To the Myeloma Community,

We wanted to take some time and to keep you up to date on the Federal Government’s response regarding COVID-19. We have received a lot of questions from patients and their families about what is included in the response, and what the government has done to address the virus.

We hope this webpage is helpful and as always, we are happy to answer any questions you may have. Reach out to us anytime at advocacy@myeloma.org.

Please stay safe and healthy!
Sincerely,
Robin Levy

What has the general government response been? (Updated 3/27/20)

Defense Production Act
On March 20th, President Trump stated he had invoked his emergency war powers under the Defense Production Act to direct private businesses to produce and distribute medical supplies in anticipation of a surge in demand. As of the present time, it is our understanding that the President has not yet utilized the act and has been receiving pressure from governors and healthcare providers to do so to increase production for equipment that could be used to combat COVID-19.

Under the Act, private US companies can be compelled to produce medical ventilators, masks and other items deemed necessary for the national security of the country. The president can also impose wage and price controls, settle labor disputes and control consumer and real estate credit, among other authorities given by the law. We will continue to keep you updated as this situation progresses.

Pentagon and Veteran Affairs Assist

  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approved a request from the VA to waive a section of federal law that governs retired VA workers. The VA is now able to, and has, invited retired medical personnel to return to the VA and assist with the ongoing efforts to combat the pandemic. This invitation is open to doctors, nurses and other assistants previously employed by the VA as a healthcare worker who have since retiredThe VA will discontinue offering nonurgent community care referrals to veterans during the coronavirus pandemic due to infection risks and concern over stressing the health system. Allowing veterans and their families to see private providers puts the veterans at risk of getting the illness while minimizing resources to fight the outbreak.
  • VA has been preparing to offer states assistance through its little known “fourth mission,” which would allow coronavirus patients to receive care at the VA’s nationwide network of hospitals and health centers. 
  • As of Friday, VA had 13,000 acute care beds, and 1,800 of them are for Intensive Care Units (ICUs). 
  • The Pentagon is making 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 ventilators available to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
  • Military hospital ships have been dispatched to the coasts of California and New York. Tent hospitals are also being readied for civilian use.

National Emergency Declaration 

  • HHS will remain the lead agency directing the federal response.
  • Allows federal officials to help with numerous virus-related issues, including transportation, shelters, mobile hospitals, and public safety. 
  • $34 billion in FEMA’s disaster relief fund is now available for use.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Gives States Ability to Authorize Testing Labs

  • State public health departments across the country can now unilaterally authorize laboratories to conduct coronavirus testing. 
  • FDA is allowing diagnostic manufacturers to distribute certain coronavirus commercial tests before the government grants an emergency use authorization in the hopes of getting more tests out to the public.

Delays (or Evaluation) of Elective Surgery

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised hospitals in certain areas hard hit by coronavirus to cancel elective surgeries, and the American College of Surgeons also advised hospitals to evaluate all elective surgeries. 

Open Access to Literature on the Coronavirus

  • The White House's Chief Science and Technology Adviser Kelvin Droegemeier and his counterparts in 11 nations have called on scientific journals to immediately make articles on coronavirus available to the public.
  • Journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine have already voluntarily opened access to their articles, and online repositories such as medRxiv have served as an open clearinghouse for preliminary studies. 

What was in the first COVID-19 package that was signed into law on March 6, 2020?

Brief Overview: The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 was the first piece of legislation passed to address COVID-19. This bill was an emergency supplemental appropriations bill (spending bill) that can be viewed here. Below is a breakdown of what it addresses:

Telehealth Services During Certain Emergency Period: This bill provides an emergency waiver providing flexibility to Medicare providers to certain waive Medicare restrictions during the COVID-19 outbreak regarding telehealth. Medicare beneficiaries will be able to receive telehealth services from their homes on phones that have audio and video capabilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

FDA Funding: the bill provides $61 million in funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the purpose of developing and approving medical treatments and vaccines, monitor medical product supply chains and prevent interruptions, improve emergency use authorizations, and develop manufacturing for medical products.

CDC Funding: The bill provides the CDC with $2.2 billion in funding to help federal, state, local, and tribal governments prevent, prepare, and respond to the COVID-19. The breakdown of this funding includes:

  • $950 million in grants for activities such as virus surveillance, laboratory testing, and infection control at the local level and additional preparedness activities. 
  • $300 million in funding to the Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund, which supports immediate response activities during an outbreak.
  • $300 million to CDC for global disease detection and emergency response.
  • Reimbursement for state and local government costs incurred for coronavirus preparedness and response from January 20, 2020, to the date of the law’s enactment.

NIH Funding: The bill provides funding to various offices within the NIH and authorizes transfers of funds. This funding is intended to protect health care professionals, develop treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics.

  • The Institute of Environmental Health Sciences will receive $10 million to provide training to reduce exposure for hospital employees, emergency first responders, and other workers at risk for exposure.

