Congress recently passed an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill to fund vaccine development, support for state and local governments, and assistance for affected small businesses. Federal lawmakers are likely to consider additional legislative proposals as the spread of the virus increasingly affects foreign and domestic commerce, government budgets, and global financial markets.
Although the initial spending bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, we anticipate Congress and the Executive Branch will confront thorny issues going forward, as the public health crisis deepens and the impact on the private sector becomes more pronounced. Just a few of the many questions policymakers face to address the public health and economic consequences of the outbreak include:
- Is an economic stimulus package needed? If so, should it focus on direct spending or tax incentives? Which industries should receive help?
- Should trade policies be reexamined in light of supply chain disruptions?
- Should employers be required to provide paid leave to their employees?
- Who should cover the cost of mandatory quarantines, including housing, care, and patient monitoring?
- Should coronavirus testing and treatment be considered an “essential health benefit” under the Affordable Care Act?
- Should the airline industry be required to collect and share new passenger data with the CDC to help officials track potential virus carriers?
Clearly, the impact will be far-reaching. Ballard Spahr’s Government Relations and Public Policy Group is closely monitoring federal, state, and local government actions in response to the coronavirus outbreak.