COVID-19 Update | Monday, Aug. 24
August 24, 2020
Both the House and the Senate are in recess. As a reminder, the next Senate vote is not expected until September 8 and the next House vote is expected September 14.
- The entire Senate Democratic Caucus signed a letter Friday calling for the removal of William Perry Pendley from his position leading the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). As a reminder, though Pendley’s nomination for Director of the BLM has been withdrawn, he continues to act as the Director due to a succession order he implemented earlier this year.
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced a three-member subcommittee of the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) Board of Governors on Sunday tasked with investigating policy changes ahead of the November election. The board consists of two Democratic appointees and one Republican appointee and is expected to issue a public report within two weeks and brief lawmakers weekly.
- On Saturday, the House passed H.R. 8015, the Delivering for America Act, which would provide $25B to the USPS and prohibit any operational changes until after the election, in a 257-150 bipartisan vote that saw all Democrats and 26 Republicans vote for the bill. The legislation is not expected to be considered by the Senate in its current form.
- The House Oversight and Reform Committee is holding a hearing today with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and USPS Board Chair Robert Duncan to answer questions about recent changes DeJoy has implemented and concerns over service delays. This is the second recent hearing for the Postmaster General who appeared before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Friday.
- Over the weekend, the Committee released a five-page document depicting the decline in USPS operations beginning in July.
- Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) introduced H.R. 8091, which would direct the Secretary of Defense to cover the full cost of National Guard deployments across all states and territories for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a reminder, only five states currently continue to receive full Federal funding for National Guard deployment.
- Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA) confirmed on Saturday that he tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the 12th House Member and the 16th Member of Congress to test positive.
- President Trump’s Executive Orders (EOs) aimed at circumventing the lack of progress on COVID-19 relief negotiations between the Administration and Congress have offered limited economic relief to date.
- Only one state, Arizona, has so far begun paying the additional $300 in unemployment benefits provided by EO. Thirteen more states have been approved to provide the benefits and some, including Montana and Kentucky, have committed the additional $100. Other states such as South Dakota, however, have rejected the additional benefits.
- As a reminder, jobless claims rose to over 1M again last week and, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council, there has been no additional guidance outside the initial EO on evictions, meaning millions of Americans could face eviction over the coming months.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced an emergency use authorization for investigational convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19.
- Published reports indicate that the Administration plans to block progress on the Alaska Pebble Mine project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to hold a conference call today and point to technical issues with a key permit. As a reminder, the project has faced bipartisan opposition.
- President Trump this weekend released a 50-point agenda for a potential second term which lays out policy priorities the Trump Administration may focus on if reelected. Some of the points, such as developing a COVID-19 vaccine by the of this year, could also be a focus in the “lame duck” period following the election if the President loses reelection.
- As a reminder, the Republican Convention is this week.
- According to a Federal Communication Commission (FCC) spokesperson, Chairman Ajit Pai is pushing Congress for at least an additional $430M to continue funding the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program. The program received $200M under the CARES Act in March.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Friday issued a call for white papers on the Airport Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Detection and Mitigation Research Program. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia plan to hold a hearing on September 4 on whether to block the Council on Environmental Quality’s new rule regarding the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental review process.
- Published reports indicate that the Administration is unlikely to implement a plan to collect contact tracing information from inbound international travelers this year. Negotiations between major airlines and the Administration have recently reached an impasse jeopardizing the implementation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) interim rule on collecting contact tracing information from February.
Federal Register Notices
- The FCC posted the effective date of its final rule regarding the Spectrum Horizons Order’s Experimental Radio Service rules. The rules are effective today.
- The Department of Defense, General Services Administration and National Aeronautics and Space Administration released a proposed rule to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation to implement a section of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which requires, when acquiring equipment, a case-by-case analysis of cost and other factors associated with certain methods of acquisition, including purchase, short-term rental or lease, long-term rental or lease, interagency acquisition, and, if applicable, acquisition agreements with a State or local government.
- The Employment and Training Administration published a notice of a virtual meetings of the Workforce Information Advisory Council. The meetings will be between September 8 and September 10.
- The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association recently released new data showing that, while traffic is increasing on roads across the U.S., the volumes are still down year-over-year. This, according to Jeff Davis at the Eno Center, could lead to a stabilization at between 10-15% less traffic compared to 2019, similar to the stabilization of gasoline production. This sustained decrease continues to be concerning for toll revenues and, therefore, state revenues.