Other Provisions:

  • Vaccines, Therapeutics, and Diagnostics: Funding is also provided for the research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics for COVID-19. This includes funding for NIH, the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. It also includes a requirement for entities developing vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics using taxpayer funding ensuring the Federal government may purchase these goods at a “fair and reasonable price” and that they will be “affordable in the commercial market” Preparedness, Pharmaceutical, and Medical Supplies, and Community Health Centers: The bill includes funding for the procurement of pharmaceuticals, masks, and protective equipment and other medical supplies to be distributed to state and local health agencies. It also includes funds for grants for Community Health Centers to prevent and respond to COVID-19. Lastly, it includes funding for medical surge capacity (increase in patients), which will increase the supply of biocontainment beds at health facilities. 
  • Foreign Affairs and Global Response: The bill provides funding for overseas prevention and response to COVID-19.
  • Small Business Administration Disaster Loans: The bill provides the Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Disaster Loans Program with $1 billion in loan subsidies to extend low-interest loans to small businesses and private non-profit organizations impacted by financial losses as a result of the coronavirus. Information on how SBA plans to implement this provision and grant loans of up to $2 million is provided here

What is in the Families First Corona Virus Response Act that President Trump signed into law on March 18th?

Food and Nutrition Services Safety Net Programs
FY2020 supplemental appropriations to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for nutrition and food assistance programs, including:  

  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, infants, and Children (WIC);
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP); and 
  • Nutrition assistance grants for U.S. territories.  
  • Additional funding to HHS for nutrition programs to assist the elderly. 
  • Allows the USDA to approve state plans to provide emergency SNAP assistance to households with children who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price meals if not for their schools being closed due to the COVID-19 emergency.  
  • The Secretary of Agriculture will have the authority to issue nationwide school meal waivers during the COVID-19 emergency, which will eliminate paperwork for states and help more schools quickly adopt and utilize flexibilities.  

Healthcare Employee Safety 

  • Requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issues an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) within 30 days, requiring employers within the health care area or any other designated "high-risk" sector to develop and implement a comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plan. 

Paid Leave Program

  • Directs the Department of Labor to establish a federal emergency paid leave benefits program to provide payments to employees taking unpaid leave due to the coronavirus outbreak and expands unemployment benefits and provide grants to states for processing and paying claims and requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to employees.

Covid-19 Testing Requirements 

  • The Act establishes requirements for providing coronavirus diagnostic testing at no cost to all consumers.  
  • This includes American Indians, Medicare and Medicaid recipients, CHIP recipients, veterans and federal workers.

Telehealth Service Clarification

  • The Act makes a technical change to the Medicare telehealth provision of the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-123) to ensure new Medicare beneficiaries are able to access telehealth services under the emergency authority granted to CMS.

What is in the most recent COVID-19 package that President Trump signed into law on March 27th?

Brief Summary: The Corona Virus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. The bill provides financial relief for the American public and American businesses while also providing additional public health funding to combat the virus. 

Income for American Families: The bill provides individuals and families with a one-time tax rebate check (details below) and provides for expanded unemployment insurance to cover gig workers, self-employed workers, and non-profit employees. 

  • The rebate checks amount to $1,200 per individual, $2,400 per couple and $500 per eligible child. •The amount is not reduced for lower income Americans. 
  • They are reduced for higher income earners, starting at $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for head of household, and $150,000 for married couples. 
  • Phases out completely at $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for married couples filing jointly. 

Small Business Assistance: The federal government will forgive 8 weeks of cash flow, rent and utilities at 100% and up to 2.5x average monthly payroll at a cap of $10 million. The bill creates a new Small Business Association (SBA)-backed loan program to help small businesses (up to 500 employees) pay for expenses. 

  • Loans taken by small businesses to keep employees on payroll may be forgiven if workforce is retained for a set period. 
  • 501 (c)(3)s (non-profits) will also be eligible for this program. 
  • Allows the Department of Treasury to establish a process by which lending institutions that are not currently authorized to offer SBA loans will be able to participate during the declared national emergency.

Assistance to Large Businesses: The bill allows for loans, loan guarantees, and investment authority totaling $529 billion, with $454 billion to be used by Treasury, working with the Federal Reserve, for all sectors and $75 billion in loans, guarantees and grants for passenger airlines, cargo carriers, and businesses critical to national security. 

  • The bill creates an independent panel to audit this fund. Members of Congress and the Administration, their families and other relatives are barred from accessing this fund.
  • Ensuring Access to Care For All Americans: The bill included provisions that would improve access to care for Americans with COVID-19.
  • Increase in Medicare reimbursement rate to assist providers caring for our most vulnerable population. 
  • Increases access to testing by allowing the Strategic National Stockpile to stockpile swabs necessary for test kits. 
  • Allows the FDA to quickly approve the use of new medication and treatments. 
  • Facilitates the use of new and innovative telemedicine technology to protect and contain the spread of COVID-19 through a $200 million allocation to the Federal Communications Commission. 

Direct Funding to Combat the Pandemic: The bill provides $340 billion in supplemental funding to directly combat the pandemic.

  • $150 billion for states, cities, localities to fight pandemic.
  • Support for health care workers and hospitals.
  • Funding for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Support for our local responders.
  • Funding for the research of new treatments and vaccines.
  • Support for local colleges and universities.
  • Support for veteran health care.
  • Support for DOD response to COVID-19.


For up-to-date information, visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

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