April 15, 2020
I started my day off talking to a few local radio shows.On one, I was talking with 660AM the Answer's Mark Davis about the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic and there action of President Wilson. We compared to it to President Trump's reaction to this Coronavirus pandemic and how he has brought forward leaders such as Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx to spearhead our nation's response.
While on the topic of politicians'reactions,we discussed how the same Democrats who want to blame the President for his response dismissed my request to have public hearings on this crisis back in February.
I told Mark there was not any interest. We had hearings on abortion access, ticket scalping, vaping, and even horse racing. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is the predominant committee that oversees health carein this country. Why weren’t we having hearings on this virus? We just passed a big Pandemic All Hazard Preparedness Act and the President signed it in to law in June of 2019. We should have been having oversight hearings to ensure that it was working and see how things were happening in real time. Again, there was no inherent curiosity and we were told “we’ll get to it eventually.”
When the Health Subcommittee had a chance to ask questions about Coronavirus preparations,it was tacked onto a budget hearing and only a few members were permitted to ask questions. Luckily, I was one of them.
There are lessons to be learned from our response, but I appreciate the leadership of Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx for working to find real solutions to defeat this invisible enemy.
The Department of Health and Human Services will award $90 million to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. This funding will be administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration to support over 580 Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program recipients across the United States. These funds will help local health departments and community-based organizations in this battle against this Coronavirus pandemic. The list of recipients is available here.
The National Institute of Mental Health is conducting a study on the mental health impact of this COVID-19 pandemic. This study will be conducted online to analyze how stressors related to this Coronavirus outbreak affect mental health over time. Individuals over the age of 18 years old who are interested in participating can find more information here, or may call 240-665-0697 or email NIMHResearchVolunteer@nih.gov.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will nearly double payments for certain high-production labs. Labs using high-throughput technology should be able to rapidly diagnose large amounts of COVID-19 cases. Labs are considered high-throughput when they can process more than 200 specimens a day.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) makes additional efforts to assist in this Coronavirus response. The VA will make 1,500 beds available for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Also, the VA expanded care for non-veteran patients across the United States. Additionally, the VA is caring for people in nursing homes to help care for those especially vulnerable during this time.
The Department of the Treasury launched an application portal for localities to apply. This portal allows localities to apply directly to the Treasury, rather than going through their respective states. Governments eligible for payments must apply by April 17, 2020. More information regarding the distribution methodology and eligible units of local government are available here.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has started to direct deposit Economic Impact Payments.
Here is the breakdown:
- Your payment amount will be calculated based on your 2018 or 2019 tax return, whichever has been filed most recently, and will be directly deposited into your account if you have provided that information.
- Do you not receive your tax refund via direct deposit? The IRS is launching the “Get My Payment” link this month. Here you will have the ability to check your payment status.
- If you do not regularly file a tax return, you can visit IRS.gov and submit your payment information.
- If you receive social security, your payment will be calculated based on your social security benefit statement and will be directly deposited to the account where you receive your social security payments.
Concerned about whether your Economic Impact Payment will have to be paid back? This payment is for the 2020 tax year and will be accounted for on your 2020 tax return but will not be taxed as income.
Governor Abbott announced $38 million in federal funding for local governments in Texas. This COVID-19 emergency funding will help support local governments in the fight against this Coronavirus through prevention, preparation and response efforts. Interested governments should check out the Public Safety Office’s eGrants website to register and apply for this funding.
Reminder: Texas case counts are available online. Texas Department of State Health Services has been updating the case count dashboard.
Until next time, this is your doctor's note.
Congressman Michael C. Burgess, M.D.