COVID-19 Update | Friday, May 29
May 29, 2020
- There continue to be no negotiations between the Republicans and Democrats on a next COVID-19 relief package.
- Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their liability proposal next week when the Senate reconvenes.
- Six Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), wrote a letter to Education Secretary Betsy Devos to urge her to fix errors made by Great Lakes Educational Loan Services. As we reported last week, the loan company mistakenly reported loan payments as late, even though the payments were automatically suspended under the CARES Act, which lowered borrowers’ credit ratings in some cases.
- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) published a new schedule for the House of Representatives today in addition to announcing that “committee work periods” would be introduced during which key committees, such as the Appropriations Committee or Armed Services Committee, would conduct business but no votes would be held. Traditionally, the House is either in session or in a “district work period” meaning members are back in their districts.
- Under the new schedule, the House is not expected to vote as a whole again until June 30.
- The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure plans to release its version of surface transportation authorization legislation (FAST Act) as soon as next week. According to Majority Leader Hoyer, House Democrats are eying a Floor vote on the bill in July.
- House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA) as well as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wrote a letter to Marathon Petroleum CEO Michael Hennigan asking for information on Marathon’s involvement with the Trump Administration and their “efforts to degrade emissions standards for cars and light trucks and to revoke California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act.”
- Reps. Michael Waltz (R-FL) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) have introduced legislation to require agencies to speed up the federal mining permitting process, which can take up to 10 years. According to the members, the bill would boost domestic mining and processing of strategic materials, key to the defense, energy, technology and transportation supply chains.
- House Ways and Means Committee members Reps. Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) will release a proposal today, called the “Clean Start Act,” that would give companies a 50% tax credit to help with hiring cleaning companies and buying the products, machinery and equipment necessary to keep their business clean.
- The credit will apply to any purchases made through March 2021 to help safeguard against a second wave of COVID-19 and would max out at $25,000 per business and $250,000 per business entity.
- Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) told Fox News on Thursday he plans to file a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint over Twitter’s handling of President Trump’s account. Gaetz, along with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), said they plan to introduce legislation targeting the perceived bias in social media companies.
- House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote a letter to Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf demanding answers for requests for information on a number of topics, including the Administration’s European travel restrictions and Project Airbridge, which is the federal government’s effort to fly personal protective equipment (PPE) to the frontlines of the pandemic response.
- Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) introduced a bill to withhold the pay of Members of the House of Representatives who cast their vote via a proxy voter. The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Dan Bishop (R-NC), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), David Rouzer (R-NC), Jack Bergman (R-MI), John Curtis (R-MI), Bill Posey (R-FL) and Alex Mooney (R-FL).
- As we have previously reported, Republicans are suing over the recently instated House proxy voting rule.
- President Trump announced that the U.S. would officially be “terminating its relationship” with the World Health Organization (WHO). This would include pulling all funding from the organization. As a reminder, the President has been critical of the WHO for months claiming that China had undue influence over the organization.
- The U.S has previously contributed over $400M to the WHO’s $4.8B annual budget, more than any other country.
- President Trump also announced that he plans to begin withdrawing Hong Kong’s special trade status, including increased tariffs on imports from Hong Kong, amid claims that Hong Kong is no longer independent from China. The announcement comes on the heels of China’s top legislature voting on Thursday to impose new national security laws on Hong Kong.
- European Union leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Foreign Policy Chief Joseph Borrell said they will not take the same confrontational approach.
- The Trump Administration has begun to work with African nations to help counter COVID-19. In April, Trump called a number of African leaders and promised to send ventilators to help. According to officials and regional specialists, the Administration sees this as an opening to prove their leadership on COVID-19 on a global scale after cutting off funding to the WHO.
- Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell announced that the Main Street Lending Program is set to be launched in “a matter of days.” As a reminder, the Main Street Lending Program would provide government-backed bank loans to companies up to 15,000 employees or up to $5B in annual revenue.
- The Trump Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) removed warnings about choirs in their faith guidance. The previous warning said that singing in choirs can spread COVID-19.
- Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao announced $891M in federal funding to be provided by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to 12 transit infrastructure projects through the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program.
- FTA is allocating $27M in appropriated Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 CIG funding, $526.5M in appropriated FY 2019 CIG funding and $337M in appropriated FY 2020 CIG funding to 12 projects.
- DOT announced plans to distribute more than 15M cloth masks to transportation workers. The facial coverings, which were obtained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will be sent through the Postal Service to transit, rail, aviation, maritime, highway and pipeline workers.
- Larry Willis, President of the Transportation Trades Department (AFL-CIO), a coalition of 33 transportation unions, said that workers would rather see sector-specific mandates designed to protect workers.
