Coronavirus Update
April 13, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for towns and townships
Federal Response
Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that Republicans will continue to push for a $250 billion increase to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which would provide funds to help small businesses respond to the economic impacts of the coronavirus. However, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a joint statement demanding urgent and ongoing action from Congress to provide additional relief for small businesses and families, including actions to pass a CARES Act 2 that will extend and expand the benefits included in the CARES Act. The PPP could run out of funding as early as Friday, April 17, according to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, so legislative action is likely to occur this week.

Numerous legislative proposals and Dear Colleague letters are circulating on Capitol Hill in an attempt by Members to include additional funding and legislative provisions in the upcoming package. For example, NATaT is one of many endorsing organizations of a bipartisan effort to make state and local governments eligible for emergency paid leave payroll tax credits. Media reports will be released later today. House Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) led 75 members of Congress in calling for $4.3 billion in supplemental funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in the next COVID-19 package to assist low-income families pay for heating, cooling, and water bills during the coronavirus pandemic. Rep. Bonamici also called upon House Leadership to provide no less than $15.1 billion in workforce funding in the next response package.

Additionally, Members of Congress have been advocating to the Administration regarding changes or administrative actions regarding COVID-19. For example, House Members sent a letter to the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services secretaries regarding the establishment of a new Special Enrollment Period for health care coverage. Also, the Chairs of multiple House Committees sent a letter on April 10 requesting increased independence of Inspectors General to protect them from retaliation. The letter highlights the recent removal of the newly-appointed Chair of Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.  

Administration. On April 9, the Federal Reserve announced it would finance up to $2.3 trillion in further economic support for the U.S. as it aims to steer the economy through the economic impacts of COVID-19, including $500 billion to buy short-term state municipal bonds (through September 30, 2020). The “ Municipal Liquidity Facility ” will purchase up to $500 billion of short term notes directly from U.S. States, counties with more than two million residents, and cities with more than one million residents. Eligible state-level issuers may use the proceeds to purchase similar notes issued by counties and cities with populations of less than two million and one million, respectively. The primary purpose of this Facility is to aid the cash crunch that many states and localities will feel from Congress pushing back the tax filing deadline to July 15, with a second enumerated use of the funds to be used for “potential reductions of tax and other revenues of increases in expenses related to or resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Wireline Competition Bureau will begin accepting applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program beginning today at 12:00 PM ET. The Program will provide $200 million, included as part of the CARES Act, to help health care providers furnish connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the pandemic. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) sent a letter to hospital administrations requesting data on testing, capacity, supplies, utilization, and patient flows to facilitate the ongoing public health response to assist in the overall federal responses. 

On April 10 USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), a Rural Development announced an additional $100 million would be available for the Broadband Pilot (ReConnect) Program by way of enacted coronavirus legislation. TFG wrote about the additional ReConnect funding and other related broadband provisions in the CARES Act in a recent briefing

FEMA issued a temporary/final rule on April 10 allocating for domestic use certain scarce or threatened materials types of personal protective equipment. Under the temporary/final rule, the listed materials may not be exported from the United States without explicit approval by FEMA. The list includes certain respirator equipment, protective masks, and protective gloves.

NATaT is closely tracking the activities of the Treasury Department as it relates to the Coronavirus Relief Fund. A Senior Treasury Official indicated that the guidance could be released as early as this Friday, April 17, with the funds likely to be released on or around April 24. NATaT is also hearing that the web portal, where eligible local governments can submit their certifications, will be up and running soon. 
Advocacy
NATaT sent a second letter to Congressional leadership outlining our priorities in the next round of COVID legislation. Also, National Governors Association Chair Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Vice Chair New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement Saturday asking Congress to make changes to the CARES Act to allow states to use state stabilization funds for replacement of lost revenue and to cover expenses not directly tied to COVID-19. They are also asking for an addition $500 billion to states to meet budgetary shortfalls.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors issued a statement last week expressing support for congressional efforts to pass additional emergency COVID-19 relief for municipalities.  
News and Resources
Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue unveiled a one-stop-shop of federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide is a first-of-its-kind resource for rural leaders looking for federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address the pandemic. 

GovPredict tracks federal, state, and local responses to the Coronavirus, including state bills, governor orders, and local documents. 

The Congress Research Service (CRS) released three reports of interest this weekend:
Federal Agency Intergovernmental Contacts
Primary points of contact at federal agencies can be found below:

For more information please contact NATaT Federal Director Jennifer Imo at jimo@tfgnet.com or 202.454.3947