By a vote of 415-2, the House of Representatives approved $7.8 billion in emergency coronavirus-related funding earlier this week. The bill, titled “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020,” will direct already-existing but not appropriated Treasury funding toward the various recipient departments.
Some provisions include $4 billion to broaden access to coronavirus testing kits; $2.2 billion for the Center for Disease Control and its efforts both nationwide and locally to combat the spread; $20 million in disaster aid for businesses directly affected by the virus; and $1.25 billion to the U.S. State Department to help Americans abroad who are affected.
Some outlets are reporting the total is $8.3 billion. The discrepancy comes from a provision in the bill which permits the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to waive some Medicare telehealth constraints.
Currently, that Medicare telehealth program limits the ability to see a doctor remotely to those in rural communities. This loosening of restrictions would allow those not living in rural areas to take advantage of the telehealth Medicare coverage. This is estimated to cost the government $500 million, but it does not come directly from those Treasury funds — thus, the difference between $7.8 billion and $8.3 billion figures.
Congressman Van Taylor (R-TX-03), who voted for the measure, stated, “Ensuring the safety and health of Americans is a top priority. By passing this legislation we can address this virus at home and abroad. We’re expediting vaccine development, assisting local health departments, expanding access to diagnostic testing, and ensuring we have the supplies and resources needed to prevent possible shortages.”
Taylor’s counterpart, Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX-07), stated, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that the coronavirus could pose a serious and wide-scale public health threat in our country. It is critical that we fully address the scale and seriousness of this disease. I am glad the House has passed emergency funding to help our communities prepare for and contain the virus.”
On Thursday, the Senate also passed the bill with only one vote against — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
After passage, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said on the Senate floor, “In this supplemental appropriation bill that we just voted on, I requested funding for state and local communities, including San Antonio, which had been at the forefront of this battle, and today we delivered a big win for them. The supplemental funding bill we just passed will make $950 million available for reimbursement for the cost of Texas and other states across the country — the cost they’ve incurred while monitoring and treating individuals exposed to the coronavirus.”
Going forward, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stated, “We need to keep doing everything possible to stop the spread of this virus, but we also shouldn’t give in to panic or hysteria. We should be driven by facts and medical science. I will continue working with the administration, my colleagues in the Senate, the medical experts, and with state officials to do just that.”
In January, Cruz pushed for a travel ban to China to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in America.
With such a wide array of support, President Trump swiftly signed the bill early Friday morning.
Currently, the known death rate for the virus is about three percent, but that number could be smaller given that it’s estimated more people have coronavirus and are unaware that they’re infected.
To date, more than 100,000 cases have been confirmed across the world.
Of that, more than 55,600 patients have recovered and just over 3,400 deaths have been reported.
Earlier this week, a 70-year-old man in Fort Bend County became the first patient to test positive for the virus in Texas. However, this morning the Houston Chronicle is reporting that a total of five cases are now in the Houston area, with four confirmed in Harris County.
On Thursday, Gov. Abbott announced that six labs across the state have the ability to test for the coronavirus with four more planned by the end of the month.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.