Coronavirus Update
June 1, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for state, local, and regional government.
Top News
Large-scale protests in communities across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 has many local leaders concerned that the large protest gatherings could cause a rise in coronavirus cases. Dr. Theodore Long, who is leading New York City’s contact tracing efforts, encouraged protestors to “ wear a mask, practice proper hand hygiene and to the extent possible, socially distance, though we know that’s not always going to be feasible .” It remains unclear how or if the protests will impact reopening efforts being implemented across the nation.

On May 29 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the next coronavirus response bill will be the “fourth and final” response package. He expects to begin considering the next proposal “in about a month.” Leader McConnell said additional funding for state and local governments could be included, along with assistance for schools, small businesses, and health care. He continues to prioritize liability protections for employers.

Leader McConnell also said more time is needed to assess the effectiveness of the other coronavirus response bills before considering more legislation. "We need to push the pause button here and think through the next step and do it very carefully," McConnell said. "We do have [to consider] the potential long-term health of the country with this level of massive debt." McConnell also said that he would not support extending the additional $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits set to expire on July 31 and explicitly endorsed a plan to include “a narrowly crafted liability protection” for businesses, individuals, nonprofits, and schools that would cover the period of December 2019—2024.

Democrats expressed frustration with Leader McConnell’s strategy. "Watching our Republican colleagues over the last few weeks, you'd never know that the nation is in the midst of crisis," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a letter to Senate Democrats. "As unemployment claims reach their highest levels since the Great Depression, Senate Republicans have decided to 'hit the pause button.'"

Capitol Hill. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) released the updated Summer 2020 House floor schedule . The House will hold “Committee Work Days” for the first four weeks of June and the first two weeks of July; floor votes during the weeks of June 29, July 20, and July 27; and a “District Work Period” for all of August and the first week of September. Leader Hoyer also sent a letter to House members outlining priorities including reauthorization of expiring surface transportation provisions; reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA); legislation to strengthen and expand the Affordable Care Act; and appropriation bills for Fiscal Year 2021.

On May 28 the House passed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act of 2020 ( HR 7010 ) by a vote of 417-1 . The legislation would provide more flexibility for small businesses utilizing the PPP by: extending the expense forgiveness period from eight weeks to twenty-four weeks; reducing the payroll ratio requirement from 75 percent down to 60 percent; extending loan terms from two to five years; allowing payroll tax deferment for PPP recipients without penalty; and extending the June 30 rehiring deadline to December 31, 2020. The bill is next headed to the Senate for consideration, while the Senate is simultaneously considering its own version of the bill.

While many view HR 7010 as a step in the right direction, some business owners and professional consultants – such as tax professionals – expressed frustration with the Administration’s rollout of the law and associated guidance. According to Forbes , “many are finding the current guidance does not provide the right level of flexibility to help small businesses and self-employed individuals succeed.” The Forbes article concludes, “The demand for greater clarity from PPP loan borrowers and the tax community is growing. We need to hope that Congress and the SBA take the steps to protect those who took these loans to protect their businesses.”

Bills and Letters of Interest

Please visit our TFG Coronavirus Legislative Trackers for public health & safety , local government relief , and business assistance .

HR 7043 (Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO)) withholds funding authorized under the CARES Act from any state or municipality that provides economic stimulus payments through a program designed to exclusively assist illegal aliens.

HR 7048 (Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)) codifies new requirements that nursing homes report communicable diseases, infections, and potential outbreaks to the CDC; that residents and their families are kept informed of infections inside the facilities; and requires facilities have both a crisis plan to manage an outbreak and a stockpile of personal protection equipment on hand.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) sent a l etter to FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor stating concerns about the agency’s ability to respond to disasters during the coronavirus pandemic and requesting a briefing on their preparation efforts.

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar looking for answers “regarding major misallocations of portions of the $175 billion authorized in relief packages intended for hospitals and other health care providers to cover COVID-19 care and lost revenue from procedures postponed by the pandemic.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) sent a letter , signed by the eight Democratic Members of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, to Defense Secretary Mark Esper “pressing for information as to why the Department has only placed on contract 23 percent of the CARES Act funds provided by Congress nearly nine weeks ago.” 

