Legislative Update from State Senator Joey Hensley: Gov. Lee Signs Executive Order for COVID-19

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    Governor Lee signs executive order to bolster response to COVID-19

    Before the Tennessee General Assembly adjourned, Governor Lee signed Executive Order 15 to relieve regulatory burdens and free up the Executive Branch to more effectively respond to COVID-19 in Tennessee. The purpose of the order is to boost Tennessee’s health care capacity, continue important consumer protections and provide enhanced customer service to our citizens during this pandemic.

   To boost health care capacity, the executive order further deregulates hospital beds. Some hospital beds in the system are not available for use in their current capacity for COVID-19.  There are currently 15,000 licensed, unused beds within Tennessee’s hospital capacity. The order also deregulates scope of practice, allowing more health care professionals to treat patients. It also expands the number of providers who are eligible to work in Tennessee through the use of technology and telehealth. In addition, it loosens HIPPA regulations so COVID-19 patients can utilize alternative technologies such as FaceTime to communicate with a health care provider. It expands the number of providers who are eligible to provide telehealth services by loosening regulations around technology and geographic area and urges insurers to provide coverage for COVID-19.
   In order to provide customer service to those seeking to renew their driver’s license, the Department of Safety is waiving its requirement that citizens appear in person and have a new photograph taken through October 1, 2021. This will allow many customers with expiring credentials to renew online and not visit in person. In addition, all driver licenses, learner permits, commercial driver licenses, photo identification licenses, and handgun carry permits that would expire between March 12, 2020, and May 19, 2020, will be extended for six months from the original expiration date. Gov. Lee asked the federal government to delay the October 1st deadline to acquire a Real ID and they have extended that implementation date until October 1, 2021. That decision from the federal government is pending. To protect consumers, the executive order cracks down on the price gouging of consumer foods and supplies.

Governor Lee requested disaster loan assistance from the federal government for Tennessee’s small businesses — Governor Bill Lee requested Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance from the U.S. Business Administration to help small businesses across Tennessee suffering losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This action will allow Tennessee’s small businesses and nonprofit organizations suffering economic injury as a result of the virus to be eligible to apply for disaster assistance of up to $2 million per applicant. The loans can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable or other bills that can’t be paid due to the disaster’s impact. Interest rates for the loans are 2.75 percent for nonprofit organization and 3.75 percent for small businesses.
   Small businesses are the backbone of Tennessee’s economy with more than 94 percent of the state’s private sector businesses with 50 or fewer employees. Small businesses can find more information about these efforts by visiting www.SBA.gov<http://www.sba.gov/>. Additional information can be found at https://tnecd.com/news/governor-lee-requests-economic-injury-disaster-loan-declaration-from-us-small-business-administration/. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development has set up a COVID19 Response and Resources guide to help employers and employees affected by the pandemic. The website can be found at https://www.tn.gov/workforce/covid-19.html.
   Medical supplies and protective equipment — The report also stated the Department of Health is working in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Military and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) to aggressively pursue medical supplies and personal protective equipment. The Lee Administration authorized the order of an additional 570 ventilators to support Tennessee hospitals that may need additional capacity. They are also working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to get supply kits that the federal government is making available. The governor also expects to receive additional surgical-type grade masks used in industrial settings as a result of the Trump administration’s efforts to loosen regulations. Finally, information about tornado relief is on the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency’s website and the governor’s website.  Those resources can be found at https://www.tn.gov/tema/get-involved/flooding-and-severe-weather-response.html.