COVID-19 Update | Monday, May 4 (PM)
May 4, 2020
- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said today that he disagrees with Senate Majority Leader McConnell and House Speaker Pelosi and is in favor of rapid COVID-19 testing for the Capitol to prevent the spread of the virus in lieu of remaining out of session. As Elevate reported this morning, Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected an offer from the White House for an expedited testing method for the Capitol.
- Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer both gave reopening remarks today as the Senate returned to the Capitol. Both leaders focused on their party’s priorities as the Senate resumes conducting its business.
- McConnell outlined his plan to focus on nominations, including those Elevate reported earlier this morning, and called on Democrats to not be obstructionist and allow the nominees to be confirmed. He expressed the Republican desire to hold COVID-19 oversight hearings, which the Democrats had requested last week.
- While Minority Leader Schumer expressed Democratic concerns with the qualifications of the nominees, he primarily focused on the need additional funding for state and local governments, the need for increased testing capabilities, and concern over states reopening too soon. He also stated concerns about the Senate being in session at all amid reports that the District of Columbia is only now reaching the peak of its COVID-19 cases.
- The Senate confirmed Robert J. Feitel this evening as the new Inspector General of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in an 87-0 vote. This first vote after returning to the Capitol provided a glimpse into voting procedures. Most Senators wore masks though some removed them to vote in order to identify themselves. We will include the names of Senators who did not vote in our update tomorrow.
- With respect to actions in the House, it remains unclear whether the House will first release a series of principles or actual text of a bill. Elevate had heard from Congressional staff an intent to release legislative text by the end of the week, to be possibly voted on next week. Other staffers have indicated a potential for principles to be released first. Either way, a final bill is not expected to move quickly.
- The Treasury Department (Treasury) intends to borrow just shy of $3T from April through June to cover government spending on COVID-19 relief. By comparison, Treasury borrowed $1.3T over 12 months in 2019.
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated that the Administration is looking for ways to stimulate travel but noted that the Administration would prioritize domestic travel.
- Secretary Mnuchin also indicated in an interview that restrictions on the use of Paycheck Protection Program funds would not change amid lobbying efforts from the restaurant industry.
- The New York Times and the Washington Post have reported on slides with Administration Agency’s logos, which project a steady rise in cases and deaths from COVID-19, with daily deaths potentially reaching up to 3,000 on June 1st. The Administration stated that these were incomplete documents. Currently, there are 1,750 COVID-19 related deaths per day.
- The White House indicated that a proposal for tax cuts and regulatory suspension to promote economic growth is on the way. The Administration is discussing business-expense or capital expense tax deductions. Additionally, a tax credit to incentivize domesticating manufacturing is on the table.
- Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger emphasized that the Administration is not considering punitive measures against China related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is inconsistent with past statements by other Administration officials.
- The Export Import Bank (EXIM Bank) increased US exporter’s access to capital and supply chain financing during COVID-19. Specifically, the EXIM Bank raised its Supply Chain Finance Program (SCF) and Working Capital Guarantee Program (WCGP) guarantee coverage option to 95 percent, from the standard 90 percent guarantee. This increase is effective through April 30, 2021. The full press release can be found here.
- EXIM Bank also approved 161 authorizations totaling $138.8 million for small businesses that export “Made in the USA” products around the world. The full press release can be found here.
- The US Travel Association released industry-wide guidelines for travel related businesses. The guidelines were shared with the Administration and all Governors. The guidance and an associated press release can be found here.
- The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is spending over $1 million to urge Congress to supply more money to states and localities in its next relief package.
- After Ford pushed for a “cash-for-clunkers”-like program in the last few weeks, auto salvaging companies have begun to lobby for a similar Car Allowance Rebate System to stimulate the economy. A similar program was initiated in during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Other sectors, including the trucking industry, are also highlighting a “Cash for Clunkers” type concept.
- The nation’s nursing homes, who have experienced 20,000 COVID-19 deaths and counting, are pushing back against a potential flood of lawsuits via a state lobbying campaign to get states to grant them emergency protection from claims of inadequate care.
- Hotel/lodging companies continue to return funds they received under the Paycheck Protection Program. Most recently, Ashford Inc., a large hospitality conglomerate that received nearly $70 million from the PPP, said that it would return the money.