A group of bipartisan House and Senate lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a $908 billion COVID-19 relief proposal that includes liability protections, support for small businesses and at least some federal support for long-term care operators.
Although the measure has yet to be introduced in either chamber, the move underscores a strong desire by some members of Congress to pass a long-stalled fifth relief bill before lawmakers are scheduled to leave for the year.
“This is a COVID emergency relief framework,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said during a press conference Tuesday outlining the package. “It’s not the time for political brinkmanship. …This is going to get us through the most difficult times.”
The known details on how the package would benefit long-term care providers are slim, but lawmakers did announce that the measure would provide short-term federal protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits until states could come up with their own protections.
“We did negotiate a liability provision that provides a temporary moratorium, suspension on any liability related lawsuit at the state or federal level associated with COVID,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said at the news conference. “Any state that hasn’t put in protections hasn’t thought this through very carefully,” he added.
The measure also would provide $25 billion for COVID-19 testing and contract tracing and another $30 billion for healthcare providers that includes but is not limited to telehealth expansion. The lawmakers also plan to forgive $45 billion in Medicare loans to providers.
If passed as proposed, Congress also would provide another $180 billion for unemployment insurance and $288 billion for more small business assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program. The unemployment benefits would break down to $300 per week for 18 weeks, retroactive to Dec. 1, lawmakers said. That’s half of the $600 per week included under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act from late March.