COVID-19 Update | Wednesday, Aug. 19
August 19, 2020
Both the House and the Senate are in recess.
- As provided yesterday, Senate Republicans unveiled their “skinny” COVID-19 package, entitled the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act. The bill includes:
- Liability protections that, according to reports, are substantially similar to those that were included in the HEALS Act – all included in Title I
- The bill includes liability protections for individuals and entities engaged in businesses, services, activities, or accommodations and liability protections for health care workers
- An additional $300 in weekly federal unemployment insurance until December 27
- Small business relief that largely tracks the Continuing Small Business Recovery and Paycheck Protection Program Act, introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Susan Collins (R-ME), which would:
- Improve terms of Small Business Administration (SBA) 7(a) loans;
- Provide an additional round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for certain businesses;
- Expand PPP eligibility for costs to be able to be used for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other safety investments; and,
- Expand PPP eligibility to include 501(c)(6) organizations with 300 employees or fewer, as well as Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), if they meet certain criteria.
- $10B for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS)
- Additional Emergency Appropriations
- $29B for the Department of Health and Human Services
- $105B for the Department of Education
- Liability protections that, according to reports, are substantially similar to those that were included in the HEALS Act – all included in Title I
- With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) calling back the House this coming Saturday to vote on USPS funding, some House Democrats have urged House leadership to also vote on new COVID-19 relief legislation. Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and Don Beyer (D-VA) led 116 Democratic Members in sending a letter to Speaker Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) urging the House to take action and pass a bill like the Worker Relief and Security Act, H.R. 7821, which would automatically extend unemployment benefits to millions of Americans for as long as the economic and health crises continue.
- USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced Tuesday that all operational changes and cost-cutting to the USPS will be suspended until after the November election, in order to avoid any semblance that these changes would alter the outcome of the election.
- On Wednesday, Speaker Pelosi said that during a phone call with the Postmaster General, he admitted that the USPS will not be replacing key mail infrastructure that had already been removed from USPS facilities and neighborhoods across the country.
- The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee announced a hearing with USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for Friday August 21. The hearing will focus on recent changes to the USPS and slowdown in mail delivery.
- The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced that it will host a hearing with USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Monday, August 24. The hearing will also focus on recent changes to the USPS and slowdowns in USPS operations.
- On Monday, Acting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA) released the fifth and final volume of the Committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation titled, “Volume 5: Counterintelligence Threats and Vulnerabilities.” The 966 page document examines Russia’s attempts to influence the American political system during the 2016 elections.
- Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced bipartisan legislation that would increase efforts to produce PPE in the U.S. by requiring the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to issue long-term contracts for American-made PPE. Legislative text is not publicly available at this time.
- Speaker Pelosi has extended the ability for Members to vote by proxy, meaning that not all Members have to be physically present to vote until October 2.
- Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations Subcommittee, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) demanding compliance with the Committee’s requests for documents and transcribed interviews related to the Committee’s investigation into revelations that the Department made misleading statements regarding its decision to single out and ban New York residents from Trusted Travelers programs.
- Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler that pushed back against the finalization of a rule that would roll back protections on the disposal of coal ash from coal-fired power plants.
- The Department of Transportation (DOT) on Tuesday announced its decision to increase the permitted number of flights for Chinese airlines between China and the U.S. from four weekly round trip flights to eight. This decision is effective immediately. The order can be found here.
- This decision follows a recent decision by the Chinese government to increase allowed flights for United and Delta between the two countries from two weekly trips to four.
- According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not properly assessed if its new safety standards are improving safety.
- William Perry Pendley, whose nomination to be the Director of the Bureau of Land Management was recently withdrawn, signed off on a succession order in May which made him the “first assistant” under the Vacancies Reform Act, delegating the authority “to perform all duties and responsibilities of the Director when required to ensure continued, uninterrupted direction and supervision to perform essential functions and activities of the office.” This order effectively assured that Pendley could continue performing the duties of the Director indefinitely, even without Senate confirmation.
- The First Five Consortium, co-chaired by Microsoft, along with the Department of Energy’s Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office, launched on Tuesday. The purpose of this group is to bring leaders from government, academia, and industry together to find ways to mitigate the effects of natural disasters using technology.
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announced Tuesday that the Forum on 5G Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN) will take place on September 14. Originally scheduled for March but postponed due to COVID-19, the virtual forum will feature Secretary of State Mike Pompeo along with industry officials from Rakuten, Intel, VMWare and other companies. The program will last from 10:30am to 5:00pm ET.
- The FCC’s Media Bureau is reportedly strongly considering implementing a proposal that would end the set-top box plan from the Obama Administration. This plan, which was first proposed in 2016 by then-FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, would have given consumers a choice beyond renting boxes from their TV providers. The plan which received bipartisan criticism and from cable and industry leaders.
