COVID-19 Update | Tuesday, May 26 (PM)
May 26, 2020
- Senate Majority Leader McConnell said this morning that there’s “likely to be another bill” but that it will “not be the $3T that the House passed last week.”
- Leader McConnell asserted an extension of the enhanced unemployment benefits will not be happening in future relief, consistent with the Administration’s posture. He has also pushed back on the House’s rule changes to allow remote voting by proxy.
- Leader McConnell is committed to trying to pass the Senate’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) legislation, which the upper chamber failed to act on late last week. As a reminder, the Senate bill would extend the current 8-week period during which businesses must use funds to have loans forgiven to 16 weeks and the House bill would extend it to 24. Majority Leader Hoyer has indicated the House and Senate are close to a deal.
- Senate Republicans continue to reiterate that any additional assistance must include liability protections for businesses operating during the pandemic. As we have been reporting, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) is working on legislative language.
- The Administration issued a report to Congress entitled COVID-19 Strategic Testing Plan. Minority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) expressed disappointment. The statement said:
- “This disappointing report confirms that President Trump’s national testing strategy is to deny the truth that there aren’t enough tests and supplies, reject responsibility and dump the burden onto the states.”
- The House will return this week to vote on bills not related to the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time since the beginning of the outbreak. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that he cannot predict when the House would pick up its normal slate of legislative activities.
- The House has begun proxy voting and will allow voting from outside the US Capitol. 33 Members of the House have told the Clerk that they will not be present for votes this week and designated a proxy. Active proxies in the House can be tracked here.
- House Republican Leaders have been encouraging their Congressmen and Congresswomen to not use the proxy voting system. Only retiring Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) voted to change the rules.
- House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) suggested that Republicans will institute legal proceedings after the remote voting procedure is used.
- Majority Leader Hoyer has said that he has not ruled out voting on individual parts of the $3T relief bill, including billions of dollars for state and local governments, a provision some Republicans want Leader McConnell to take up.
- Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) continues to call on the Administration to cast a wider net on what is considered “essential travel” between the United States and Canada. Rep. Higgins said that travelers going to safely visit their families, check on their property, and pursue business interests should be considered essential.
- House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) is considering issuing a subpoena to the Interior Department, if it does not provide details on how it is deciding to reopen national parks around the country. Chairman Grijalva is concerned about the plans in place to handle the safety of visitors to the parks.
- White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow told reporters that the President is supportive of having a payroll tax cut included in the next stimulus package. He also said that the Administration may support a “back to work” bonus but that they would not support an additional plus up in unemployment benefits.
- A proposal is being offered by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) that would provide unemployed workers with an extra $450 weekly bonus for a limited time, in addition to wages, if they return to work.
- As we reported this morning, the Administration is threatening to move this year’s RNC Convention in Charlotte, citing a lack of certainty in reopening the North Carolina economy by a Democratic Governor. Both Florida and Georgia have shown an interest in hosting the event.
- Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) will meet with President Donald Trump in Washington on Wednesday. Governor Cuomo said that he plans to raise a number of issues, including the need for large-scale investments on infrastructure projects to “jump-start the economy” as well as federal aid to state and local governments.
- Glenn Fine, who was removed last month as the Pentagon’s acting watchdog by the President, has resigned from the Department of Defense’s inspector general’s office.
- In a letter to Congress, Amtrak has requested $1.5B in funding in the coming fiscal year to maintain their minimum service levels.
- As a part of the Gateway Program, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) granted New Jersey $91.5M to replace the Portal North Bridge, which carries about 450 Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains per day, in addition to other upgrades on Amtrak’s Northeast corridor, its busiest route.
- About $55M is set to go towards replacing a 50-foot clearance above the river to improve train speed. The replacement is expected to cost $1.7B. New Jersey Transit agreed to borrow up to $600M to contribute to the local share of the work, and officials have said they’d like to complete the work in 2026.
- US Trade officials are considering changing which European goods to include on its $7.5B retaliation list related to government subsidies for airplane manufacturer Airbus. A federal register notice is expected to be issued tomorrow in which the United States Trade Representative will be taking public comment on any changes to the current list which took effect last fall.
- Trump National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said in an interview on “Meet The Press” that the cover-up of the virus that the Chinese government did is “going to go down in history along with Chernobyl.” He added that “we are in a different world” than where we were when trade negotiations began with China.
