Federal Government and NACo Response & Action

Federal Government

BREAKING NEWS 

Congress and President Trump take action - The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (H.R. 748) (link)

On March 27th, President Trumped signed into law the 3rd coronavirus relief bill, a historic and record-breaking $2 trillion stimulus package. The massive rescue package — the biggest in U.S. history — would provide hundreds of billions of dollars in loans and grants to major industries and small businesses, direct cash payments to taxpayers and significantly expand unemployment benefits. Most importantly, it provides additional resources that counties can use toward response efforts. View NACo’s full analysis here.

Social Distancing Timeline Extended

On March 29th, President Trump announced that the White House would be extending its social distancing guidelines through April 30th, from an initial 15-day timeline when they were implemented on March 16th. 

Congress has cleared an $8.3 billion emergency supplemental appropriations package (link)

Congress and the Administration are in the process of responding to the coronavirus outbreak with economic stimulus measures, public health investments and aid to state and local governments. On March 6,  President Trump signed an  $8.3 billion emergency supplemental appropriations package(P.L. 116-123) that includes comprehensive resources to enhance the national response to coronavirus, as well as key provisions to support state and local efforts to address cases of the illness. 

As passed, the legislation specifically includes: 

  • $2.2 billion in public health funding to support prevention, preparedness and response efforts, including a $1 billion set-aside for State and Local Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) grants to support states, counties, cities, and tribes, half of which will be distributed within 30 days. 
  • Under this provision, each state will receive at least $4 million in PHEP grants. For county-administered public health authorities, we strongly encourage county officials to work closely with state public health offices on the timing and requirements for sub-allocation and use of these funds.
  • $3 billion in funding for research and development of coronavirus vaccines and diagnostic tools, and $100 million in supplemental appropriations for Community Health Centers (CHC).
  • $3.1 billion in funding will support the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund under theU.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) (link)

  • Requires all COVID-19 diagnostic testing to be covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and provide states the option to expand Medicaid eligibility to uninsured populations for purposes of COVID-19 testing
  • Provides temporary increase to states’ federal Medicaid assistance for the public health emergency for COVID-19
  • $500 million to supplement the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Child (WIC), which would provide access to nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 emergency
  • $400 million to supplement the Emergency Food Assistance Program to assist local food banks to meet the increased demand for low-income Americans during the outbreak
  • $250 million to supplement the Senior Nutrition Program to provide 25 million additional home-delivered and pre-packaged meals to low-income seniors who depend on the program
  • Allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to approve state plans to provide emergency SNAP assistance to households with children who receive free school meals, but whose schools closed due to COVID-19 outbreak
  • $5 million to supplement paid sick leave to individuals affected by COVID-19. Specifically, the bill would allocate additional funding to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and instruct the agency to administer the emergency paid sick days program
  • $1 billion in funding for emergency grants to states for activities related to processing and paying unemployment insurance benefits to individuals affected by COVID-19

President declares national state of emergency to speed COVID-19 response

On  March 13, President Trump declared a National Emergency by invoking the Stafford Act, which allows for more federal aid for local governments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist with the response. In total, the declaration would free up $50 billion to address COVID-19 as well as: 

  • Unlock resources from FEMA’s disaster relief fund.
  • Allow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to waive certain regulations to more quickly deliver testing and care for coronavirus patients.
  • Waive interest that accrues on all federal student loans “until further notice”.

President Trump’s 15 Days to Slow the Spread (Extended to April 30th)

On March 16, President Trump issued new guidelines to the U.S. public to help slow the spread of COVID-19 over the course of 15 days. The guidelines include the following:

  • Listen to and follow the directions of your STATE AND LOCAL AUTHORITIES.
  • IF YOUR FEEL SICK, stay home. Do not go to work. Contact your medical provider.
  • IF YOUR CHILDREN ARE SICK, keep them at home. Do not send them to school. Contact your medical provider.
  • IF SOMEONE IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD HAS TESTED POSITIVE for the coronavirus, keep the entire household at home. Do not go to work. Do not go to school. Contact your medical provider.
  • IF YOU ARE A OLDER PERSON, stay home and away from other people. 
  • IF YOU ARE A PERSON WTH A SERIOUS UNDERLYING HEALTH CONDITION that can put you at increased risk, stay home and away from other people.

Do your part to slow the spread of the coronavirus

  • Work or engage in schooling FROM HOME whenever possible.
  • Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.
  • Avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts - USE DRIVE-THRU, PICK UP OR DELIVERY OPTIONS. 
  • AVOID DISCRCTIONARY TRAVEL, shopping trips, and social visits.
  • DO NOT VISIT nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
  • PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE such as washing your hands and limit touching your face.

National Association of Counties

The National Association of Counties (NACo) response to the COVID19 pandemic includes building and updating various website resources for the nation’s county governments to utilize and working with the federal government to provide swift action and relief. Listed below is a quick look at what action NACO is currently taking, it is not a comprehensive list. For more detailed information on the information below please visit the dedicated webpage for COVID-19 by NACo. 

Link: https://www.naco.org/resources/featured/coronavirus-disease-2019

Website Resources

  • NACo has launched a specific COVID-19 resource section on their website.
  • Almost all the state association of counties have built resource pages for their state.
  • NACo is cataloging all of the state and county disaster declarations and they are available by right-clicking on the County Explorer page to see the declaration and date.
  • These declarations can assist counties with language and serve as a boilerplate for best practices.
  • NACo has also included information on their federal advocacy efforts for the federal aid packages.

NACo is currently working on the following federal advocacy efforts:

  • Requesting that the 3rd aid package include more testing equipment and personal protective equipment.
  • More clarification on FEMA assistance; additional funding.
  • Stressing the importance of county behavioral health services that were already stretched and may be exacerbated by the current situation.
  • Calling on Health & Human Services to delay the match requirements for the non-federal share of Medicaid and nutrition programs for children and the elderly.
  • Stressed the importance of the Department of Labor waiving requirements on pensions so counties can bring back retirees if needed for resources.
  • Requesting assistance with funding for municipal bonds and the ability to redeploy some revenue for immediate needs.

Tips for Federal Aid

  • Most federal funding flows form the federal government to the state and then to the local level.
  • Counties need to be working with your state association, community partners, Health & Human Services, and the Center for Disease Control to access funds.
  • If you are involved in Medicaid, please work with your health agencies on the cost and reimbursement for counties.
  • Currently, the largest source for reimbursement is through the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund – FEMA Public Assistance Program.
  • Health & Human Services and FEMA are currently evaluating what is eligible and how it is determined under the Stafford Act which governs FEMA Programs, which have traditionally focused on disasters, but is eligible for pandemic types of emergencies.
  • Counties who have been through disasters know how critical it is to document and have vast experience on lessons learned. NACo can also help connect you to those with more experience.
  • You must have appropriate financial controls to segregate and document your expenses related to the emergency declarations.

Cyber Security Attacks

  • There has been an increase in cybersecurity attacks.
  • The Department of Health & Human Services was hacked on Twitter with false information proclaiming a national government lockdown.
  • Counties must work with employees and their IT departments to be on guard for fake emails, false information, etc. especially while working remotely.

For more detail information on the federal response and the passage of the relief bills please view NACo’s analysis.