Coronavirus Update
April 27, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for towns and townships
Federal Response
On Friday, President Trump signed the $484 billion Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act ( P.L. 116-139 ), Congress’s fourth piece of legislation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Capitol Hill now turns to a “CARES 2” package, which is facing resistance from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and others who have expressed concerns about adding to the national debt. However, there is wide agreement that additional spending will be needed to stave off the most negative economic impacts of the pandemic. Infrastructure spending may be an area of potential agreement between Capitol Hill and the White House as approving surface transportation and water infrastructure authorization legislation this year remains a priority for both parties. Discussions continue about providing additional aid to state and local governments in the next package, but no agreement has been reached between Democrats and Republicans on whether or how much aid should be provided. 

Capitol Hill. The House voted last week to create the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis led by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC). Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will announce her appointment of the six additional House Democrats (in addition to Chairman Clyburn) who will serve on the 12-member subcommittee, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will appoint 5 House Republicans to the subcommittee.

House Democrats called for the federal government to ramp up efforts to determine how to reopen states, schools, and non-essential businesses. Reps. Donna Shalala (D-FL) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) released legislation that would detail a plan for how the federal government will work with states on their reopening strategies, including easing closures and shelter-in-place orders.

On April 24 the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released economic projections for the second quarter of 2020, finding the economy will experience a sharp, 12-percent GDP contraction - equivalent to an annualized decline of 40 percent. CBO also expects the unemployment rate to average nearly 14-percent during the second quarter. CBO notes the projections, subject to enormous uncertainty, reflect information from a number of sources, including high-frequency indicators, private-sector forecasts, and projections of the extent of social distancing derived from a range of scenarios for the future course of the pandemic. CBO’s projections incorporate an expectation that the current extent of social distancing across the country will continue—on average and with regional variation—through June. The agency’s projections also include the possibility of a reemergence of the pandemic.

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Andy Levin (D-MI) released a white paper outlining a proposal to establish a COVID-19 contact tracing program. The proposal includes a request that the CDC provide grants to localities and health departments to hire and deploy the resources necessary to begin contact tracing. The White House has also begun reviewing interim guidance for how to reopen American childcare programs, schools, mass transit, and other non-essential businesses. 

Bills and Letters of Interest

  • Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) letter to the Treasury Department stating the need for Economic Impact Payments to reach those without access to the internet who cannot file a tax return electronically.
  • Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) letter to CDC regarding a national system for tracking the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) letter requesting information on the application process for the PPP from large banks that have participated.
  • Congressman Andy Levin (D-MI), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), and Don Young (R-AK) letter signed by more than 100 House members urging House leadership to include stabilization funding for America’s libraries in future COVID-19 legislation.
  • Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2020, introduced by Sens. Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) expanding eligibility for SNAP benefits. 

Administration. SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin issued a joint statement explaining that the SBA will resume accepting PPP loan applications today, April 27 at 10:30 AM EDT from approved lenders on behalf of any eligible borrower.

The Federal Reserve announced it will disclose the local governments and businesses that borrow from the Main Street Lending Program and Municipal Lending Facility, which offers loans for those facing financial strain due to COVID-19.

The Treasury Department released an FAQ clarifying the eligibility of large companies to apply for the emergency SBA loans that provide relief for major companies during the pandemic. The guidance comes after multiple large companies received financing through the program that was intended for small businesses. Treasury provided information on how large companies who have already received loans can return the emergency funds.

DHHS announced plans for additional action by the CDC to support states and local governments in their efforts to reopen. The new funding will also help public health departments expand their testing, contact tracing, and containment of COVID-19. 

USDA released a stakeholder announcement to provide guidance on the resources included in the recently passed Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. USDA’s Rural Energy for American program (REAP), Community Facilities and Waste and Wastewater, and other lenders may approve and make covered loans under PPP.

The U.S. Postal Service is revising some hazardous-shipment rules to help with use of diagnostic tests for the coronavirus, according to a notice published in the Federal Register .
Advocacy
NACo is hosting a national call today, April 27 at 4:00 PM EDT , featuring a guest speaker from the Department of Health and Human Services to discuss new federal resources available to county leaders to support elderly and disabled residents during the pandemic.
News and Resources
EPA will host a panel of experts to provide advice on “scientific and technical issues related to the COVID-19 Pandemic and opportunities for current and future EPA research activities that might enhance and inform EPA’s current and any future responses to SARS-CoV-2.” The public teleconference will be held on Thursday, April 30 from 1:00 PM ET – 5:00 PM ET.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced more than $13.2 billion to support K-12 continued learning that has been impacted by the coronavirus. The funds may be used for distancing learning, ensuring student health and safety, and implementing plans for the upcoming school year. 
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.