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News & Press: Updates for Members

2020 Short Session Update: COVID-19 Edition

Monday, May 4, 2020   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Kay Castillo
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Legislators returned to Raleigh virtually, and some in person, on April 28th. Entry to the legislative building was limited to staff, legislators, and credentialed press. Temperatures were taken before those designated individuals could come into the building. Prior to session, bills were ready to go by the 28th. They were then heard in committees that were live streamed on YouTube (the first time this has ever happened!) the following day. After House and Senate members passed similar bills, legislative leadership met Friday and presented two final bills on Saturday, May 2nd. The bills were passed unanimously and sent to the Governor. On Monday, May 4th, Governor Cooper signed both bills into law. Here is a quick overview of both bills.

Senate Bill 704: COVID-19 Recovery Act

Senate Bill 704 covers policies related to COVID 19. They include:

  • Requires a Strategic State Stockpile plan for creating and maintaining a stockpile of personal protection equipment (PPE) and testing supplies. This stockpile would be accessible by public and private facilities including long term care facilities, health care providers, non-healthcare entities, etc. The planning for this stockpile would require anticipating a five-year budget for establishing and maintaining.
  • Directs North Carolina AHEC to study the state’s workforce during this pandemic and the aftermath. AHEC will consult with all stakeholders involved and a report is due November 15, 2020 to the NCGA.
  • Gives the Department of Health and Human Services flexibility to respond to the pandemic as needed.
  • Extends providers who were to connect and submit data to the state starting June 1, 2020 to October 1, 2021. This is HUGE for clinical social workers that needed to be connected by June 1, 2020.
  • Waives the 72 hours of child welfare preservice training until December 31, 2020 or until Executive Order 116 is rescinded. The Division is authorized to identify and use web-based training as an acceptable equivalent in meeting preservice training requirement.
  • Allows for telehealth of the first and second exams for involuntary commitments as long as the examiner is sure a different result would not be had with an in person visit. This provision expires 30 days after Executive Order 116 is rescinded.
  • Provides protections for social workers and other health care professionals and facilities from liability that may result from treatment rendered to individuals during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Health care providers will have immunity from any civil liability for any harm or damages alleged to have been sustained as a result of an act or omission while arranging for or providing health care services. This only applies while Executive Order 116 is in affect or any other state of emergency is declared to be in effect during 2020 in response to COVID-19.
  • Advanced Care Planning: removes the need for two witnesses to sign off for advanced care planning in addition to a notary. Additionally, a notary can be obtained via an emergency video session.
  • Urges the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to cover audio-only telehealth for Medicare. This is an NASW-NC request and something our National office was pushing as well. At the end of April, CMS announced this approval!


House Bill 1043: 2020 COVID-19 Recovery Act

House Bill 1043 details funding measures for treating COVID-19. For the identified funding measures, all funds are nonrecurring and come from the Coronavirus relief fund from the CARES Act.  Legislators agreed to spending $1.57 billion.

Funding highlights:

  • $10 million to the Department of Public Instruction for additional school health support- including mental health. This money can be used to support the work of school social workers.
  • $20 million to support local health departments, rural health providers, and behavioral health and crisis services.
  • $20 million to support behavioral health and crisis services, divert from emergency departments. $12.6 million to LME/MCOs for I/DD facilities on per diem basis.
  • Medicaid Provider Rate Increases as of March 1, 2020 through the duration of the public health emergency, that all fee for service Medicaid rates will be increased by 5%.
  • $25 million to DHHS to expand public and private testing, tracking, and analysis to build capacity for widespread testing, increasing research, and infrastructure to develop better models.
  • $19 million to provide funding for food banks, support for residential settings, adult and child protective services response, support for homeless and domestic violence shelters and housing security, child care response, and costs to expand NCCARE360.
  • $6 million to the state’s six food banks.
  • Supplemental payments for foster care: $2,250,000 million is allocated to assist children in foster care. Families should receive $100 per child per month from April-June 2020.
  • $65 million to rural hospitals- grants to eligible hospitals within thirty days of application.
  • $1,500,000 million grant from NC DHHS to NC MedAssist for providing prescription assistance.

What's next?

Legislators plan to return on May 18th for their next COVID-19 related legislative session. Working groups can continue to meet during that time. Details about that session are forthcoming.

 

NASW-NC will continue to advocate with legislators and state leaders regarding improving and maintaining telehealth services. We welcome member feedback on telehealth measures and needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Feel free to email kcastillo.naswnc@socialworkers.org.

 

Comments...

Kay P. Castillo says...
Posted Wednesday, May 6, 2020
You are so welcome, Lorraine!
Lorraine Bolduc says...
Posted Tuesday, May 5, 2020
Thank you Kay!!

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