Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Congress Looks at $8 Billion Coronavirus Package

March 4, 2020, 2:00 PM HST
* Updated March 12, 6:28 PM
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The United States Capitol Building. iStock photo provided by AARP Hawaii.

Congress is making a substantial investment to fight the coronavirus.

Congressional leaders on Wednesday reached an agreement to provide $8.3 billion in emergency funding to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, including at least $4.5 million for Hawai‘i.

The bipartisan deal also includes telehealth legislation authored by US Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i). Schatz’s legislation will expand the use of telehealth during the current outbreak, allowing more patients to receive care at home while freeing up health care resources and helping limit the spread of infections in emergency rooms and hospitals, according to a Congressional press release.

The package is expected to pass easily through both houses of Congress and be signed by the president this week, the release said.

“While there are still no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Hawai‘i, this federal money will help fund our state’s response efforts and give us additional resources to keep people safe,” said Senator Schatz.

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Highlights from the deal:

  • $2 billion to help federal, state, local, and tribal governments prevent, prepare and respond to the crisis, including $1 billion directly to state and local governments to conduct public health preparedness and response activities and reimbursement incurred by state and local governments for costs incurred responding to the outbreak.
  • $3 billion for the research and development of vaccines, other treatments and tests.
  • $500 million to purchase pharmaceuticals, masks, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies, which can be distributed to state and local health agencies in areas with a shortage of medical supplies.
  • $100 million to fund Community Health Centers, supporting smaller health clinics in under-served urban and rural areas.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has encouraged the use of telehealth during the coronavirus outbreak. The Schatz provision included in the deal, first introduced in the CONNECT for Health Act, will allow the Department of Health and Human Services to waive telehealth restrictions during the current public health emergency and allow patients to receive telehealth services in their homes, the release said.

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