Great resources from Congressman Walden

Help is on the way to Oregon and the country now that Congress has passed the CARES Act. I was with the President when he signed this record-setting, bipartisan rescue package into law.

The CARES Act provides a tax rebate to most Americans in the amount of $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for couples and $500 for children.

Low-income individuals will receive the full amount, regardless of whether they made enough to file taxes in the past year. Individuals who make over $75,000 and couples who make over $150,000 will receive a reduced rebate. The help phases out for higher-income individuals who make $99,000 a year or couples who earn $198,000 per year. This cash infusion will help families and individuals as our economy reels from the effects of this virus.

With a record 3.28 million workers applying for unemployment benefits, the CARES Act provides an additional boost of $600 a week to those who have lost their jobs. This $250 billion in additional unemployment insurance also makes those who are self-employed or work as independent contractors eligible for coverage. For federal student loan borrowers, no student loan payments are due until September 30, 2020.

To help our small businesses survive the effects of the outbreak and the necessary social distancing measures taken to slow the spread of the virus, the bill creates a new Paycheck Protection Program which provides $350 billion in government-backed loans to small businesses that employ fewer than 500 employees. These loans will help employers cover the costs of payroll, mortgage interest, lease payments, and utilities. If businesses use these new SBA 7(a) loans to keep their workers on the payroll for 8 weeks, the government will forgive the amount used to pay employees during that period. Additionally, loan funds used to pay for certain other business expenses can also be forgiven. 

The CARES Act dramatically ramps up funding and access to personal protective equipment –face masks, gowns, etc.– desperately needed by our health care workers. It also provides record funding to hospitals to help cover their added costs as a result of COVID-19. 

This legislation invests in efforts to develop medical treatments and a vaccine. It also greatly expands use of telehealth services, especially for those on Medicare. It is up to Oregon to decide if it will allow expanded telehealth services for those patients on Medicaid. 

While it extends funding for our Community Health Centers until the end of November, it falls short in fully funding these incredibly important health centers for several years.  Nor does the bill put a stop to “surprise billing,” as my bipartisan legislation would do.  Speaker Pelosi stopped both of these efforts earlier this year.  But know that I will not stop until we get our community health centers fully funded and surprise medical billing ended.

Meanwhile, my team and I are on almost non-stop conference calls with people in the district and with every level of our government. The information I’m getting locally is very helpful as I work with my colleagues and the Trump Administration to shape rapidly changing federal policy and spending priorities.

I encourage you to continue to follow CDC guidelines: wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, practice social distancing, and stay home if you are sick! My prayers are with those who have been infected with this disease, and those who have succumbed to it. I express my heartfelt gratitude to the dedicated health care workers on the front lines. We will get through this, we are in it together.

It is an honor to serve you in the U.S. Congress.

Best regards,

Greg Walden
U.S. Representative
Oregon’s Second District

The Coronavirus Aide, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) ACT
The information below reflects the Phase 3 emergency funding package as signed into law. For general information on COVID-19, click here.

Relief for American Families:

One-time tax rebate check

  • $1,200 for an individual, $2,400 for a couple, $500 per child.
  • Not reduced for lower income Americans.
  • Reduced for higher income Americans, starting at $75,000 or $150,000 per couple.
  • Phases out completely for individuals with adjusted gross income of $99,000 or $198,000 for couples.

Unemployment Insurance:

Expanded unemployment insurance to cover independent contractors, self-employed, and non-profit employees.

Assistance for Small Businesses:

New SBA-backed loan program to help small businesses pay for expenses

  • Paycheck Protection Loan: A new loan program for small businesses to keep employees on payroll. Loan maximum is the lesser of $10 million or 2.5 times average monthly payroll.
  • $350 billion in federally guaranteed loans through private lenders to assist businesses with 500 or fewer employees; may be used to cover payroll, health benefits, mortgage interest/leases, and utilities during the outbreak.
  • Small businesses, 501(c)(3) nonprofits, veterans’ organizations, and Tribal businesses are eligible.
    • Sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed people are eligible.
  • Loan forgiveness: For businesses that maintain employees on payroll, they can receive loan forgiveness for 8 weeks of costs related to payroll, mortgage interest/leases, and utilities. 
    • Employers that have laid off employees may re-hire them and still qualify.
    • To receive forgiveness, businesses will have to work with their lender to justify their payroll was maintained through documentation.

Ensuring Access to Care for All Americans

Increased Medical Product Supplies:

  • Increases access to testing by allowing Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to stockpile medical supplies like swabs used in COVID-19 testing.
  • Permanent liability protection for manufacturers of PPE in the event of a public health emergency.