- 4.8M of these masks are for mass transit and passenger rail providers, 3.8M are for aviation workers, 2.4M are for maritime workers, 2.2M are for freight rail workers, 2.1M are for highway and motor carriers and 258K are for pipeline workers.
- The CDC recently issued updated guidance for employers preparing to re-open their offices. The guidance recommends that employers offer incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact, as opposed to public transit, such as reimbursement for parking or single-occupancy ride shares.
- Karen Evans, the former head of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) cybersecurity office, is expected to be named the Chief Information Officer at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the coming days.
- The 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the Trump Administration’s attempt to block a lower court ruling that overturned a nationwide permit needed to build new oil and gas pipelines, including the Keystone XL pipeline.
- The Justice Department declined to say whether or not it will appeal to the Supreme Court.
- The American Petroleum Institute commented that the court’s decision could delay construction on 70 pipelines and cost up to $2B.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has spent more than $7M cleaning air traffic control facilities in the last few months. Additionally, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has spent at least $1.2M on cleaning and sanitizing supplies. TSA has come under fire for hoarding more than a million N95 masks, which they received from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
- Federal Register Notices
- The Advisory Committee of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) announced a meeting on Thursday, June 4, 2020 from 1:00-4:00 p.m. EDT to discuss EXIM policies and programs and comments for inclusion in EXIM’s Report to the U.S. Congress on Global Export Credit Competition. The notice can be found here.
- The U.S. International Trade Commission is holding a public hearing to discuss the probable economic effect of providing duty-free treatment for currently dutiable imports as it pertains to a free trade agreement with Kenya. The notice can be found here.
- Weekly spending on travel nationwide grew by 13% last week to $3.4B. While this is the fourth consecutive week of expansion for the travel economy, it is 84% below last year’s level, representing an $18.5B loss.
- Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, the travel industry has seen $195B in cumulative losses.
- The decline in spending on travel have also caused a loss of $25.1B in federal, state and local tax revenue.
- According to the National Tracking Poll on COVID-19 and Travel Sentiment, 46% of Americans are planning on taking some sort of trip in the period between Memorial Day and July 4th.
- According to the Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index, 45% of people said they will travel less this year, which is up from 9% in January. 47% said they will reduce their travel spending, which is up from 11% in January.
- Additionally, only 27% of people said that leisure travel will be a budget priority this year, a drop from 60% only four months ago.
- 7-in-10 Americans who have postponed a trip due to the COVID-19 pandemic have not yet rescheduled.
- 37% of Americans will not travel until a vaccine is developed.
- New York Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor DeBlasio announced in a joint press conference that New York City would move to phase one of its reopening Monday, June 8.
- Industries that would reopen in the first phase include all construction sites, clothing, electronics, furniture, machinery, printing and textile manufacturing, wholesalers for chemical products, household appliances, apparel and metals, and stores selling office supplies, clothing, electronics, furniture and sporting goods. Regular retail stores will only be allowed to offer curbside or in-store pickup.
- The city’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is preparing for an influx of 400,000 workers returning to work in phase one.
- Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced that cruise ships with more than 100 passengers will be barred from Canadian waters until October 31 due to COVID-19. This effectively cancels the cruise season in Canada.
- Any passenger vessels with more than 12 people have also been banned from Arctic coastal waters until the end of October.
- The United Nations has rescheduled its climate conference that has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic to November 1-12, 2021.
- The yearlong delay gives world leaders time to change their plans in light of COVID-19. Additionally, it allows them to avoid uncertainty from the U.S. Presidential Election.
- The European Commission rolled out a proposal this week to force big corporations to help pay for the European recovery from COVID-19 through a gross receipts tax. The European Commission has had trouble explaining how the tax would work, with top officials saying they cannot give details at this time.
- JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said in a video conversation with the Washington Post that the airline will emerge from the current crisis as a “smaller airline” and will likely resort to layoffs if not enough people volunteer to leave the company. Hayes said that the CARES Act gave the industry “time to breathe.”
- Hayes also acknowledged changes in the airline industry but said he did not believe changes in seating configuration or passenger caps would be viable. He said different fare structures would be better.
- Although states have seen large revenue losses due to COVID-19, many have yet to move to increase taxes to recoup revenues. The National Association of State Budget Officers recently reported that many states saw revenue plunge by at least 50% in April.
- California is projecting a deficit of $54B over the next year, while New York is projecting a $61B revenue shortfall over the next 4 years.
- The American Association for Justice is pushing back against liability protections for nursing homes. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the group wrote that it should not be harder for nursing homes to be sued over COVID-19 deaths. Additionally, the group wrote that there is no data supporting mass litigation against businesses.
- In a statement released last night, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce condemned President Trump’s Executive Order on social media companies. The statement indicated the Chamber’s belief that the order violated principles of public policy.