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COVID-19 Update | Tuesday, July 7

July 7, 2020


The House and Senate are in recess until July 20.


  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the next COVID-19 relief package could include another round of direct payments to individuals. However, Leader McConnell said that the payments would be targeted toward people who make less than $40,000 per year. Negotiations have not begun yet on the scope of the next bill, both at a staff level and at a Member level. Right now, Elevate’s intelligence suggests that Senate Republicans remain focused on a narrow bill, while Senate and House Democrats want broader relief measures. 
    • The White House supports Leader McConnell’s previous goal of keeping the next COVID-19 relief package under $1T, though there is recognition that it could cost more. Other White House priorities that have potential for bipartisan support in the next package include:
      • Ending surprise medical billing, although the issue remains controversial;
      • Price transparency for pharmaceutical products; and
      • Changing the reimbursement rate for telemedicine.
    • Relief for state and local governments, continued unemployment benefits and liability protections for companies will likely be the major points of contention as Congress considers the next COVID-19 relief package at the end of the month.
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced plans to introduce legislation banning the sale of middle seats by airlines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation, while banning the sale of middle seats, does not provide compensation for the requirement. 
  • Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said they will not attend the Republican National Convention due to concerns about COVID-19.


  • On Monday, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee Chairman Lou Correa (D-CA), sent a letter to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske asking that TSA issue a requirement for airline passengers to wear masks to pass through security. The letter stated that 1,000 TSA employees have contracted COVID-19. The press release can be found here and the letter can be found here.
  • The House Committee on Education and Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment held a hearing titled: “A Major Test: Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on the Future of Higher Education.” The hearing discussed issues regarding higher education and the COVID-19 pandemic including reopening, the transition to online education and budget cuts.

General Congress

  • Amtrak continues to be criticized for recent announcements of scheduled cuts and workforce reductions. Multiple Senators have sent letters to Amtrak expressing concerns over the rollbacks after Amtrak received $1B in emergency COVID-19 aid.
  • One letter was led by Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS);
    • Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) signed onto the letter.
  • One letter was led by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT); and
    • Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), John Hoeven (R-ND), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) signed onto the letter.
  • One letter was led by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).
    • Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) signed onto the letter.


  • The White House is exploring multiple Executive Orders (EOs) targeting China. One would focus on Chinese business interests within the U.S. and another would target trade with Hong Kong. Specific details on the EO have not been released.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 20012 on “Continuation of Air Carrier and Other Operations in Terminal Airspace when an Air Traffic Control (ATC) Facility with Responsibility for That Controlled Airspace Closes Unexpectedly.” The SAFO specifically alerts air carriers and commercial operators of increased risk while operating in airspace around an airport tower when ATC operations have unexpectedly closed due to COVID-19.
    • FAA also added Passenger Boarding (Enplanement) and All-Cargo Data for U.S. Airports to its website today. That information can be found here.
  • The National Park Service (NPS) announced $750,000 in Underrepresented Community Grants to support the identification and nomination of sites to the National Register of Historic Places. For the list of sites that received grants, click here.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced Monday that it had reached a settlement with the online gaming site Miniclip, alleging that the site misrepresented its adherence to a program that monitors platforms’ compliance with a federal privacy act known as COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act).
  • Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Dan Brouillette issued an order on Monday that authorized exports from a proposed Jordan Cove natural gas terminal in Oregon. This would be the first project to ship liquid natural gas from the West Coast.

