COVID-19 Update | Monday, June 8 (PM)
June 8, 2020
- Senate Republicans continue to assert that if there is a next COVID-19 relief package, it will be written in the Senate and action will not be taken on it until after the July 4 recess (which ends July 17), and that it will likely be considered before the August recess.
- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch (R-ID) is dropping his request for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify in a routine annual budget hearing to preserve “political capital.”
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor Inspector General Scott Dahl requesting that the Office of the Inspector General immediately investigate the Department of Labor’s oversight of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s failure to implement the expanded unemployment insurance benefits provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. The full letter can be found here.
- House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) are calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to issue rules clarifying that nursing homes and assisted living facilities are not entitled to take stimulus payments from residents on Medicaid. In a letter to CMS, Neal and Pallone claimed that some nursing facilities are requiring residents to sign over these payments, which is inconsistent with the legislation that established the payments.
- House Democrats unveiled the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The package, at a high level, would:
- Create a national registry to track police officers’ misconduct;
- Make it easier to sue officers who unjustly injure people;
- Limit military equipment sent to police departments;
- Ban the use of “no-knock” arrest warrants in drug cases;
- Ban chokeholds; and more.
- Leader Schumer shared remarks today at a press conference on the package, which can be found here.
- In a memo to Congressional leaders, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended steps that Congress can take to prevent the President from firing inspectors general and ensure proper oversight. The GAO recommendations include prohibiting the President from removing inspectors general without cause, requiring the Administration to notify Congress when an inspector general is placed on administrative leave and requiring agencies to document threats to the independence of inspectors general.
- The Federal Reserve Board expanded its Main Street Lending Program to allow more medium-sized and small businesses to receive support. The announcement also indicates that while they are not eligible under the Main Street Lending Program at this time, “nonprofit organizations play a critical role throughout the economy, and the Board is working to establish a program soon for these organizations.” The full announcement can be found here. The changes to the program include:
- Lowering the minimum loan size for certain loans to $250,000 from $500,000;
- Increasing the maximum loan size for all facilities;
- Increasing the term of each loan option to five years, from four years;
- Extending the repayment period for all loans by delaying principal payments for two years, rather than one; and
- Raising the Reserve Bank’s participation to 95% for all loans.
- The Small Business Administration (SBA) and Department of the Treasury announced today that they would take a more lenient approach on loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). As a reminder, lawmakers raised concerns that businesses could not receive partial loan forgiveness if they did not meet the threshold for the amount of the loan being used on payroll, which was lowered to 60% under the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act that President Trump signed Friday.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants states to count “probable” cases of COVID-19 cases and deaths, but reports indicate that most states are not doing that. The Washington Post found that “fewer than half the states are following federal recommendations to report probable coronavirus cases and deaths, marking what experts say is an unusual break with public health practices that leads to inconsistent data collection and undercounts of the disease’s impact.”
- The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) released a COVID-19 Resource Tool for public transportation. The tool provides transit recommendations and a centralized place to get information from the CDC, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with information on sanitizing practices. FTA is planning on updating the tool weekly.
- The Department of Commerce and the Department of Health and Human Services announced a 120-day pilot program to curb illegal online sales of opioids. Under the program, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will work with three domain name registries (Neustar, Verisign and Public Interest Registry) to suspend the use of domain names of websites found to be illegally selling opioids.
- Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is publishing an interim final rule that would require colleges to exclude undocumented students and others who do not qualify for federal student loans or grants from the $6B emergency grant program established under the CARES Act. The exclusion from the grant money would prevent students from receiving emergency grants to help with housing and food.
- The United States Census Bureau has launched a new tool, the Census COVID-19 Hub, to help the nation’s recovery efforts by providing economic and demographic data. The hub has demographic data on economic and housing variables, business employment and payroll data and self-employment data and information.
- The Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved $1.4B in direct payments to farmers and ranchers affected by supply chain disruptions. The majority of the money is going to livestock producers. Additional relief for farms is being considered as Congress continues to negotiate the next COVID-19 relief bill.
- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a warning on a needed change to lithium battery rules due to a “safety gap.” In 2016, four lithium batteries exploded on a delivery truck in Canada. NTSB recommended that no special permits be granted for these batteries, even if they are prototypes or low-product, and that the U.N. agency remove an exemption for testing for these batteries.
- In the House Democratic surface transportation bill that was released last week, there is a provision which will repeal a law preventing the Department of Transportation (DOT) from issuing battery regulations that are more stringent than the “lowest common denominator of international standards.”
- The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the COVID-19 outbreak was growing worse globally. The announcement cited over 100,000 new cases being reported globally during 9 of the past 10 days. On Sunday, over 136,000 cases were reported, which was the record for cases in a single day.
- In the U.S., 21 states, including California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Washington and others have reported an uptick in daily COVID-19 cases since beginning their reopening. California, specifically, recorded its highest single day of new cases this past Friday with 3,593 new cases.
- According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the United States entered a recession in February after a 128-month period of economic growth.
- The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has spent more than $1M to push Congress to direct more money to state and local governments in its next COVID-19 relief package.
- Food banks continue to push for an increase to food stamp benefits to make it easier for households to buy groceries.
- An April survey found that more than 17% of mothers reported their children under the age of 12 were not getting enough to eat because the family couldn’t afford enough food — a more than 400% increase from when the government last measured hunger rates in 2018.
- BP is planning to cut 14% of its global workforce due to drops in oil prices. BP plans to cut nearly 10,000 jobs in total and is also planning to freeze pay increases for senior level managers.
- HCA Healthcare has received about $1B in COVID-19 relief funds. They are just one example of a company that has received significant relief funds, but has laid off, and cut pay to, thousands of employees amid the pandemic.