- The Department of Commerce announced that it will further restrict Chinese firm Huawei by revising and expanding its trade blacklist restrictions to include 38 of the Chinese technology company’s global affiliates and make it harder for the company to obtain semiconductor chips from U.S. companies.
- The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) issued a statement criticizing the Trump Administration’s move on Monday to expand export controls for sales of microchips to Huawei and its affiliates. SIA argued that the Administration’s moves would cause significant disruption to the U.S. semiconductor industry.
- Four federal agencies (DHS, the Department of Justice, FAA and FCC) issued a joint advisory guidance on the use of counter drone technology.
- Federal Register Notices – please see below.
- The S&P 500 closed at a new record high on Tuesday, at 3,389.77 before falling slightly today. The previous record of 3,386.15 was set on February 19.
- According to a new report by Resilience360, a supply chain risk company, the Administration’s aluminum tariffs against Canada will lead to supply chain issues. The report found that aluminum production will shift to a third country (other than Canada and the U.S.) and make it more difficult for auto companies to comply with the strict provisions of origin requirements in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
- As a reminder, on August 7 we reported that President Trump announced a 10% tariff on all aluminum imports from Canada. A statement from USTR can be found here. A statement from the White House can be found here. In response, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the move was “unwarranted and unacceptable” and said that they will retaliate with a dollar-for-dollar tariff.
- The universities of Notre Dame, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Michigan State have moved classes completely online in recent days as there has been a surge of COVID-19 cases at the schools. Notre Dame announced that it will be online for two weeks but that it hopes to resume in-person learning. North Carolina and Michigan State meanwhile, will be online for the rest of the semester. These changes represent the myriad challenges that universities and schools in general will face in the fall, as many schools plan to have their first day of classes later this week and next week.
- San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (D) and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R ) issued a joint statement on Wednesday asking the California Court of Appeals to stay the injunction that Uber and Lyft are facing, which would require the ride-sharing companies to reclassify their drivers.
- As a reminder, earlier this month we reported that San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman decided to grant the State of California’s request for an injunction on Uber and Lyft to stop classifying its drivers as independent contractors. This order is a result of California’s state government passing a law (A.B. 5) which required “workers to be treated as employees.” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys subsequently sued the ride-sharing companies this year, arguing they were violating the law by continuing to classify drivers as independent contractors.
- Last week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi threatened to halt services in California until November unless the company successfully appeals a ruling that Uber must treat drivers as employees instead of independent contractors
- The government of California finalized a plan on Monday that would have Ford, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo commit to reducing the average greenhouse gas emissions of their vehicles through 2026. There will be five bilateral agreements between the automakers and the state.
- A new report published by the World Trade Organization (WTO) found that global trade in goods for the second quarter of 2020 were at the lowest levels since 2007 and that a V-shaped recovery from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 is unlikely. The automotive goods and air freight sectors were the most affected by this decrease in trade.
- To date, at least 333 passengers have been banned U.S. airline carriers for not wearing face coverings while on a commercial flight. Delta Air Lines has banned approximately 130 people. United Airlines has restricted the travel of over 100 passengers. Frontier Airlines has banned 65 passengers, while Alaska Airlines has suspended travel for 37 people. Other major airlines have not disclosed their numbers publicly.
- The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) a letter to Lewis Karesh, the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Labor, urging that the Administration make changes to its proposals on how the public can submit petitions on potential failures in Mexico or Canada to implement their USMCA labor obligations.
- The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), whose members include Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, released policy recommendations for the next Administration and Congress, irrespective of party. In an interview with Politico, ITI’s CEO Jason Oxman said that the Trump and Biden presidential campaigns have both been receptive to these policies, and that he believes infrastructure investment, data privacy, and issues related to Chinese tech will all be priorities in 2021.
- Principles for Responsible Investment, a United Nations-backed coalition of investors managing nearly $100T in assets, published a report which outlines how investors could call on U.S. lawmakers to articulate a national goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
- A coalition of business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY), and House Speaker Pelosi warning that many employers won’t participate in President Trump’s payroll tax deferral plan, saying that it is unworkable.
- Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE), a coalition of auto and tech companies and safety groups, announced the launch of a Public Sector Advisory Council, a group of organizations that will help PAVE educate the public about autonomous vehicles.
- Airports Council International-North America, the American Association of Airport Executives and the Security Manufacturers Coalition sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) receive $208M in emergency funds to help the agency conduct contactless screening.
- The Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OECD) published a draft that dealt with the second pillar of international tax negotiations, which focuses on a global minimum tax.
- As a reminder, the OECD is working to get nearly 140 countries to agree to change global tax agreements to address concerns about how technology companies are taxed.
