Capitol to Capitol | April 6, 2020

4/6/2020

As piecemeal agency regulations on the $2.2 trillion 'Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act are released, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) continues to provide analysis, resources, briefings and guidance to state legislatures. NCSL continues to engage with the Trump administration to ensure enacted COVID-19 response laws are implemented by federal agencies in the best interests of states and is working with Congress to encourage leaders to provide additional resources—financial or otherwise—to help ameliorate the catastrophic economic and public health effects of COVID-19.

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FDA Guidance on Drug Shortages and COVID-19 Testing Updates

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced actions taken to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including its continued work with manufacturers to ensure they are notifying the FDA of any permanent discontinuance or interruption of drug and biological product manufacturing. The March 2020 guidance contains timelines and the details manufacturers need to follow when notifying the FDA, as well as information on what they need to prevent or mitigate shortages.

The agency also provided a diagnostic update to highlight its work with 220 test developers who agreed to submit emergency use authorizations requests to the FDA for tests to detect COVID-19. The agency continues to provide updates on this and other developments being done under its COVID-19 Policy for Diagnostic Tests during this emergency.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Online Toolkit for Telehealth for Nursing Homes Released

Last week the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an online toolkit for telehealth and telemedicine for long-term care nursing home facilities. The agency has broadened access to Medicare telehealth services so beneficiaries can receive a wider range of services without having to make unnecessary travel to a health care facility. Information is primarily for providers wanting to establish a permanent telemedicine program but can also be used by those wanting to help in the temporary deployment of a telemedicine program.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

EPA Adds New Disinfectants for Use Against Coronavirus

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added 70 new surface disinfectants to the EPA List-N of Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2, bringing the total number of products on the list to more than 350. This list only includes surface disinfectants registered by the EPA, though other disinfection products like hand sanitizers and body wipes are regulated by the FDA.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

HHS Funds Awarded to Health Centers

The Health and Human Service Department has awarded $100 million to 1,300 health centers. The funding will go to community health centers to assist them in expanding screening and testing for COVID-19. Money will be divided among the 1,300 centers and will also help with the purchase of personal protective equipment and to provide safety education. This funding is from the first COVID-19 stimulus legislation that was signed into law on March 6.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

New Rules for Hospitals

The CMS issued new temporary rules that will help hospitals expand their capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new allowances will be designed for health care workers to treat more patients, help separate patients with COVID-19 from those without it and increase telehealth care flexibilities for Medicare patients. Some of the changes will allow:

  • Ambulatory centers to be used for cancer or trauma care to protect patients from COVID-19 exposure.
  • Non-hospital sites to be used for treating or quarantining patients.
  • Hospitals and lab technicians to test for COVID-19 in patients’ homes or in community-based settings outside of hospitals.
  • Hospitals to have new flexibilities to allow them to rapidly expand their workforce.
NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

EPA and NHTSA Issue New Fuel Economy Regulations

The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued new greenhouse gas emission and Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for light-duty motor vehicles. Read NCSL’s InfoAlert.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

EPA Delays Transition to Summertime Fuel, Citing Low Demand Due to COVID-19

The EPA announced it will delay from May 1 to May 20, the deadline for fuel terminals to stop selling winter-grade gasoline and begin selling summer-grade gasoline. Summer-grade gasoline is formulated to reduce emissions that form smog in the summer months. Currently, the nation's fuel distribution system is using winter-grade gasoline that normally sells during springtime, but instead remains in terminals and pipelines because of demand reduction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

USDOT Issues Maintenance of Service for Airlines to Receive Stimulus Aid

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed a number of requirements for passenger airlines as a condition of receiving aid from the stimulus package. Although the DOT would allow passenger airlines to consolidate flights to a single airport in cities with more than one airport, airlines would have to maintain daily service, though not more than one flight, to cities that previously had daily service from at least one other airport. The rule would prohibit any coordination between passenger carriers that would run afoul of antitrust laws. Airlines had been seeking permission to more broadly codeshare flights.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

USDOT Orders Airlines to Provide Refunds for Cancelled Flights

The DOT announced that passenger airlines must fully refund airfare to passengers whose flights have been canceled during the outbreak of COVID-19. “Although the COVID-19 public health emergency has had an unprecedented impact on air travel, the airlines’ obligation to refund passengers for canceled or significantly delayed flights remains unchanged,” according to the DOT. The notice said it would “provide carriers an opportunity to become compliant,” which includes notifying passengers they qualify for full refunds, updating refund policies and reviewing refund policies with their employees. The notice concludes that any policy “that purports to deny refunds to passengers when the carrier cancels a flight, makes a significant schedule change, or significantly delays a flight to be a violation of the carriers’ obligation that could subject the carrier to an enforcement action.” 

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

DOE Will Lease Out SPR Storage

The Department of Energy (DOE) formally announced it would be leasing storage space in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) that could hold up to 30 million barrels. DOE Secretary Dan Brouillette justified the move, noting: "filling the SPR with crude oil, produced by American companies that are facing catastrophic losses and increased financial hardship, is a logical action for the federal government to take as we work to overcome the economic disruptions caused by COVID-19 and intentional, global oil market disruptions." The DOE also noted that it was planning to make 47 million more barrels of storage available following this initial move, filling the SPR's remaining capacity.

The Reading Room

Read the March 30 Capitol to Capitol.

NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

NCSL's Washington staff advocate Congress, the White House and federal agencies on behalf of state legislatures in accord with the policy directives and resolutions that are recommended by the NCSL Standing Committees and adopted by the full conference at the annual NCSL Legislative Summit Business Meeting. As a result of the advocacy that is guided by these policies' positions, NCSL is recognized as a formidable lobbying force in state-federal relations.

NCSL Staff in Washington, D.C.

  • Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Director
  • Erlinda Doherty | 202-624-8698 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Abbie Gruwell 202-624-3569 | Commerce and Financial Services
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure 
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Haley Nicholson | 202-624-8662 | Health and Human Services
  • Austin Reid | 202-624-8678 | Education