As Delta Variant Surges, Axne and Miller-Meeks Introduce Legislation to Preserve Pandemic Resources for Health Care Providers

July 29, 2021
Press Release
New bipartisan, bicameral legislation introduced this week follows provider concern about having to return relief funds intended to fight COVID-19

This week, Reps. Cindy Axne (IA-03) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at giving health care providers additional time to use financial assistance they have received from the Provider Relief Fund (PRF).

Established through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020, Axne has helped approve $178 billion for the PRF to help reimburse providers for lost revenue or expenses attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, incomplete and inconsistent program guidance has caused hospitals and health providers to postpone spending this relief assistance over concerns of failing to abide by this unclear guidance.

This legislation would clear up this confusion and assist in responding to the pandemic, especially as health providers combat the highly transmissible strain Delta variant of COVID-19.

The Provider Relief Fund Deadline Extension Act would allow providers who received PRF awards before June 30, 2020 to have until at least December 31, 2021 or the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, whichever is later, to use their award. Extending this deadline will ensure hospitals have enough time to use the PRF to provide their patients with quality care, as well as cover the costs of staff, critical projects, equipment, and other necessary expenses.

“So long as our nation’s health care providers are still fighting on the frontlines to treat patients and defeat COVID-19, my colleagues and I in Congress need to be there for them,” said Rep. Axne. “I was proud to help establish the PRF last spring, and I’ve seen the critical impact this assistance has made for providers in Iowa looking to treat patients, improve infection control, and protect the health of their workforce. PRF assistance can mean all the difference, especially for our rural providers that were feeling the strain even before this pandemic. Our hospitals need our support to fight the Delta variant and rebuild, which is exactly what this money is for. I am glad to be joining a bipartisan push from both the House and Senate to make sure we see this through and continue offering a lifeline through the PRF.”

“Our entire healthcare system has been working overtime for well over a year to keep all of us healthy. We cannot pull their financial lifeline now,” said Rep. Miller-Meeks. “As a doctor and former Director of Iowa’s Public Health Department, I understand the challenges facing our healthcare providers. We need to continue supporting them as we return to normal and giving them the funds they need is part of this support.” 

Similar legislation was introduced this week in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).

Rep. Axne has consistently advocated for allowing health care providers to keep and use the full amount they receive from the PRF. 

In May, Reps. Axne and Miller-Meeks led a letter signed by 77 members urging HHS to extend deadlines and increase flexibilities for using the PRF. While HHS responded by creating four payment periods and lengthening the window to complete reporting requirements, these changes were issued less than three weeks before the June 30, 2021 deadline for providers to use initial funds from the PRF.

“Since the start of this month, we’ve seen a worrisome rise in the highly transmissible Delta variant that’s now accounting for the lion’s share of cases in Iowa and across America,” said Rep. Axne. “The fight against COVID-19 isn’t over, and Iowa’s health care workers have been sounding the alarm about just how dangerous this variant is to individuals who are unvaccinated or currently unable to be vaccinated. But until we get vaccination and transmission rates where they need to be, we cannot afford to leave our health care systems scrambling to find essential support.”

Rep. Axne is also the author of the Eliminating the Provider Relief Fund Tax Penalties Act, which would ensure that all health care providers, regardless of taxpaying status, will not be subject to taxes on aid provided through the PRF – and guarantees expenses attributable to the PRF are tax deductible.