Frontline Blog

Congress passes the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act

April 2020

The Big Cities Health Coalition thanks Congress for enacting this most recent COVID relief package, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (H.R. 266), which demonstrates a recognition of the unprecedented situation we are in and the real need to sufficiently fund the response as it expands and evolves.

The bill, passed first in the U.S. Senate and now by the House of Representatives, provides another significant infusion of funding for the COVID-19 response, including $25 billion to research, develop, validate, manufacture, purchase, administer, and expand capacity for COVID-19 tests. Increasing testing availability is crucial to identifying cases and taking appropriate action to lessen new infections across the nation. Repeatedly, leaders in cities across the country have called for increased testing as one of the most important things needed to address the threat of COVID-19. Further, it is critically important that federal resources are directed to the local level to support those most in need.

This $25 billion includes:

  • $11 billion for states, localities, territories, and tribes to develop, purchase, administer, process, and analyze COVID-19 tests, scale-up laboratory capacity, trace contacts, and support employer testing. Funds are also made available to employers for testing;
  • $2 billion provided to states consistent with the Public Health Emergency Preparedness grant formula, ensuring every state receives funding;
  • $4.25 billion provided to areas based on relative number of COVID-19 cases;
  • $750 million provided to tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian health organizations in coordination with Indian Health Service;
  • $1 billion provided to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity expansion, contact tracing, public health data surveillance and analytics infrastructure modernization;
  • $1.8 billion provided to the National Institutes of Health to develop, validate, improve, and implement testing and associated technologies; to accelerate research, development, and implementation of point-of-care and other rapid testing; and for partnerships with governmental and non-governmental entities to research, develop, and implement the activities; and
  • $1 billion to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for advanced research, development, manufacturing, production, and purchase of diagnostic, serologic, or other COVID-19 tests or related supplies.

Additionally, the legislation requires states to submit testing plans. Governmental public health is a collaboration of federal, state, and local partners. It only makes sense that our members, who are in some of the hardest hit areas in the country, have the opportunity to offer input on these plans. Local health officials are on the front lines and have invaluable insight into what works and what is most need in the communities in which they serve. 

As Congress considers future COVID relief packages, we urge them to address the devastating economic impact of the pandemic on local jurisdictions and states. Some cities and counties are faced with laying off the very staff that is responding daily to this crisis. Shattered local economies will also have real implications for reviving the national economy, which is a desire shared by all.