Coronavirus Update
June 25, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for towns and townships
Top News
The NY Times reports the U.S. recorded 36,880 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the highest single-day total on record. In Texas, about 4,000 people with the virus are hospitalized, more than double the number at the beginning of June, and Houston’s intensive-care units are now filled to 97 percent capacity. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will require visitors from the following states with high positive test rates to quarantine for two weeks: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci told House lawmakers the nation is experiencing a “disturbing surge” of coronavirus infections as states reopen too quickly and without adequate plans for testing and tracing the contacts of those infected. “The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges we are seeing in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and other states,” Dr. Fauci told the panel as he and other leaders of the White House coronavirus task force appeared together for the first time in more than a month to brief Congress; a copy of their written testimony is here .

At a Bloomberg event this week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he expects “a spectacular rebound” in the third quarter, predicting the U.S. will be out of a recession by the end of the year. Secretary Mnuchin’s comments contradict those of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who said in testimony to the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday that “significant uncertainty remains about the timing and strength of the recovery.”

The application periods for SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program closes on June 30; over $100 billion in PPP funding reportedly remains available.

Capitol Hill. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar calling for the immediate distribution of $14 billion to ramp up testing and contact tracing capacity.

Rep. Van Taylor (R-TX) led a bipartisan letter urging Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Powell to provide economic support to the commercial real estate market.

Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), and 25 other lawmakers, sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue urging that America’s apple growers be included in the USDA’s economic relief efforts. The Members argue the coronavirus has drastically damaged apple growers and noted “these producers are often the backbones of rural communities.”

A group of Senate Democrats sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin outlining concerns with the Treasury Department’s move to send out coronavirus relief payments to taxpayers via prepaid debit cards. The concerns include the process of activating the prepaid cards which requires personal information that could be shared with third parties for marketing and other commercial purposes.

Oversight. Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Diana DeGette (D-CO)  wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, DOJ Attorney General William Barr, and DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf regarding oversight of suppliers of PPE testing supplies and other critical medical supplies.

The House Oversight Subcommittee on Government Operations is holding a hearing today, June 25 at 10:00 AM ET, on federal guidelines for reopening government workplaces following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) wrote to SBA Inspector General Hannibal Ware regarding a vulnerability in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) processing resulting in businesses receiving duplicate loans. “I am concerned that SBA may have issued more than a thousand duplicate loans, creating significant opportunities for fraud and potentially wasting more than $100 million in taxpayer dollars,” Clyburn wrote.

Administration.   USDA Secretary Perdue announced   the Farmers to Families Food Box Program has distributed more than 20 million food boxes in support of American farmers and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
HUD announced it is awarding $962,160 in funding to Fair Housing Assistance Program agencies in 17 states, including New York, South Carolina, California, Maryland, and Florida to support activities related to COVID-19.

HHS announced Morehouse School of Medicine as the awardee for a $40 million initiative to fight COVID-19 in racial and ethnic minority, rural and socially vulnerable communities.

The Treasury Department released a new set of FAQs concerning the Coronavirus Relief Fund on June 24.

The Labor Department launched an interactive online tool to help workers determine if they qualify for paid sick leave or extended family and medical leave to cover time away from work for reasons related to the coronavirus.

The Hill r eports the Trump Administration is expected by Thursday to file a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down ObamaCare even as coronavirus cases climb across the U.S. and soaring unemployment forces millions off employer-based health plans.

In an analysis released today, the GAO found that the IRS sent stimulus checks totaling $1.4 billion to more than a million deceased individuals, Politico reports .

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced a new higher education discretionary grant program – The Reimagine Workforce Preparation Grant program – designed to develop new skills, provide innovators and inventors resources to expand existing businesses or build new ones, and encourage institutions of higher education to foster business development and innovation as America begins to recover from COVID-19-related.

Assistant Secretary for HHS Brett Giroir said the Administration is not abandoning federally funded coronavirus testing sites. Giroir said even though the government will stop directly funding 13 community-based coronavirus testing sites, the amount of testing will not decrease and the sites should not lose resources, according to The Hill . Giroir said the 13 federally funded sites, located in TX, IL, NJ, CO, and PA, will be supported by CARES Act funding and will remain open and operated by the states. Local officials in the states are urging the Administration to reconsider. “Losing the support of the federal government for testing sites will undoubtedly have catastrophic cascading consequences in the region’s ability to adequately test, quarantine and isolate,” said David Persse, who leads the Houston Health Department.
Advocacy
NLC reports 69% of municipalities have not received any money from the Coronavirus Relief Fund created by the CARES Act.  NLC queried more than 1,100 cities across the country, more than 8 in 10 of which registered a population of less than 50,000 people. The data suggests the smallest cities have faced the greatest trouble accessing limited federal support. Approximately 65% of cities either delayed or outright canceled their planned capital expenditures or infrastructure improvements.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) is requesting its public agency members to share their pandemic recovery or “Return-to-Work” plans with NACWA so NACWA can share the information to help other agencies benchmark their activities against those of their peers.  
Webinars, Events and Resources
NLC WEBINAR: How Cities Can Help Renters Navigate the Eviction Cliff
June 25, 12:00 pm – 1:15pm ET

NLC WEBINAR: Voting and Elections in a Pandemic
June 25, 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm ET

FEMA WEBINAR SERIES - COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season
June 25, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm ET

NACo WEBINAR: How Counties are Investing CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund Dollars
June 26, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm ET

NACo WEBINAR: Nursing Homes and COVID-19: Mitigating the Spread of the Virus Through Federal Guidance and Technology
June 30, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm ET

ICMA WEBINAR: Supporting Small Businesses During & After COVID-19
June 30, 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm ET

DOL WEBINAR: Coronavirus-Related Paid Sick Leave Requirements for Business Owners, Employers, and Other Stakeholders
June 30, 9:00 am – 10:30 am CDT
For more information please contact NATaT Federal Director Jennifer Imo at jimo@tfgnet.com