- The Administration is signaling a broader crackdown on the Chinese communications sector, extending beyond companies that the U.S. has already placed under harsh scrutiny. The Administration may remove operation licensing from the few companies remaining in the U.S., including China Telecom and China Unicom. This could mark the end for any Chinese telecommunications companies being able to do business in the United States.
- The main reasoning coming from Washington is that the Chinese government could surveil U.S. citizens and American technology and that they have been previously deceptive about their operations.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are urging governors to recognize telecommunication workers as essential and to help ensure that they have the appropriate resources and personal protective equipment (PPE). All letters that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs wrote to all governors and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser can be found here.
- Life Care Centers of America, a multi-state chain of nursing homes, along with the industry at large, are lobbying for liability protections from lawsuits from patients’ families.
- Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced loosening restrictions to help reopen the economy. The loosening restrictions allow doctors’ appointments, gatherings of 10 or less and auto sales by appointments. Whitmer has been one of the strictest governors in the country as it pertains to stay-at-home restrictions.
- The pandemic has been reported to have caused massive delays in the self-driving vehicle industry according to The Detroit Local News. Ford Motors is postponing the deployment of their autonomous vehicles for a year, Waymo (Alphabet’s self-driving car subsidiary) has suspended their production and General Motors is shutting down Maven, their self-driving subsidiary.
- The Federal Reserve Bank of New York will be hosting a virtual forum entitled, “Too Important to Fail: Minority-Owned Businesses Navigating COVID-19 and Beyond.” The forum will cover specific challenges facing minority-owned small businesses, the role that Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other socially responsible capital providers can play to support equitable economic recovery and actions that philanthropy, financial institutions, nonprofits and government can take to ensure an equitable recovery.
- For more information and to register, click here.
- General Motors will not be able to add second shifts to its plants in Flint, MI and Fort Wayne, IN this week because the company’s suppliers in Mexico are not ready to support increased operations at this time.
- The New York Stock Exchange’s trading floor now has plexiglass barriers to keep traders apart. Additionally, the number of traders on each floor is limited to a quarter of the usual and masks are required. Traders are also required to avoid public transit.
- Twenty states in the U.S. reported an increase in new COVID-19 cases for the week ending May 24. These twenty states are up 13 states from the prior week.
- South Carolina had the biggest weekly increase at 42%. Alabama’s and North Carolina’s rates rose 27% and 26%, respectively. Georgia, which was one of the first states to reopen, saw cases rise 21% after two weeks of declines.
- Real estate companies are taking advantage of the PPP, despite rules meant to bar landlords and other property owners from utilizing the funds. A legal loophole with the program allows real-estate companies to apply through related business units, such as management or construction companies.
- Washington D.C. has had 13 consecutive days of decline in COVID-19 cases. If all continues to go well, Mayor Muriel Bowser says she will announce steps to reopen on Friday.
- Boeing is developing computer models that simulate the cabin environment and could ultimately inform decisions by airlines, health officials, and regulators on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Airbus is also exploring other methods of reducing the spread of the virus including self-cleaning materials, a disinfectant that can last for five days, and touchless devices in lavatories.
- Aviation Week is holding an interactive webinar on what the next three months will bring for airlines, aircraft manufacturers, suppliers, and other facets of the aviation industry. The webinar will also cover what could happen once all government relief runs out. More information on the webinar, including the panelists and registration, can be found here.
- The New York Times reported that China’s apps that were made to track the virus may outlast the spread of the virus, stirring privacy fears. The article states that while the worst of the outbreak seems to be over with, the apps used to monitor the virus have a potential to be a permanent fixture of everyday life.
- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to reduce the role of Huawei in the U.K.’s 5G network in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Prime Minister has reportedly instructed officials to draft plans that would reduce Huawei’s involvement in building the U.K.’s 5G phone network to zero by 2023.
- China’s build out of 5G is on track after being delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The country is attempting to add 10,000 new 5G wireless base stations a week across the country after a brief disruption. China’s roll out of 5G is part of a broader digital infrastructure package meant to help transform the Chinese economy via next generation technology like artificial intelligence, big data and internet of things.
- The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the European Union’s privacy regulatory body, has come under fire, notably from a leading German regulator Johannes Caspar, for a failure to enforce privacy rules against the big tech companies. Caspar called for an overhaul of the rules system as a whole to be able to properly hold companies accountable for privacy breaches amid slow decisions on consumer data privacy breaches from Twitter and WhatsApp, a Facebook company.