Legislative Update 5-18-20

The Scott Administration and the legislature remain busy as Vermont extends its state of emergency to June 15th while slowly reopening.

Last Week

Resuming Outpatient Care: To follow up on its May 4 announcement, the Vermont Department of Health released official guidance on resuming outpatient care.  
Federal Funding: The Joint Fiscal Office presented an update on the federal funding coming into Vermont due to COVID-19 to the health care committees. 
Telehealth Expansion: draft bill on maintaining the current telehealth expansion was presented to the health care committees. The bill would close the gap in the store and forward expansion by commercial insurers by moving up the effective date from January 1, 2021 to May 1, 2020. It would also create a working group to develop recommendations for health care coverage of services provided by audio-only telephone. 
Mental Health Spending: The Department of Mental Health provided its FY 2020 budget adjustment request to the health care committees. Included in the presentation was information on DMH’s $1 million COVID-19 Emergency SAMHSA grant, with priority
areas in:
  • Expansion of emergency services and outreach for the serious mental illness population, including 24/7 telehealth
  • Renovations to existing crisis programs to ensure social distancing
  • Mobile crisis van
  • Peer support services, such as virtual peer support groups

Next Week

Budget Adjustment Act: The House will pass a second FY 2020 budget adjustment this week. The proposed bill addresses a projected $143 million deficit for the final quarter of FY 2020. The proposal closes the projected deficit with a combination of borrowing from the $1.25 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) and newly available funds, including $45 million in Medicaid dollars. Other spending includes spending for the legislature to stay in session until June 19 and financial assistance for Vermont State College and University of Vermont students. Once the bill passes in the House, the Senate Appropriations Committee will take it up. Once the Budget Adjustment Act is passed, the legislature will work on a “skinny” budget for the first quarter of FY 2021.