Hearings

There are numerous Congressional hearings taking place this week related to the coronavirus, including:


Administration. The Small Business Administration announced it is setting aside $10 billion of Round 2 funding for the PPP to be lent exclusively by Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), to expand economic opportunity for low-income communities.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a task order with Emergent BioSolutions to advance the manufacturing capabilities and capacity of a potential coronavirus vaccine. Under the order, Emergent will commit contract development and manufacturing organization drug substance and drug product manufacturing capacity valued at $542.75 million for production of coronavirus vaccine candidates through 2021. This effort is part of the Trump Administration’s “ Operation Warp Speed ” initiative.

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidance for employers on how to implement social distancing in the workplace and to help protect workers from exposure to the coronavirus. Safety measures mentioned in the guidance include the establishment of flexible worksites, stagger breaks and re-arranged seating in break areas, and isolation for any workers who begin to exhibit symptoms.

The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis released Personal Income and Outlays data estimating a 13.6 percent drop, or a $1.89 trillion decrease, in consumer spending in April amid the coronavirus.

The Department of Defense signed a $2.2 million contract with Hollingsworth & Vose to increase U.S. domestic production of 27.5 million N95 ventilator filters, and 3.1 million N95 respirators per month beginning in August.

The Treasury Department updated its FAQs document for the Coronavirus Relief Fund on May 28. The updated document notes “States should transfer funds to local governments with populations of 500,000 or less, using as a benchmark the per capita allocation formula that governs payments to larger local governments. This approach will ensure equitable treatment among local governments of all sizes.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Friday the central bank is days away from opening its program to finance emergency loans for businesses derailed by COVID-19. Powell said that the Fed would soon begin purchasing loans made to businesses through its Main Street Lending Program (MSLP) after months of building out the new emergency facility. Through the MSLP, the Fed will buy nearly all of a loan offered from a bank to a business with no more than 15,000 employees or $5 billion in annual revenue.

FEMA announced President Trump will be extending National Guard deployments, which are 100% federally funded under Title 32, through mid-August to assist states in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. Each state’s National Guard is still under the authority of its respective Governor and is working in concert with the Department of Defense.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced steps “to streamline development of tests with at-home sample collection.”

FEMA issued a guidance document to help cities and counties prepare for the 2020 hurricane season in the context of the ongoing pandemic. While focused on hurricane season preparedness, most planning considerations can also be applied to any disaster operation in the COVID-19 environment, including no-notice incidents, spring flooding and wildfire seasons, and typhoon response. FEMA is hosting webinars on the guidance (see below).
Events and Resources
FEMA WEBINAR SERIES - COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season
Webinar 1: June 2, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm ET
Webinar 2: June 4, 10:00 am – 11:00 am ET

NACo WEBINAR - Administering an Election during the COVID-19 Crisis
June 3, 2020, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
This webinar will discuss the challenges of navigating an election in the age of COVID-19. The webinar will include a focus on how states are planning for primaries and the general election, a discussion of considerations for counties implementing vote-by-mail, and a look at considerations and costs around personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing related to polling places.
 
NACo WEBINAR - EDA CARES Act Funding Availability
June 5, 2020, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
This webinar will feature EDA representatives sharing information regarding who qualifies for grants, how to apply, what kind of project support/assistance will be funded, and more.

NGA WHITE PAPER.  The National Governors Association released a white paper outlining best practices for managing natural disasters during a pandemic.

STATE LEGISLATION. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS) released the COVID-19 State Legislation Database , tracking more than 1,300 bills introduced in 42 state legislatures and D.C. related to the coronavirus.

Check out the TFG Coronavirus Library on Federal Guidance for CRS Reports and other recently released federal guidance and information.
For more information please contact Zachary Israel zisrael@tfgnet.com (202) 256-4386