December 22, 2020

 

After Congress passed the COVID-19 relief package Monday night, totaling more than $900 billion with a historic vote of 92-6 in the Senate, it moved to the President who signed it into law this morning.

“When Congress wants to move, it can move quickly and here it did so with fairly targeted help for Apex clients and with real reform that will help all consumers of health care,” said Todd Rokita, Apex Benefits General Counsel and Vice President of External Affairs.

We will post more information as we read through the 5,593 pages, but some of the approved bill’s expected highlights included:

  • In the most significant patient protection provision since Medicare Part D, the package allows for independent arbitration and dispute resolution of “surprise” medical or “balance” bills. The reform calls for leaving the patient out of the fight, protecting them from the carrier and the provider by establishing a framework for those two parties to resolve the bill without the patient (a plan’s covered employee and family) incurring responsibility beyond the Plan’s regular terms, even when out of network. There are of course a few exceptions and guardrails.
  • The FFCRA employer mandate will end on December 31, 2020; however, covered employers may still participate in EPSL and EFMLA and receive the tax credits until March 31, 2021. Thus, covered employers may voluntarily participate in EPSL or EFMLA and take the tax credit through March 31, 2021(Organizations should remember state and local laws in their analysis to grant time off due to COVID.)
  • $600 stimulus checks to individuals based on income, and $1,200 checks for couples based on income; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been quoted as saying the payments could mail as early as next week
  • Federal unemployment insurance bonus of $300 per week for those receiving state unemployment insurance
  • An additional $284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program money for loans for struggling businesses to pay for rent and workers
    • Simplified loan forgiveness process for businesses that have borrowed $150,000 or less in PPP loans
    • In a one sentence provision, the stimulus package makes expenses paid with PPP loan proceeds 100% deductible, which applies to all PPP loans even if the loans were already forgiven at the date this legislation is enacted.
      • Additional Eligible Nonpayroll Uses of PPP Loan Proceeds: 4 additional categories were added for nonpayroll costs eligible for the use of the PPP loans proceeds, which is subject to the overall limitation that 60% of the loan must be used for payroll costs (covered operations expenditures, covered property damage, covered supplier costs, covered worker protection equipment).
    • $69 billion COVID-19 vaccine testing and distribution funds
    • $25 billion in rental assistance and an extension on the eviction moratorium
    • $54.3 billion for K-12 schools, largely delivered through Title I funding – about four times more than the amount schools received through the CARES Act
    • $22.7 billion for higher education with $1.7 billion for minority-serving institutions
    • $4 billion for states’ governors to spend at their discretion, plus $2.7 billion for private schools
    • $15 billion in funding for arts venues, independent movie theatres, and cultural institutions. “The legislation provides critical help to shuttered businesses by providing a grant equal to 45% of gross revenue from 2019, with a cap of $10 million per entity,” the National Independent Venues Association said in a statement Monday night following the bill’s passage. “This grant funding will ensure recipients can stay afloat until reopening by helping with expenses like payroll and benefits, rent and mortgage, utilities, insurance, PPE, and other ordinary and necessary business expenses.”

What we are going to continue to watch for:

  • Definitive guidance from the DOL or IRS on employers being able to take a new bucket of FFCRA leave on January 1, 2021.
  • States passing employer liability shields due to potential COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.

 

We will post more information as we have it.