Coronavirus Update
December 22, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for state, local, and regional government.
Top News
Last night, Congress approved a $900 billion coronavirus relief package as part of a massive $2.3 trillion deal to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2021 (i.e., through September 30, 2021) and provide long-sought coronavirus relief. The deal, titled the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (H.R. 133), ties the $900 billion relief package to the $1.4 trillion FY 2021 appropriations omnibus package (consisting of all 12 annual spending bills). NACo and NLC expressed disappointment with the coronavirus relief legislation (see Industry & Advocacy below).

The House passed H.R. 133 in two parts. The first portion, including FY 2021 appropriations for Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Homeland Security, and Financial Services-General Government funding, passed by a vote of 327-85. The second part, including the coronavirus relief package and other spending measures along with additional extraneous legislation, passed by a vote of 359-53. The Senate passed the bill 92-6. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

The package does not include additional direct aid for state and local governments to cover lost revenue and other COVID-related expenditures. However, additional funding was approved to support emergency rental assistance, testing and tracing, and child development block grant programs, for example, which will trickle down to local governments. Importantly, the package extends the use, by states and localities, of CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) from December 30, 2020, to December 31, 2021. The CRF deadline extension does not provide any additional flexibility on how the already appropriated CRF funds can be utilized. For a more detailed summary, please refer to TFG’s COVID Relief Bill Brief.

In observance of the upcoming holidays, the next TFG Coronavirus Update will be published on January 7, 2021. TFG will continue updating clients on important developments in the interim.

Capitol Hill. Representatives Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Brad Schneider (D-IL) and 14 other Members wrote a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar regarding questions on the nation’s deployment of COVID-19 vaccines and supply transparency.

The Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman Jim Clyburn issued subpoenas to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield regarding the agencies’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Fox News he will insist that any COVID-19 relief next year include liability protections against coronavirus lawsuits (The Hill).

Please visit our TFG Coronavirus Legislative Trackers public health & safety, local government relief, and business assistance for detailed information on recently introduced bills.

Administration. Moncef Slaoui, head of the Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed, said states will be shipped just under 8 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine this week.

CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices approved recommendations about whether more seniors and high-risk groups should be given priority over some essential workers. The recommendations are nonbinding but might help states in settling challenging ethical questions over how to fairly divide up scarce supply of doses.

Assistant Secretary for Health Administration Brett Giroir stated in an interview with CNN that the vaccines are effective against many variants of the coronavirus and the public should not be worried about potential mutations of the virus.

HHS announced guidance authorizing the National Guard to administer COVID-19 vaccinations.

NIH is working to devise a study to find out why, in rare cases, people have had allergic reactions to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. No cases have yet been associated with the Moderna vaccine. The study is recruiting volunteers who have had a history of severe allergic reactions and will receive the vaccine under close clinical supervision.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he expects Americans will start receiving stimulus checks as early as next week from the COVID-19 relief package that Congress has approved.

President Trump signed a seven-day stopgap measure providing funding for federal government operations through December 28 while the Consolidated Appropriations Act is prepared for the President’s consideration.

FHA announced it is extending the foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single family FHA-insured mortgages for an additional two months through February 28.

The FHA is also extending through February 28, 2021, the deadline for single family borrowers with FHA-insured mortgages to request an initial COVID-19 forbearance from their mortgage servicer to defer or reduce their mortgage payments for up to six months, which can be extended for an additional six months.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams called on recovered COVID-19 patients to consider donating COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP). A CCP donation may benefit people who are newly diagnosed with COVID-19. More than 250,000 courses of CCP have been administered to Americans to help prevent severe consequences from COVID-19.

FDA has updated its COVID-19 Response At-A-Glance” Summary.

CDC announced there were 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the US during the 12 months ending in May 2020 – the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period. While overdose deaths were already increasing in the months preceding the pandemic, CDC found the latest numbers suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the pandemic.

NIH awarded over $107 million to support new, non-traditional approaches and reimagined uses of existing tools to address gaps in COVID-19 testing and surveillance. The program also will develop platforms that can be deployed in future outbreaks of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

NIH also awarded eight research grants to develop approaches for identifying children at high risk for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a rare and severe after-effect of COVID-19.

Federal agencies released guidance recommending that airports and airlines encourage “pre-departure and post-arrival” COVID-19 testing for passengers. 
Industry & Advocacy
NACo and NLC expressed disappointment with the coronavirus relief and omnibus appropriations package. “We call on the next Congress and President-elect Biden to enact a bipartisan coronavirus relief package that delivers direct, flexible federal aid to counties of all sizes,” NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase said. NLC’s CEO Clarence E. Anthony said, “It is beyond disappointing that after months of watching our hometowns and our local economies ravaged by COVID-19, congressional leaders have failed to deliver critical support for the first responders, public safety personnel, and municipal officials…”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is holding a vaccination “kick-off” event today for its front-line employees. Six employees will receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a live event, which will include remarks from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, NIH director Francis Collins, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, among others. 

The Hill provided an outline of the massive coronavirus relief package and how major industries fared in the relief measure. The article focuses on airlines, hotels, entertainment venues, alcohol producers, and state and local governments, among others.  
Webinars, Events and Resources
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For more information please contact Mike Miller: (707) 224-8648