COVID-19 Update | Monday, Dec. 7 (PM)
December 7, 2020
Election and Transition News
- Visit Elevate’s Transition 2020 Hub to see the most up-to-date lists of rumored and announced Cabinet members and staff.
- Tom Vilsack is being viewed as a frontrunner to be President-elect Biden’s Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack was previously Secretary of Agriculture from 2009-2017 during the Obama Administration, Governor of Iowa, and a rural and agriculture policy adviser for the Biden campaign.
- Other candidates for the position include former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and former Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).
- The Biden transition team met with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Monday to discuss the importance of sufficient representation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the top positions of the Biden Administration.
- JPMorgan Chase recently sent a list of policy recommendations for COVID-19 economic recovery to the Biden transition team. These recommendations included additional stimulus and expanded unemployment benefits, highlighting the need for policies that are racially and economically equitable. While it is unclear when exactly the list was sent, it was reported on today.
- Longer-term recommendations included special retirement accounts, baby bonds, affordable housing programs, and extended student loan forbearance.
- New York City will begin in-person school this week for 850 schools, 150 of which will return to five-day in-person instruction. In total, this will affect 190,000 students. Prekindergarten and elementary students returned to school today.
- Five Bay Area counties in California announced that they will adopt stay-at-home orders before they are required by the state. Governor Gavin Newsom announced last week that stay-at-home orders would be implemented when regions reached less than 15% intensive care unit availability. These orders will apply to 6M people and remain in place until January 4.
- Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization released a priority list for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. The list found that the first recipients should be healthcare workers, people over 80 years old, residents and workers of long-term care facilities, and adults in indigenous communities.
- A vote on the one-week continuing resolution (CR) will likely be held in the House on Wednesday, with the Senate vote following that. As a reminder, this CR will extend government funding to December 18 and provide Congress with more time to finalize an end-of-year government funding package.
- Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) urged President Trump to veto any COVID-19 relief package that does not include direct stimulus payments. Sen. Hawley said that President Trump was “receptive” to his argument.
• Direct stimulus payments are currently not included in the bipartisan $908B compromise proposal or the Senate Republican targeted proposal.
- Published reports indicate that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to the European Union Civil Liberty Committee advising the European Parliament against blocking technologies that detect child abuse online in proposed digital privacy rules. The letter is not yet publicly available.
• The European Union is considering restricting these technologies to protect consumer data online. A final version of the rules will be reached by December 21.
- House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), and Rep Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt questioning the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) timeline for leasing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
• BLM announced that bids for oil and gas development must be received by December 31. This provides only 23 days after the notice of sale to submit bids, which the letter argues is against BLM’s regulations that require a 30-day notice. The notice of sale was also published before the end of the comment period.
- The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Friday published its cost estimate for H.R. 2884, the MORE Act and found the legislation, which was passed by the House Friday and would decriminalize marijuana, would increase federal revenue by $13.7B over the next ten years.
• By 2030, the bill would reduce the federal deficit by $7.3B.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the recipients of $9.2B in subsidies to expand rural broadband infrastructure under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. This round of funding focused on rural areas that are completely unserved, prioritizing higher broadband speeds and lower latency. A list of the recipients by state and company name can be found here.
• The funding will provide broadband service to over 5.2M households and businesses.
• The largest number of locations was won by Charter Communications, with over 1.05M locations and $1.2B.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will retain current soot pollution standards, stating that the current standards are sufficient to protect public health. The standards on fine particle concentration in the air will be retained for five years.
• According to the Washington Post, soot is the most widespread air pollutant, and many public health and environmental experts argued for stricter standards.
- The Department of Education extended the freeze on federal student loan monthly payments and interest to January 31. This policy affects 41M federal student loan borrowers. The freeze was previously set to expire on December 31. President-elect Biden is expected to continue student loan relief.
• The $908B bipartisan COVID-19 relief proposal includes $4B to continue student loan relief through March 2021.
- The Administration determined that it will not grant ByteDance an additional extension to sell the U.S. assets of TikTok. However, negotiations for the sale will continue past the deadline, which was last Friday, December 4.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will speak this week in Georgia about the Trump Administration’s foreign policy achievements, ahead of the two runoff elections which will determine control of the Senate.
- The Administration is considering an Executive Order that would give the Department of Commerce the authority to prohibit U.S. cloud computing companies from partnering with foreign cloud companies that support hackers. The Department would be able to ban the foreign companies from operating in the U.S. in order to avoid cyberattacks through the cloud.
• The Executive Order may be signed by President Trump by the end of the year, but agency rulemaking would extend into the Biden Administration.