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Capitol Correspondence - 07.07.20

Update: Where Does Fourth Congressional COVID-19 Package Stand?

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ANCOR’s congressional allies have informed us that the drafting process is beginning for the fourth COVID-19 funding package. This has been confirmed in reporting by Politico Pro, stating that “July, which was already crowded with a slate of must-pass spending and defense bills, now brings even higher stakes, with the two parties still far apart on how Washington should approach the twin emergencies just four months before the presidential election. […]

With both chambers gone for a two-week recess until mid-July, lawmakers will return with just 11 days to renew an unemployment fund Democrats say is desperately needed for the millions out of work.

Republicans, who primarily don’t support renewing the unemployment program, dismiss July 31 as an artificial deadline. But they, too, acknowledge it’s time for Washington again to step in.”

What this means for Medicaid disability providers: The next two weeks will be a critical time to advocate for the inclusion of Medicaid funding provisions in the package being negotiated. Stay tuned as we will be sending out action alerts and posting social media on this topic. However, ANCOR members wishing to contact their congressional offices directly in the meantime can reach out to Doris Parfaite-Claude at [email protected] for assistance and resources.

What are the political prospects? While the Senate has been slow to take legislation the House passed in May, prospects for negotiations have improved now that, according to Politico Pro: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday gave his clearest signal yet that Republicans are willing to move swiftly on another coronavirus relief package, after some states have seen a spike in cases.

The Kentucky Republican said that the Senate will focus on the next coronavirus package when it returns from the two-week July 4 recess, with the goal of finishing before both chambers depart for their lengthy August break.

That period ‘dovetails nicely with the perfect time, to take an assessment of the economy and the progress we’re making on the health care front and see if there is additional assistance needed for our health care providers,’ McConnell said.”

The economic context creating pressure for a fourth package: In addition to the political pressure created by states reporting record-high increases in COVID-19 cases over the past month, there are strong financial pressures for a fourth package. As reported by Axios: “America adding 7.5 million jobs over the last two months pales in comparison to 20+ million lost over the two months prior. […] The number of permanent job losers went up, not down, rising 25% in just one month to 2.8 million from 2.2 million. […]

The bottom line: America will struggle to recover economically until it manages to beat back the public health threat.

  • That’s clearly not happening. The official overseeing the nation’s coronavirus testing efforts told Congress today that the U.S. is ‘not flattening the curve right now.’”

Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the unemployment rate will take over a decade to recover, likely remaining higher than it was before the pandemic during that time. Additionally, CBO found that current tax and spending policy will mean economic output will be depressed for years.

Key takeaway: The political and economic urgency surrounding the fourth package are creating new openings in congressional negotiations for Medicaid supports to request more funding so they can keep people with intellectual / developmental disabilities safe during the pandemic.