COVID-19 Relief, End to Surprise Medical Billing in Year-End Legislation

The Senate passed a year-end government funding package with substantial COVID-19 relief for Granite Staters based on a bipartisan compromise that Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) helped negotiate. The package also includes a number of other priorities that Senator Hassan fought for, including provisions to help end surprise medical billing, which Senator Hassan has led bipartisan efforts on for the past two years.

“Granite Staters and small businesses are under enormous pressure right now to pay the bills and get by as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. While long overdue, this bipartisan agreement means that significant relief will soon be on the way to strengthen our public health response and help individuals, families, small businesses, and schools get through the winter,” Senator Hassan said. “In addition to COVID relief, this package will also help end the outrageous and unfair practice of surprise medical billing, something I’ve been working on with Republican Senator Bill Cassidy for two years. Importantly, it also includes substantial funding to help combat the substance misuse epidemic, support veterans, make higher education more affordable, bolster support for small businesses, and keep Americans safe, secure, and free. I look forward to the President signing this into law.”

Key priorities in this year’s government funding and COVID-19 relief package that Senator Hassan helped secure include:

COVID-19 Relief for Granite Staters

The year-end package includes substantial elements of the bipartisan COVID-19 relief package that Senator Hassan helped negotiate, including assistance for individuals, families, workers, businesses, nonprofits, schools, and health care providers. 

Senator Hassan led negotiations on extending unemployment benefits, relief for K-12 and higher education institutions, and funding for the Postal Service in the bipartisan working group.

The final COVID-19 relief package includes: 

  • $69 billion for vaccines, testing and tracing, community health and health care provider support:
    • Including $22 billion for states to support COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and mitigation programs.     
    • Nearly $9 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and states for vaccine distribution.
  • Direct assistance to Granite State individuals and families, including an extension of unemployment insurance, additional stimulus payments, and an extension of paid leave tax credits:
    • Extends the unemployment insurance expansion established in the CARES Act through March 14, 2021, and provides an additional $300 per week to supplement all state and federal unemployment benefits.              
    • Includes the bipartisan Automatic Cash Assistance Act, which Senator Hassan introduced with Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to ensure that Social Security, Veterans Affairs (VA), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries automatically receive the COVID-19 relief stimulus payments that they are entitled to. 
    • Extends the refundable payroll tax credits for paid sick and family leave that were established in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act through March 31, 2021.
  • Additional COVID-19 relief for small businesses, including an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program:
    • The package also includes the bipartisan Employer Assistance Coordination Actwhich Senator Hassan introduced with Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), to allow eligible small employers to both participate in the Paycheck Protection Program and also claim the Employee Retention Tax Credit to help keep workers on payroll and pay for their health care coverage. Currently, small employers cannot participate in both of these programs.
  • $81.9 billion in education funding for states, K-12 schools, and institutions of higher education.
  • $25 billion for emergency rental assistance and an extension of the eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021.
  • The bipartisan State and Local Coronavirus Relief Fund Extension Act, which Senator Hassan introduced with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to extend the current year-end deadline for states to use federal CARES Act assistance through 2021.
  • $7 billion in broadband funding, COVID-19 relief including to support telehealth, broadband mapping, and access for low-income families. 
  • $2 billion for the bipartisan CERTS Act, which Senator Hassan cosponsored, to provide relief for bus, motorcoach, and passenger ferry industries impacted by the pandemic.
  • Contains key provisions of the Save our Stages Act, which Senator Hassan cosponsored, to make grants to live venues and theaters for COVID-releated economic impacts. 
  • $10 billion for the Postal Service. 
  • $300 million in assistance to fisheries to help mitigate COVID-related economic impacts. 

