Coronavirus Update
July 30, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for state, local, and regional government.
Top News
As of this morning there is no apparent progress in negotiations regarding House and Senate coronavirus relief legislation. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the Trump Administration and Congress are “nowhere close to a deal” on a new coronavirus relief package, and predicted enhanced unemployment insurance benefits will expire tomorrow. The New York Times reports just how far apart Republicans and Democrats are on major policy issues. More details on the new Republican proposal are provided below under the Capitol Hill section.

The US economy decreased at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 32.9 percent during the second quarter of 2020 following the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic according to a Commerce Department report this morning.  The Labor Department reports 1.43 million new claims for unemployment benefits – the 19 th week in a row with new claims exceeding 1 million.

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

Senate Republicans released their $1 trillion version of the next coronavirus relief package on Monday. The Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools Act (HEALS Act) was released as a package of eight bills.

Unlike the House bill, the HEALS Act does not include additional state and local aid. However, HEALS does propose new flexibility for existing Coronavirus Relief Fund relief: 

  • The deadline to spend CRF is extended to 90 days after the recipient’s 2021 fiscal year.
  • Recipients can use CRF to cover revenue shortfalls if the government certifies it has distributed at least 25% of CRF funds to downstream governments. In addition, a government can use no more than 25% of its allocation to cover revenue shortfalls.
  • Revenue shortfalls eligible for recovery are those experienced from March 1, 2020, to 90 days after the last day of the government’s 2021 fiscal year.
  • CRF cannot be used to replenish rainy day funds and cannot be used for pensions or postemployment benefits. 

Other key provisions:

  • Individual unemployment insurance reduced from $600 to $200/week.
  • $1,200 direct payments at individual incomes of $75,000 or less a year, with $500 in benefits for each child or adult dependent. (The bill passed by House Democrats two months ago also includes $1,200 stimulus payments, but has $1,200 benefits per child, up to a total of $6,000 per household.)
  • $105 billion in education funding, with $70 billion going to elementary, middle and high schools; $29 billion for colleges and universities and $5 billion to a flexible fund. Two-thirds of the money would go to schools that institute reopening plans and the rest to schools generally, under existing federal formulas. The White House wants to tie school aid to reopening plans, but Democrats are opposed. Democrats are demanding $430 billion for schools.
  • Allows student borrowers to delay loan repayments and then cap loan payments at 10% of income minus housing costs.
  • Employer liability protections: businesses, schools, charities and other organizations are protected from COVID-19-related lawsuits through Oct. 1, 2024, as long as they make “reasonable” efforts to follow public health guidelines and don’t commit acts of “gross negligence” or “intentional misconduct.”
  • Extends the Paycheck Protection Program adding $60 billion to a program that still has $130 billion left from the last stimulus. Small businesses with fewer than 300 employees that can show revenue losses of 50% or more since the pandemic began would be able to apply for second PPP loans.
  • $16 billion to help states ramp up tests and contact tracing.
  • Tax credits for the increased costs that businesses are facing to shield workers and customers against the virus. It includes a credit to cover some of what companies spend on testing, personal protective equipment, workplace cleaning and retrofitting facilities to adhere to distancing guidelines.

House and Senate Democrats introduced The Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program (HELP) Act aimed at providing support to those facing evictions. The bill focuses on providing legal advice, requires HHS to collect information on evictions, restricts credit reporting of evictions and limits adverse credit information based on eviction to one year, and requires covered landlords to inform their tenants of their rights and responsibilities.

Tomorrow (Friday) the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will hold hearing at 9:00 am ET with Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and HHS Assistant Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir. The hearing is entitled, “The Urgent Need for a National Plan to Contain the Coronavirus."

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report on economic activity and the expiration of COVID-19 relief programs and provisions. CRS also updated its report on COVID-19’s impact on household employment and income.

There are a few coronavirus-related hearings this week, including: 

Administration.   HHS released a report showing the utilization trends of telehealth services for primary care delivery in Fee-for-Service (FFS) Medicare in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report underscores how telehealth flexibilities, introduced at the start of the pandemic, helped spur and maintain Medicare beneficiaries’ access to their primary care providers.

HHS also announced the COVID-19 Insights Partnership, an initiative to coordinate and share health data as well as research and expertise to aid in the fight against COVID-19. HHS is partnering with the Departments of Energy and Veterans Affairs. 
Industry & Advocacy
NACo published a blog post on the recently introduced HEALS Act. NACo expressed concerns with the bill’s provisions that would permit CARES Act funding to be used for revenue shortfalls only if counties above 500,000 population have distributed at least 25 percent of the funding to other governments within their jurisdictions. “This provision is unworkable, and counties strongly urge the Senate to abandon the state and local aid provisions of the HEALS Act and instead provide additional flexible aid to counties of all sizes.”

NLC published an article quoting local leaders throughout the country and their concerns with the Senate HEALS package. 
Webinars, Events and Resources
NLC Webinar: City Strategies to Support Homeless and At-Risk Residents in Light of COVID-19
July 30, 1:30 PM – 2:45 PM EDT

NACo WEBINAR: How Counties Are Using CARES Act Dollars to Support Local Economies and Workforce
August 6, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT

NACo WEBINAR: How Counties are Investing CARES Act Dollars in Social Security Net Services
August 19, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT
For more information please contact Mike Miller: (707) 224-8648