Worker's Rights During COVID-19
Learn about key federal workplace laws protecting social workers during the current pandemic related to unemployment insurance; worker's compensation; sick and family leave health insurance, and more,
Learn about worker's rights during COVID-19
Guidelines for Reopening Social Work Practices
During the COVID-19 public health emergency, many clinical social work private practices have been closed or have shifted to virtual service provision. As governments begin to permit the reopening of non-essential businesses, social workers need guidance on resuming the provision of in-person services.
$20 Billion in New Phase 3 Provider Relief Funding
On October 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced $20 billion in new funding
for providers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. Under this
Phase 3 General Distribution allocation, providers that have already
received Provider Relief Fund payments will be invited to apply for
additional funding that considers financial losses and changes in
operating expenses caused by the coronavirus.
Previously ineligible providers, such as those who began practicing
in 2020, will also be invited to apply, and an expanded group of
behavioral health providers confronting the emergence of increased
mental health and substance use issues exacerbated by the pandemic will
also be eligible for relief payments.
Learn more about Phase 3 Provider Relief Funding
CARES Act Provider Relief Fund
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is releasing $50 billion to Medicare-enrolled individual healthcare providers (including clinical social workers) and facilities that billed Medicare fee-for-services in 2019 to provide them compensation for healthcare-related expenses and lost revenues attributable to COVID-19. An initial $30 billion was automatically distributed (with no application requirement) in mid-April 2020, divided among all providers that received Medicare payments during 2019 in proportion to their relative Medicare reimbursements during that year.
On April 24, 2020, HHS begun distributing the remaining $20 billion to Medicare providers to augment their allocations, so that the whole $50 billion general distribution is proportional to providers' share of 2018 net patient revenue from all payors. Medicare providers for whom HHS did not have adequate cost report data on file will need to submit data about their annual revenues and estimated COVID-related losses via HHS’s CARES Provider Relief Fund Payment Portal. HHS will distribute these payments on a weekly and rolling basis.
These payments are not loans and, if used consistent with the applicable Terms and Conditions, need not be repaid. Recipients in either phase of the distributions must, within 30 days of their receipt of the funds, attest to compliance with the Terms and Conditions, using the agency’s online attestation portal and complete Step 1: Eligibility. HHS has issued a CARES Act Provider Relief Fund Application Guide Application Guide to assist providers in submitting needed information for the General Distribution portal.
A number of clinical social workers have inquired about program eligibility, permissible uses for the funds, recordkeeping and other requirements. On April 24, 2020, HHS issued an updated description of the entire Provider Relief Fund program, including Frequently Asked Questions on the General Distribution Portal, which address some of these questions but not all. NASW will provide updated guidance when it becomes available.
CARES Act Key Points
Basic Eligibility for Funds
According to HHS, providers were eligible for the funding if they billed Medicare in 2019 and provided (after January 31, 2020) "diagnoses, testing, or care for individuals with possible or actual cases of COVID-19." HHS has stated that this includes everyone a provider treated: "HHS broadly views every patient as a possible case of COVID-19."Providers who have ceased operations as a result of COVID-19 remain eligible to receive funding.
Conditions regarding the Funds
Use of Funds: Under the Terms and Conditions, the provider must certify that, among other things, the payment “will only be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, and that the Payment shall reimburse the Recipient only for health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus.” There appears to be no HHS guidance on what expenses and lost revenues are covered. Clinical social workers should keep track of all expenses and lost revenues they believe are related to COVID-19; once HHS provides further guidance, they can determine which expenses and lost revenues qualify. Regarding COVID-19-related expenses, for example, clinical social workers might consider costs related to the purchase of personal protective equipment and computer programs to provide telehealth.
Balance Billing: Providers must agree that they will not seek collection of out-of-pocket payments from a presumptive or actual COVID-19 patient that are greater than what the patient would have otherwise been required to pay if the care had been provided by an in-network provider. This is another area where HHS guidance would be helpful, given that out-of-network providers typically are not aware of what a patient’s in-network benefit and copay levels would otherwise be.
Under the terms and conditions, all recipients are required to maintain proper records and cost documentation to show compliance with the program and its eligibility requirements. HHS states that recipients will be required to submit copies of such records upon the agency’s request, and that it will provide instructions on this recordkeeping requirement in the future. Recipients of more than $150,000 (under the Provider Relief Fund and under other federal coronavirus response laws) will be required to submit a quarterly report addressing specified issues.
The UnitedHealth Group is handling the payment process for HHS. UHG’s provider relations department may be contacted at 866-569-3522 with questions about payment status or eligibility. Medicare providers whose questions UGH cannot answer may direct them to HHS via email at COVIDemail@example.com.
All social work organizations are responding to challenges created by
the COVID-19 public health crisis. Learn about licensing, education, employment and other workforce-related topics.
SBA Loan Assistance Available to Social Workers
April 20, 2020
The Small Business Administration (SBA)
Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) available to small businesses
and nonprofit organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Treasury Department has created Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses
with their payroll, and must be spent within the next eight weeks. 100%
is forgivable if it’s spent on allowable expenses.
Social Work License Testing Schedules Disrupted by Pandemic
Pearson VUE, the ASWB test vendor, shut down all test centers in the United States and Canada from March 17 through April 15, 2020. All testing appointments during those dates were canceled.
Effective April 7, Pearson VUE added ASWB candidates to the list of
essential workers who are allowed to test in a subset of test centers
that have been opened on a limited schedule for testing essential
schedule their appointments on Pearson Vue's ASWBs exam program page. Availability is first-come, first-served.
Read ASWB's letter about testing.