NCMS Legislative Update

February 8, 2021

Last week, the Senate and House fast-tracked and unanimously passed SB 36—2020 COVID Relief Bill Modifications. The bill makes modifications to the 2020 COVID relief bill such as extending deadlines for spending federal COVID funds allocated last year.

Part of that funding included $25 million allocated to the NCMS Foundation to help independent practices struggling financially due to the pandemic. The Foundation was able to distribute the total amount by the original Dec. 30, 2020 deadline, benefitting 643 practices or 3,830 individual providers. The average grant per practice was just under $38,000. The map below shows the location of the practices awarded these Financial Recovery Program funds.

The legislation also includes $94.7 million for the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ (NCDHHS) vaccine distribution program and another $39 million for the GREAT rural broadband grant program. This program supports grants to enhance broadband infrastructure in rural North Carolina.

Another COVID relief bill is expected in the coming weeks, and will focus on spending more of the federal dollars appropriated by Congress last December. Watch your NCMS Morning Rounds for updates on this legislation as well as check the NCMS legislative blog for daily bill summaries.

Last Thursday, the House Health Committee held the first of its oversight hearings on the state’s vaccine distribution efforts and heard from NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD, MPH and local health directors.

During her presentation, Sec. Cohen stated that DHHS’ goal is to vaccinate as many people as quickly and equitably as possible with a very limited supply of vaccines. She said that there is still more work to do with vaccinating North Carolinians who are age 65 and older, and the state will remain in priority group 2 for at least a few more weeks. Committee members questioned the Secretary on issues such as the timeframe for teachers being vaccinated; vaccine cancellations across the state; the lack of inclusion of pharmacists as vaccine providers; an inconsistent vaccine supply to rural areas and low vaccine numbers in minority populations.