Other News

  • COVID-19 cases continue to rapidly increase in the U.S. and states are responding by mandating masks and halting reopening plans. Since the beginning of July, close to 300,000 new cases have been reported in the U.S.
    • Hospitalizations are increasing and personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospital workers is running low again.
    • However, cases are not growing across the board. Virginia reported no new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday for the first time since April. In the region including the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, 659 cases were reported Monday, the lowest daily increase since April 3.
  • Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines agreed to terms for loans from the Department of Treasury to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
    • We previously reported that American Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and Frontier Airlines also agreed to terms for loans last week.
  • According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, states could face a collective budget shortfall of up to $615B over three fiscal years due to COVID-19.
  • The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that unsolicited robocalls to cell phones will continue to be banned. Political consultants, who brought the lawsuit, argued that a debt collection exception to the blanket robocall ban put in place by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court majority eliminated the exception for debt collection but upheld the overall ban.
  • Numerous companies throughout the transportation industry received loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, according to new data released by the Small Business Administration (SBA) yesterday. A modal breakdown of the relief is as follows:
    • Almost 11,000 trucking companies received loans that totaled more than $3.5B, which helped save more than 440,000 jobs.
    • In the maritime industry, a wide range of companies, from shipping and barge companies to ferry and regional cruise lines, received at least $212M, which saved 19,000 jobs.
    • Rail transportation companies, most of which are smaller freight railroads or rail service or support firms, were given at least $48M, which led to the 5,000 jobs being kept.
    • In transit and passenger transportation, such as bus lines and commuter rail, around $100M was given, which led to 15,000 people keeping their jobs.
      • Proterra, an electric bus manufacturer, received between $5-$10M.
    • Air transportation companies received at least $343M in loans, securing at least 60,000 jobs.
      • Of note, most of the air transportation businesses that received loans were smaller businesses that offered general aviation services, airport support, or training.
  • Retail Industry Leaders Association President Brian Dodge sent a letter on Monday to Governors Larry Hogan (R-MD) and Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), respectively the chair and vice chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), asking that Governors mandate customers wear masks in retail stores nationwide. 
  • A bipartisan group of former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and DOT heads filed a legal brief criticizing the Trump Administration’s revocation of California’s fuel economy waiver. The brief said the revocation had “no valid legal, factual, or logical basis.” The officials on the brief included former Transportation Secretaries Federico Peña, Rodney Slater, Norman Mineta, Ray LaHood and Anthony Foxx, and former EPA Administrators William Reilly, Carol Browner, Christine Todd Whitman and Lisa Jackson.
  • New York State Attorney General Letitia James mandated that the California-based Black Lives Matter Foundation, which is unaffiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, stop collecting donations in New York.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business and agricultural groups on Monday defined in a letter what could make the Phase 1 trade deal between the United States and China go smoothly. The letter articulated that for Phase 1 to be a success, there needs to be a renewed effort to purchase U.S. manufactured goods, energy products, aircraft, autos and auto parts, services, and agricultural goods. Without this happening, the business groups said, it would be much more difficult to agree on a Phase 2 agreement, which would handle more challenging issues such as cybersecurity, digital trade and data governance and competition policy.
  • A coalition of 100 business groups led by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) sent a letter to the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees asking for a fix to a “costly drafting error” in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) implementation bill. The provision, which is found in Section 205 of the USMCA Implementation Act, allows companies to receive a refund for the government merchandise processing fee at the time of their import. However, the USMCA provision prevents companies from filing a post-importation claim.
  • A number of significant decisions have emerged regarding pipelines over the last few days.
    • The Supreme Court reinstated the Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit 12 to allow new oil and gas pipelines, except the Keystone XL pipeline, to be built. The Keystone XL pipeline, which was the subject of the original lawsuit that rose to the Supreme Court, had held up construction on almost 70 mostly minor pipeline projects.
    • On Sunday, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy ended plans for the 600-mile long Atlantic Coast Pipeline after a decision out of Montana Federal court blocked a key water permit for the already over-budget project.
    • On Monday, the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia issued a ruling that the Dakota Access Pipeline must be emptied until the Army Corps of Engineers completes an environmental impact review that was never completed.
  • The period for countries to nominate a candidate to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO) ends Wednesday. Typically, the process of selecting a new WTO Director General takes 9 months. So far, the following five people have been nominated:
    • Mr. Jesús Seade Kuri of Mexico
    • Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria
    • Mr. Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh of Egypt
    • Mr. Tudor Ulianovschi of Moldova
    • Ms. Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea
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