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COVID-19 Task Force Updates Opportunities for Small Businesses, Guidelines, and PPE

Yesterday the President with the Coronavirus Task Force provided updates on efforts to combat COVID-19 and the devastating impact on the American people, including aid for small businesses and access to care.

COVID-19 and the Economy

The President announced the launch of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) today, April 3rd, to support small businesses with a $350 billion pot available for loans. Portions (up to 100%) of the loans are forgivable if funds are used to retain staff. The PPP also applies to independent contractors, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations, starting next week. For organizations and individuals in California, State Treasurer Fiona Ma launched a COVID-19 resource page that you can visit for more information about help available.

Following the IRS announcement earlier this week that people who do not normally file tax returns would need to file a simple tax return to receive stimulus funds, President Trump refuted that statement, clarifying that social security beneficiaries would not have to do so. Secretary Mnuchin elaborated on the process to get financial support to Americans, saying that it would be a matter of weeks, not months, for individuals and families to receive the funds. Mnuchin said that for people that the IRS has direct deposit information on file, the first payments would be automatically dropped into accounts starting in the next two weeks. For people whose information they do not have, the IRS is working on developing an online portal where people enter their information and are able to get funds on a rolling basis after submitting. He also expressed that they are working to ensure there is a process for every American to get money quickly, and that they were working with digital companies, prepaid debit card companies, and more.

For more information about various options and initiatives available, visit Treasury.gov or SBA.gov.

Updated Guidelines

President Trump emphasized the importance of adhering to the extended 30-day guidelines set forth. Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator to the task force, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that states and individuals need to do better in heeding these guidelines. When asked about recommendations for people to start wearing masks to prevent the spread and getting COVID-19, the president said that recommendations will be coming out in the next several days, and that individuals can decide for themselves whether they choose to wear a face mask. Dr. Birx said however, that the most important and effective measure for preventing the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing and adhering to other guidelines outlined in the president’s “30 Days to Stop the Spread”. She said that masks should not serve as an artificial sense of protection, and that if people were to use them, they should not be a substitute, but rather an additive piece of prevention tactics.

President Trump also expanded guidelines for long-term care facilities, reemphasizing the ban on non-medically essential visitors. Further, all nursing home and long-term care facilities have been ordered to assign an individual to the same health care provider/care team, limiting the number of individuals both staff and residents come into contact with. He also added the requirement to separate areas for ill and healthy people, saying that this is a measure he expects to continue to be implemented long after COVID-19.

Healthcare Access and Coverage during COVID-19

President Trump affirmed that a top priority is to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. He also said that Secretary Wilkie has extended deadlines for benefits and postponed debt collections for veterans. When asked about opening up the Affordable Care Act Marketplace and extending special enrollment deadlines, the President rejected the idea saying “we’re doing better than that” and that they are working out the mechanics of a “cash payment” directly to hospitals with the legislature. Vice President Pence followed by saying people should not have to worry about the cost of COVID treatment, so the COVID-19 Task Force is writing up a proposal to the President to use some of the $100 billion allotted to hospitals to compensate them directly. He also said that Blue Cross announced that all of their members will be waived costs associated with treatment of COVID-19, and that the federal government is working on a way to pay for treatment for uninsured Americans.

Testing

Vice President Pence shared that so far there have been 1.3 million tests conducted, with 236,000 confirmed positives, and the loss of over 5,000 lives. The FDA authorized the 1st COVID-19 antibody test by Cellex yesterday, which can detect antibodies after infection and can be indicative of acute or recent infection.

Dr. Birx also shared the percentages of administered tests positive by state, with the “hotzones” highest and those not listed under 13%:

New York and New Jersey at 35%

Louisiana at 26%

Michigan, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois at 15%

Colorado, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and DC at 13%

And California and Washington steady at 8%

We will keep you updated on new information and resources coming out, including portals for obtaining financial relief as they are launched and updated guidelines on masks and other PPE.