of the visit in order to receive testing. Coverage must be provided at no cost to the beneficiary.
Section 104. Coverage at No Cost Sharing of COVID-19 Testing Under Medicaid and CHIP. This section requires Medicaid to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the cost of a provider visit in order to receive testing. Coverage must be provided at no cost to the beneficiary. It would also provide states with the option to extend Medicaid eligibility to uninsured populations for the purposes of COVID-19 diagnostic testing. State expenditures for medical and administrative costs would be matched by the federal government at 100 percent.
Section 105. Laboratory Reimbursement for Diagnostic Testing for COVID-19 in Uninsured Individuals. This section requires the National Disaster Medical System to reimburse the costs of COVID-19 diagnostic testing provided to individuals without insurance.
Section 106. Treatment of Personal Respiratory Protective Devices as Covered Countermeasures. This section requires certain personal respiratory protective devices to be treated as covered countermeasures under the PREP Act Declaration for the purposes of emergency use during the COVID-19 outbreak and ending October 1, 2024.
Section 107. Application with Respect to TRICARE, Coverage for Veterans, and Coverage for Federal Civilians. This section ensures that individuals enrolled in TRICARE, covered veterans, and federal workers have coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing without cost sharing.
Section 108. Coverage of Testing for COVID-19 At No Cost Sharing for Indians Receiving Contract Health Services. This section ensures that American Indians and Alaskan Natives do not experience cost sharing for COVID-19 testing, including those referred for care away from an Indian Health Service or tribal health care facility.
Section 109. Emergency FMAP Increase. This section provides a temporary increase to states’ federal medical assistance percentage for the duration of the public health emergency for COVID-19. It requires states to maintain eligibility standards that are no less restrictive than the date of enactment.
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