On December 27, President Donald Trump signed into law a massive $2.3 trillion deal to provide long-sought coronavirus relief and to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2021 (i.e., through September 30, 2021). The deal, titled the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (P.L. 116-260), ties the $900 billion relief package to the $1.4 trillion FY 2021 appropriations omnibus package (consisting of all 12 annual spending bills). The President had called for numerous changes to the legislation, including $2,000 stimulus checks instead of the $600 checks agreed to by Congress. However, after it was clear Congress would not be able to approve his proposed changes before federal funding was again set to expire on December 28, the President signed the bill into law. In a signing statement, the President outlined his outstanding issues with the legislation.
As we previously reported, 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, 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) to December 31, 2021. For more information, please refer to TFG’s COVID Relief Bill Brief.
Capitol Hill. The House and Senate are in recess until Inauguration Day on Wednesday, January 20. With Tuesday’s election victories in Georgia for Senators-elect Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA), the Senate Democratic Caucus will increase to 50 members in the coming weeks, giving Democrats the majority in the Senate for the first time since 2014 (with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote). This also means that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is poised to become the new Senate Majority Leader, controlling the legislative agenda for the next two years alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
House and Senate committees will continue to formally organize themselves over the next several weeks, including the adoption of their rules and procedures. Committee assignments for rank-and-file members in the House and Senate will continue to be made, and the Chair and Ranking Member positions for Senate Committees will formally be adopted. Big-ticket items over the next several months that Congress will likely consider include another COVID relief bill and some type of infrastructure package.
Administration. HHS announced more than $22 billion will be provided to states, localities, and territories to support testing and vaccination-related activities to jurisdictions before January 19.
The IRS issued guidance allowing deductions for the payments of eligible expenses when such payments would result in the forgiveness of a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program. This new guidance obsoleted prior guidance disallowing these deductions.
The IRS updated its Get My Payment tool with information related to the second round of Economic Impact Payments.
The Department of the Treasury outlined how $25 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding will be distributed. Funds will be distributed to states and local governments with more than 200,000 residents and may be used to assist households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau issued a request for comment on how best to administer a new $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program created by Congress to help low-income consumers access the Internet.
The Department of Education announced $54 billion in emergency relief funding to support reopening K-12 schools, facilitate continuity of learning, and measure the address the learning loss caused by a lack of in-person learning opportunities. Detailed information is here.
DOL released an FAQ on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
DOL announced updated guidance to states regarding two unemployment insurance programs: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC).
SBA announced the deadline to apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program for the COVID-19 Pandemic disaster declaration is extended to Dec. 31, 2021.
FAA established the Airport Coronavirus Response Grant Program. FAA will make grants to all airports that are part of the national airport system, including all commercial service airports, all reliever airports, and some public-owned general aviation airports.
DOL announced initial unemployment insurance claims at 787,000, a decrease of 3,000 from the prior week. The insured unemployment rate was 3.5 percent for the week ending December 26, unchanged from the previous week.
Vaccine News. A Phase 2/3 clinical trial will evaluate a combination investigational monoclonal antibody therapy for its safety and efficacy for those who have mild or moderate COVID-19. The trial is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.
A peer-reviewed report found the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to be 94.1% efficacious in preventing symptomatic coronavirus disease.
The Phase 3 trial of another investigational COVID-19 vaccine began enrolling adult volunteers. The randomized, placebo-controlled trial will enroll approximately 30,000 people at approximately 115 sites in the U.S. and Mexico. It will evaluate the safety and efficacy of the NVX-CoV2373, a vaccine candidate developed by Novavax, Inc.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union representing thousands of grocery workers is hoping to see the vaccine as soon as possible for frontline grocery store workers. Healthcare workers and residents in long-term facilities make up the first groups to get the vaccine, with grocery store workers currently listed in group 1B for vaccination.
There are 11 grocery store chains across the country approved to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. A list of the stores is available here.
Data analyzed by the Associated Press showed many minority-owned companies did not receive PPP loans until the last few weeks of the program.
According to a new Hill-HarrisX poll, three-fourths of voters surveyed say that the $600 in coronavirus relief payments is “too little.”
The FAA closed airspace over Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport after a controller tested positive for COVID-19 at the Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility. Nearly 300 air traffic control centers nationwide have been affected by COVID-19, leading to flight delays as facilities are closed for cleaning.
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