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Capitol Correspondence - 05.05.20

Senators Ask Congressional Leaders for Medicaid Funding During COVID-19 Outbreak

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Two groups of U.S. Senators called upon Congressional leadership to increase funding for Medicaid services during the COVID-19 outbreak. These actions validate ANCOR’s calls for COVID-19 funding to be specifically designated for Medicaid disability supports. To encourage members of Congress to continue to speak up on behalf of Medicaid, please visit amplifier.ancor.org and take action on the tools listed there.

Twenty Democratic Senators sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging them to protect the disability community during the outbreak. While the letter listed multiple policies, two are of noteworthy for disability providers. The first is a request to boost the FMAP bump created in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) from 6.2 percent to 12 percent. The second is to provide dedicated funding for the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) program. The letter is co-signed by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA), Bob Casey (PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Maggie Hassan (NJ), Sherrod Brown (OH), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Ed Markey (MA), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Brian Schatz (HI), Tina Smith (MN), Kamala Harris (CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Robert Menendez (NJ), Bernie Sanders (VT), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Jack Reed (RI), Jacky Rosen (NV) and Chris Van Hollen (MD). The request for HCBS funding received validation from stakeholders, as the National Council on Disability also sent a letter to Congressional leadership with that request.

Additionally, Colorado Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R) co-signed a letter to specifically focusing on increasing the FFCRA FMAP bump to 12 percent, stating: “While federal assistance provided to date is a useful first step, the state of Colorado has indicated it is not sufficient to cover the funding shortfall caused by COVID-19 that could lead to harmful budget cuts for state programs, like Medicaid.”

The bigger picture: Congressional leadership is likely to have a mixed reaction to these requests, given their implication for greater funding for state and local governments. As Politico Pro reports:

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested today that states and local governments may need as much as $1 trillion in additional federal relief to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic.

[…]

Pelosi’s estimate of $1 trillion appears to be on the higher end of state and local needs, coming after the National Governors Association warned Congress that states will need at least $500 billion.

The left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has warned that states could be facing budget shortfalls that total $650 billion over three years. And the U.S. Conference of Mayors has called for at least $250 billion.

Congress has already passed four bills totaling nearly $3 trillion in response to the pandemic. Senate Republicans are unlikely to support such a high figure for states, which are wrestling with evaporating state revenue and increased costs.”