Key New Hampshire Priorities in Government COVID-19 Relief Funding Package

Health 

  • Legislation to end the practice of surprise medical billing. Senator Hassan has led efforts with Senator Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) for two years to address this issue. 
    • The approximately $18 billion in savings from the surprise medical billing legislation will extend funding for vital public health priorities including community health centers (CHCs) for three years. 
  • $3.95 billion in Department of Health and Human Services funding to address the opioid epidemic through fiscal year 2021, including: 
    • Maintaining funding level of $1.5 billion in State Opioid Response grant funding.
  • Doubles funding for Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers, which were created by a bill introduced by Senators Hassan and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) that was included in the bipartisan SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which the President signed into law. 
  • Bipartisan legislation that Senator Hassan cosponsored to grow the Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act. ECHO programs are telehealth mentoring models used to educate providers; the University of New Hampshire serves as the Project ECHO hub for New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.
  • Includes the bipartisan Medicaid Patient Abuse Prevention Act, which Senator Hassan joined in introducing to ensure Medicaid patients have access to safe, effective home and community-based services that are good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Public Safety and National Security 

  • Includes the bipartisan Counter Threats Advisory Board (CTAB) Act, which Senator Hassan introduced with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to strengthen counterterrorism coordination efforts at the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Includes $160 million for the Multi-Mission Dry Dock project at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
  • Two VA-class submarines, which are maintained at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
  • $437 million for Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), including $290 million for High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and $102 million for Drug-Free Communities (DFC).
  • $180 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, double the funding amount from last year. The President previously signed into law legislation that Senator Hassan cosponsored to codify in law that grant funding for houses of worship and nonprofit organizations must be available for small states like New Hampshire, not just major metropolitan areas.
  • Includes a bipartisan bill cosponsored by Senator Hassan to bolster state and local cyber defenses by directing the Department of Homeland Security to provide resources and assistance to local governments wanting to adopt .gov web addresses.

Service Members, Veterans, and Military Families 

  • 3 percent pay raise for service members.
  • Includes the Department of Energy Veterans’ Health Initiative Actwhich Senator Hassan joined in introducing, to help improve veterans’ health care by increasing collaboration among federal agencies.
  • Senator Hassan previously urged the National Personnel Records Center to safely speed up its processing of veterans’ records, and the package includes $50 million in funding that will help address the backlog

Education and Workforce Development 

  • Includes Senator Hassan’s work with Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) to allow financial aid administrators to adjust student financial aid packages for students who are financially impacted by COVID-19. This change will also apply to future economic downturns. 
  • Increases maximum Pell Grant award to $6,495.
  • $2.85 billion (an increase of $26 million) for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Training grants.

Small Businesses and Economic Development

  • $272 million for entrepreneurial development grants, including for Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and the SCORE program. Senator Hassan led efforts to secure this funding. 
  • Includes a measure Senator Hassan cosponsored to permanently extend craft beverage tax cuts.
  • $30 million for the Northern Border Regional Commission, an increase of $5 million.

Infrastructure 

  • $33 million to support broadband mapping under the Broadband Data ActwhichSenator Hassan cosponsored and the President signed into law. 
  • Funds the ReConnect broadband program that supports remote unserved and under-served rural areas at $635 million 
  • Includes the bipartisan Water Resource Development Act, which Senator Hassan cosponsored and helped ensure it included New Hampshire priorities:
    • Directs the Secretary of the Army to provide a status update on the completion of the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project after the WRDA of 2018 included specific language urging the Corps to expedite the project;
    • Expedites authorized activities to address shoaling impacts at Rye Harbor, the dredging of which is currently underway; and
    • Extends the use of the Cape Arundel Disposal Site, which has long been a site for the placement of dredged materials from the harbors of New Hampshire and Maine, to ensure continuation of a regional disposal site for dredging projects.

Environment 

  • Contains a bipartisan package of energy bills, including the NET METER Act, which Senator Hassan helped introduce to create a national study on net metering to guide states interested in developing effective net metering programs.
  • More than $5 million for the EPA to clean up, work on regulations for, research, and address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. 
  • $15 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide PFAS study. 
  • Contains a one-year extension of the tax credits in Senator Hassan’s Home Energy Savings Act and New Home Energy Efficiency Act with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).

Housing 

  • $2.57 billion for Department of Housing and Urban Development homeless assistance grants.
  • Nearly $48 billion to support affordable housing, including through rental assistance programs. 

Government Accountability and Fiscal Responsibility