Congress devoted much of March to the coronavirus response effort. Although the Capitol complex is closed to guests, congressional offices continue to take (often virtual) meetings, receive input from stakeholders, and advance legislative and policy efforts. In fact, Congress has been operating with a high degree of efficiency, passing three coronavirus response packages in rapid succession.
The first enacted coronavirus response effort was a supplemental emergency appropriations bill that delivered additional funding to the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the broader public health service. The second package featured a variety of provisions to improve healthcare delivery and otherwise respond to patient access and capacity challenges. The third package was a comprehensive $2 trillion response that include additional emergency appropriations, further health policy provisions, and economic stimulus measures. Congress is weighing the necessity of a fourth package on improvements in efforts to address the spread of the virus and the overall health of the economy.
The third coronavirus response package includes notable enhancements for the full spectrum of medical research to rapidly facilitate the development and delivery of diagnostic tools, vaccines, and therapies. Through a combination of funding infusion and regulatory changes, Congress is focused on delivering innovative solutions to combat coronavirus. Further, the packages include some relief from healthcare workers through a notable investment in personal protective equipment, the procurement of ventilators, and related activities. Additional resources are also directed to community health centers, disproportionate share hospitals and providers impacted by the pandemic. Finally, Congress has bolstered telehealth and home healthcare to facilitate service delivery while mitigating the potential for the virus to spread.
It is important to note that beyond the coronavirus response, Congress also continues to advance the annual appropriations process and standard legislative process. In particular, the House and Senate continue to craft their Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations bills with the intention of having draft bills ready soon and final spending bills poised for enactment following the November elections.