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House Committees Advance COVID-19 Relief Priorities

It was a busy week in DC. While national attention was tuned into the Senate impeachment trial, the House was quickly advancing multiple COVID-relief bills. As our Wednesday Legislative Update details, n4a's top priorities for OAA were included in the House Education and Labor bill. And today we expect another n4a priority—increasing the FMAP for Medicaid HCBS—will be approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Democrats' Energy and Commerce package includes a 7.35 percent increase, for one year, in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate for Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services, which can be used to increase provider rates; to offer sick leave, training, other benefits; to reduce waiting lists; for PPE/supplies; for provider retainers and more. Yesterday's markup of the legislation ran 11 hours and is expected to continue, and hopefully conclude, today.
 
Ultimately, these two measures will be merged with several other pieces of legislation from other committees to form one massive bill that represents the Biden Administration's and congressional Democrats' priorities for COVID-19 relief and recovery. The budgetary process being used to advance this bill is known as “reconciliation” and it is only rarely used. Congressional budget reconciliation typically happens only when both chambers of Congress and the White House are controlled by the same political party because the process produces spending and revenue-generating proposals that are immune from the threat of Senate filibuster and thus require only a simple majority to advance in the Senate. This process was used was in 2017 by Republicans to pass massive tax cuts, and by Democrats in 2010 to pass the Affordable Care Act.
 
If you haven't yet weighed in with your Representatives and Senators about the urgent need for replenished Older Americans Act emergency funds and the role AAAs and Title VI programs are playing in supporting older adults to get vaccinated, it is not too late. Use our advocacy tools and take action now!
 
The House will still have to pass the reconciliation bill on the floor later this month, so we cannot rest on our laurels just because OAA funding is in the draft bill. The Senate will then take up the House measure but Senators are likely to amend the bill, so please stay closely tuned to our policy updates and speak out!

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