- A coalition of groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to House leadership on Monday urging that the chamber consider 11 energy bills this fall (H.R.s 2986, 3306, 6097, 3597, 3607, 3609, 6084, 4091, 4230, 5374, and 5428). The legislation is focused on a range of issues, including energy storage, nuclear, solar, wind, and water research, and grid modernization, among other things.
- The United States Conference of Mayors released their 2020 platform on Monday evening. The platform, which had 10 central priorities, called for increased Federal support for transportation infrastructure, specifically for transit, airports, and intercity passenger rail.
Federal Register Notices:
- President Trump’s August 14th Executive Order titled “Order Regarding the Acquisition of Musical.ly by ByteDance Ltd” was published in the Federal Register. The order states that ByteDance might take actions that would adversely affect the national security of the U.S. The order can be found here.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a request for public comments on petitions for rulemaking to amend certain requirements for property brokers submitted by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC). The notice can be found here.
- FMCSA announced its plan to submit an Information Collection Request (ICR) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval. The primary purpose of the ICR is to assess the effectiveness of various technologies, programs, and policies on motor carrier safety performance in support of the implementation of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, 2015 (FAST Act). Comments are due September 17. The notice can be found here.
- The FMCSA announced its plan to submit an ICR to OMB for review and approval. The FMCSA requested approval to renew the ICR titled “Accident Recordkeeping Requirements.” This ICR relates to requirements that motor carriers maintain a record of accidents involving their commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Motor carriers are not required to report this data to FMCSA, but must produce it upon inquiry by authorized federal, state or local officials. Comments are due September 17. The notice can be found here.
- The FMCSA issued a final rule that rescinded the requirement that drivers of passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) operating in interstate commerce submit, and motor carriers retain, driver-vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs) when the driver has neither found nor been made aware of any vehicle defects or deficiencies (no-defect DVIRs). The rule is effective September 17. The notice can be found here.
- The FCC announced that first meeting of the World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee (WAC) will be held virtually on August 25, starting at 11:00am ET. The notice can be found here.
- The FCC announced that the Consumer Advisory Committee will hold its next meeting virtually, on September 25, starting at 10:30am ET. The notice can be found here.
- The FCC issued proposals for processes for consumers, governmental entities, and other parties to challenge the availability data represented in the broadband maps; additional processes for verifying broadband availability data submitted by providers; targeted reforms to the FCC Form 477 subscribership data that broadband and voice providers are required to file biannually; and implementing other requirements of the Broadband DATA Act. The FCC will be taking comments until September 8. The notice can be found here.
- The FCC issued a final rule which establishes important measures for developing improved broadband data, including requiring fixed providers to submit shapefiles representing where they have customers or could install service within 10 business days of a request; requiring fixed wireless providers to report their coverage areas based on propagation maps and models using prescribed parameters, or based on lists of addresses or locations, to define their specific coverage areas; requiring all fixed providers to provide details on the methodology used to determine their reported coverage; and requiring mobile providers to submit coverage maps and propagation model details based on minimum specified parameters and to disclose other assumptions underlying the models. This rule will be effective September 17. The notice can be found here.
- The Office of Electricity, within the Department of Energy, issued a notice that the Electricity Advisory Committee’s (EAC) charter has been renewed for a two-year period, beginning on August 7, 2020. The notice can be found here.
- The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), within the Department of Energy, issued a final rule that amended the decision-making process for selecting energy conservation standards by specifying that it will conduct a comparative analysis of the relative benefits and burdens of potential energy conservation standard levels in determining whether a specific energy conservation standard level is economically justified. The rule is effective October 19. The notice can be found here.
- The Coast Guard requested that individuals interested in serving on the Gulf of Mexico Area Maritime Security Advisory Committee (AMSC) submit their applications for membership to the Federal Maritime Security Coordinator (FMSC) Eighth Coast Guard District by September 18. The notice can be found here.
- The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) issued a notice that the interagency Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) invites comments to assist the USTR in the preparation of its annual report to Congress on China’s compliance with the commitments made in connection with its accession to the WTO. Comments are due September 16 at 11:59pm ET. The notice can be found here.
- The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), within the Department of Commerce, announced that its BroadbandUSA program, which promotes innovation and economic growth by supporting efforts to expand broadband access and meaningful use across America, will host virtual webinars on the third Wednesday of every month starting on October 21. The meetings will happen from 2:00-3:00pm ET and will last until September 15, 2021, with December 2020 and August 2021 being the exceptions. The notice can be found here.
- NTIA, within the Department of Commerce, announced that it is seeking comments and recommendations for possible revisions to questions asked on the NTIA Internet Use Survey. Comments must be submitted on or before September 17. The notice can be found here.
- The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the allocation of $434.8M under the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Grants for the Buses and Bus Facilities Program and provided administrative guidance on project implementation. The notice can be found here.