Faster Approval for Treatments:

  • Allows FDA to quickly approve the use of new medication and treatment.
  • Prioritize drug applications.
  • Requires drug manufacturers to provide additional information when there is an interruption in the supply chain as well as to submit information to FDA regarding shortages.
  • Allows Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to more easily partner with private sector on research and development, which includes helping to scale up manufacturing.
  • Provides breakthrough therapy designations for animal drugs that can prevent human diseases.

Access to Health Care for COVID-19 Patients:

  • Facilitates the use of new and innovative telemedicine technology to protect and contain the spread of COVID-19
    1. Expands Medicare telehealth flexibilities.
    2. Expands Medicare telehealth for home dialysis patients.
  • Reauthorizes HRSA grant programs to strengthen rural community health by focusing on quality improvement and access to care.
  • Allows Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and Rural Health clinics to furnish telehealth for Medicare beneficiaries.
  • All testing for COVID-19 is to be covered by private insurance plans without cost-sharing, including those tests without an emergency use authorization.
  • Allows Medicare beneficiaries to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Medicare Part B with no cost-sharing.
  • Medicare Part D plans would be allowed to provide a 90-day supply of a prescription medication during the COVID-19 emergency period.
  • Increases Medicare reimbursement rate to assist providers caring for our most vulnerable population.
  • Provides $1.32 billion in supplemental funding to Community Health Centers (CHC).

Increases Medical Professional Staffing

  • Establishes a Ready Reserve Corps to ensure we have enough trained doctors and nurses to respond to public health emergencies.
  • Includes a Good Samaritan provision for doctors who provide volunteer medical services during the public health emergency related to COVID-19 to have liability protections.
  • Allows the Secretary of HHS to reassign members of the National Health Service Corps to sites close to the one they were originally assigned, in order to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • Directs the Secretary of HHS to strengthen the health professions workforce.

Supporting Health Care Providers

  • Provides $100 billion for hospitals and health care providers.
  • Temporarily lifts the Medicare sequester, which reduces payments to providers by 2 percent, from May 1 through December 31, 2020, boosting payments for hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, and home health.
  • Increases payments to hospitals treating patients admitted with COVID-19 by 20 percent; this add-on payment is available through the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Expands an existing Medicare accelerated payment program for hospitals. With Critical Access Hospitals eligible for an advance payment up to 125 percent, based on net reimbursement represented by unbilled discharges or unpaid bills.
    Delays cuts to Disproportionate Share Hospitals (DSH) through November 30, 2020.

Supports Education

Provides $30.9 billion in emergency supplemental funding to the Department of Education.

Higher Education Assistance

  • Higher Education received $14.25 billion to directly support students and institutes of higher education. Half of this funding is directed to support students.
  • Waives the requirement for federal aid funds to be returned if students withdrew from the university during the payment period. 

Student Assistance

  • Universities can use emergency financial aid grants to assist undergraduate and graduate students with unexpected expenses as a result of COVID-19.
  • Universities participating in work study may make payments to students participating in work study even though affected students were not able to fulfill the students’ work study obligation.
  • If the semester was not completed due to COVID-19, that semester will not count against the student for an enrolled semester for subsidized loan or Pell grant semester limits.
  • Students are not required to return Pell grants or federal student loans if they withdrew due to COVID-19.
  • Student loans are cancelled for this period ONLY, if the student withdraws from the university.
  • For Federal Student Loan Borrowers, all payments for federal loans have been suspended through September 30, 2020. All interest has also been suspended until September 30, 2020.

States’ Department of Education Assistance

  • Elementary and Secondary Education received $13.5 billion to states to help respond to COVID-19. This funding can be used to meet the immediate needs of students and teachers, as well as improve remote learning.
  • The Secretary of Education may provide waivers to State Educational agencies or Indian Tribes to waive:
    • End of year testing
    • Attendance and long-term goal strategic plans
    • Plans for targeted support of underperforming schools
    • Report cards

Direct Funding to Combat the Pandemic

Coronavirus Relief Funds

  • $340 billion supplemental appropriations:
    1. $150 billion emergency relief fund for states, cities, localities to fight the pandemic. 
      1. Each state will receive a minimum of $1.25 billion.
    2. Support for health care workers and hospitals. 
    3. Funding for Personal Protective Equipment. 
    4. Support for our local responders.
    5. Funding for the research of new treatments and vaccines.
    6. Support for small businesses.
    7. Support for local colleges and universities.
    8. Support for veteran health care.
    9. Support for DOD response to COVID-19.

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