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COVID-19 Update | Friday, Aug. 14

August 14, 2020


Both the House and Senate are on recess with the next Senate vote planned for September 8 and the next House votes not expected until September 14. Lawmakers in both chambers have been instructed to be prepared to return to vote on a potential COVID-19 relief package if an agreement is reached.

COVID-19 Relief Negotiations

  • As we reported yesterday, negotiations continue to be stalled. This is the seventh day in row that the four main negotiators, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have not met. There is an increasing sense that a deal will not be reached before September.
    • As a reminder, the negotiators have been unable to even reach agreement on the overall cost of the next relief package. Democrats have decreased their topline from the over $3T in the HEROES Act to $2.4T, while the Administration has held firm at $1T.
  • Should there be no agreement until September, it is probable that the COVID-19 relief negotiations will be wrapped up with a decision on a continuing resolution for government funding. While the two pieces of legislation may not be combined, negotiations will surely be linked.
    • House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) predicted on a call with reporters that a continuing resolution, which is likely to be voted on in September, would fund government agencies at Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 levels through no later than December.


  • The Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support will have its first hearing with the new Navy Secretary, Kenneth Braithwaite, on September 23. The topic for the hearing is Navy and Marine Corps readiness. Admiral Michael Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations and General David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, are also scheduled to testify.


  • In a bipartisan letter led by Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Tom Reed (R-NY) to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, over 100 House Members urged Lighthizer and Perdue to use the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement’s (USMCA) consultation and enforcement measures to ensure that Canada and Mexico deliver on all obligations related to dairy products, as the letter argues the two countries are not in compliance with the USMCA on these issues currently.
  • House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA), Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Senate Finance Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the International Trade Commission (ITC) chairman Jason Kearns urging that the ITC prepare a report by December 15 that provides detailed information on COVID-19 related industry sectors and key products needed to respond to the pandemic. A press release on the letter can be found here.

General Congress

  • Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) issued a joint statement that sharply criticized President Trump’s comments on vote-by-mail and the policies from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) that have led to increased delays in mail delivery.
    • Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) sent a letter U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy asking him to address the recent mail delays as well as the reported operational changes that have taken place at USPS.
      • As a reminder, Sen. Collins, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), introduced the bipartisan Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act, S.4174, which would provide up to $25B to relief for the USPS. A press release on the bill can be found here.
    • Also, we reported yesterday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and 173 other Democrats sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy urging the reversal of policies that have exacerbated an increase in delayed and undelivered mail. The letter text and a press release on the letter can be found here.  
    • According to the Washington Post, the USPS sent letters to 46 states and Washington D.C warning that the USPS cannot guarantee that all ballots that will be cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted. The letters also outlined that 671 USPS mail sorting machines from across the country have been removed since June, representing the capacity to sort 21.4 million pieces of mail per hour. These changes are due to USPS’s organizational and policy overhaul caused by a shortfall in finances which have been exacerbated by COVID-19.


  • White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow indicated the White House plans to amend the President’s Executive Order on payroll tax deferral. One of these changes would allow self-employed people to take advantage of this provision.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Joe Simons will no longer be recused from the upcoming FTC antitrust case against Qualcomm, which means he will likely cast the deciding vote on whether to appeal the recent circuit court decision to the Supreme Court. His recusal would have likely resulted in a 2-2 tie for further appeal. However, it appears he will have the opportunity to decide the outcome depending on the timing of such a decision.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s rollback of methane emissions regulations for new oil and gas wells is now official.
    • As a reminder, on Monday we reported that the EPA would repeal a 2016 rule that required companies to install stronger pollution control equipment at newly constructed oil and gas wells or other production facilities, and to search for and repair methane leaks. This repeal will apply to all wells that have been drilled since 2016 and remove the largest pipelines, storage sites and other parts of the transmission system from EPA oversight of smog and greenhouse-gas emissions.
  • The Canadian and U.S. governments have agreed to extend non-essential border restrictions until September 21, according to Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.
    • As a reminder, in July we reported that the Canadian Government would restrict travelers crossing through Canada to get to Alaska. The Canadian government said that U.S. travelers heading to Alaska or coming back into the continental United States will only be allowed to cross at five points of entry. Additionally, travelers will have to go through the most direct route to get to their destination and will not be allowed into national parks, leisure sites or tourism attractions.
  • Federal Register Notices: 
    • The EPA issued a notice of weekly receipts of Environmental Impact Statements which were filed from August 3 through August 10. The notice can be found here.
    • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced new guidance that increases flexibility for transit agencies to work with developers to build projects that benefit transit systems. The notice can be found here.
    • The EPA’s ozone proposal to retain the current ozone standards without revision is open for comment starting today through October 1, according to the Federal Register notice.

 Other News

  • According to a new report published by the National League of Cities, all major local tax revenue sources slowed considerably in FY 2020, mostly due to COVID-19, with 11% declines in sales tax collected compared to FY 2019 and 3.4% less in income tax compared to FY 2019. The report also found that on average, cities are expecting a 13% decline in FY 2021 general fund revenues over FY 2020.
  • New York state is projecting a $14.5B revenue shortfall for FY 2021, $1.2B more than projections from April. The state has already cut spending by $4B as compared to last year.
  • Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier sent a letter to the Inspectors General of the Army, the Department of Defense, and the Army Corps of Engineers in which he asked that they investigate the claims made by House Democrats that the Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental review on the Pebble mine project in Alaska was shortened.
  • According to an analysis from Airlines for America, New York and New Jersey have been the most impacted by COVID-19 in terms of a loss of airline passengers. The states saw a 70% and 67% decline respectively in scheduled airline passenger flights. The national average decline is 50%.
  • Brussels International Airport announced plans to launch a mobile COVID-19 testing lab that will be used to test passengers coming from countries with high rates of COVID-19 as soon as they arrive at the airport. Departing passengers will have the possibility to be tested as well. According to the press release, test results from this mobile lab will be ready within three hours and will cost passengers at least 46 Euros.
  • Neste, the world’s biggest producer of sustainable aircraft fuel, announced that it will begin supplying Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and JetBlue Airways for their flights out of San Francisco International Airport.
  • According to published reports, more than a dozen companies, including Disney, Ford, Intel, Morgan Stanley, UPS and Walmart, among others, have raised concerns over the Trump Administration’s Executive Order to ban transactions via the Chinese app WeChat. The companies cite WeChat’s prevalence in China and the fact that banning all transactions could hurt U.S. companies operating in China.
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