COVID-19 Update | Monday, April 27 (PM)
April 27, 2020
- Both chambers of Congress confirmed that they will be back into session on Monday, May 4th. This will be the first concurrent return to session for both chambers since the extended COVID-19 recess. Confirmations from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) signal a return to somewhat normal legislative operations. The Senate has scheduled a nomination vote on the 4th.
- 18 lawmakers, led by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), sent a bipartisan letter to Congressional leadership endorsing the idea of letting 501(c)(6) organizations, which includes most trade associations, apply for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. The full letter and those who signed it can be found attached. The letter specifically highlights certain local groups, including regional chambers of commerce and other DMOs, nursing professional organizations, state restaurant associations, and tourism leagues, among others.
- In an interview on Monday, Senate Majority Leader McConnell indicated that he is open to cutting a deal to provide states and local governments with relief in the next package. He shared that it is “highly likely” the next response bill will aid local governments but stated that in order to unlock that money, he wants Congress to limit the liabilities of health care workers, business owners and employees from lawsuits as they reopen in the coming weeks and months.
- A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging the Trump Administration to let payday lenders gain access to Small Business Administration (SBA) relief money. The lawmakers are requesting that the Administration allow applications from “small-size nonbanks” including installment lenders and community development financial institutions.
- The House Budget Committee issued a new report emphasizing the Federal Government’s role in bolstering state financing and encouraging cooperation across state lines to combat the pandemic.
- Democrats informed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that the Department’s guidelines issued last week block undocumented immigrants from a $6 billion emergency fund to help students with COVID-19-related costs.
- President Trump unveiled two new documents during this evening’s Coronavirus Task Force Briefing. The two documents, a COVID-19 “testing overview” and “testing blueprint“, lay out how the Administration plans to work with state governments and the private sector to expand testing. The “testing overview” document lays out three stages that address testing, including “launch,” “scale,” and “support opening up again.”
- The first two stages summarize steps that the Administration has already taken, while the third stage details a plan for the federal government to “coordinate with Governors to support testing plans and rapid response programs.”
- The relaunch of the PPP today got off to a rocky start as banks were unable to move forward due to technical issues with the SBA’s submission system. The program has not been accepting new applications since April 16 after funds ran out within the first two weeks.
- The Department of Transportation (DOT) granted CARES Act minimum service exemptions to United Airlines for Fairbanks, Alaska; Aguadilla, P.R.; four locations in Hawaii; and Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. DOT also denied exemption requests to several other domestic locations.
- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced $300 million in grants aimed at helping disadvantaged students continue to learn during the COVID-19 crisis. The funds will be divided between initiatives for K-12 education and workforce preparation. The funds will be allocated through the Education Stabilization Fund established in the CARES Act, which included $30.75 billion.
- The Federal Reserve Board announced an expansion of the Municipal Liquidity Facility (MLF), reducing the population eligibility threshold for cities to 250,000 residents and counties with 500,000 residents. The Federal Reserve is also considering expanding the MLF to allow a limited number of governmental entities that issue bonds backed by their own revenue to participate directly in the MLF as eligible issuers.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has updated and published its Interim Occupational Health and Safety Guidance for Air Carriers and Crews. The guidance can be found here.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has asked thousands of employees who perform “mission critical functions” to return to work. However, the agency is unable to provide protective gear for employees and has suggested that those returning to work use homemade masks.
- The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, the panel of two dozen federal inspectors general charged with coordinating work to investigate the coronavirus relief effort, created by the CARES Act, named Robert Westbrooks, as its executive director today.
- The National Association of Broadcasters and the News Media Alliance are lobbying Congress to change the rules surrounding small business loan programs in a way that would make more TV stations, newspapers, and other media properties eligible to apply. Their proposal would be a publishers and broadcasters a carve-out similar to that granted to restaurants and hotels in the CARES Act.
- The effort has garnered the support of Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), John Neely Kennedy (R-LA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and John Boozman (R-AR).
- Texas Governor Greg Abbot (R) plans to allow the state’s stay-at-home order to expire. The original order expires April 30th. All retail stores, restaurants, movie theatres, and malls are permitted to open on May 1st as a part of phase 1 with occupancy up to 25%. Iowa is also expected to lift business restrictions on May 1st.
- Phase 2, which Texas could progress to on May 18th if key metrics continue to trend down, will expand occupancy to 50%. Beauty parlors, gyms, and bars remain closed but could be a part of phase 2.
- Colorado and Nevada have joined the Western state pact to gradually reopen state economies in conjunction with one another.
- Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced Monday that outdoor recreation would be allowed to resume in Washington state on May 5th if current COVID-19 trends continue.