Coronavirus Update
June 18, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for state, local, and regional government.
Top News
President Trump said during a Fox News interview Wednesday the coronavirus is "fading away" as states continue to reopen. Fox News reports the President said, "We're very close to a vaccine and we're very close to therapeutics, really good therapeutics. But even without that, I don't like to talk about that because it's fading away. It's going to fade away, but having a vaccine would be really nice and that's going to happen."

Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece Tuesday, “…we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.” The Vice President criticized the media for stoking concerns about a potential second wave of coronavirus cases. “Such panic is overblown,” he said. The NYT reported the Vice President encouraged governors to downplay new community spread of the coronavirus and attribute spikes to increases in testing.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday in an NPR radio interview the last time he talked to the President was "two weeks ago" about "vaccine development efforts." Fauci told the Wall Street Journal Tuesday the US is “still in a first wave” of the coronavirus pandemic.

Oversight. Trillions of dollars have and will be transferred from the federal government to individuals, businesses, and non-federal government entities. Oversight is critically important to ensure funding is utilized effectively while safeguarding public confidence in the federal response. 

  • The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee released a report on the key challenges facing all federal departments and agencies in COVID-19 relief and response efforts.
  • Today, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Acting Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Tomas Philipson, and Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought, demanding the Department release unemployment and economic projections to Congress.
  • Chairman Clyburn led letters from the Subcommittee’s Democratic Members seeking documents and information on the disbursement of funds under the PPP from the Treasury Department, SBA, and eight national banks.
  • Politico reported at least four Members of Congress received PPP loans; many Members of Congress have called on the Administration to release the identities of PPP and other relief program participants.
  • On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Tweeted he will “be having discussions” with senators on balancing Paycheck Protection Program oversight with protecting small business information.”
  • The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis launched an investigation into the coronavirus crisis in nursing homes, sending letters to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services seeking information on the enforcement of health and safety regulations during the crisis, data collection, and provision of life-saving supplies. 

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.

Five legislators wrote  to HHS Secretary Alex Azar reasserting their request for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to help uninsured and underinsured Americans sign up for health insurance coverage amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter notes more than 20 million Americans who recently lost their employer-based health insurance may be eligible for subsidized coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

More than 120 House Members sent a letter to Congressional leadership calling for policies in future pandemic-relief legislation that would ensure the “well-being of our agricultural producers and workforce.”

Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) led 18 Members in the California Delegation in a letter that calls on House leadership to include robust funding for deferred maintenance and wildland fire preparedness needs in the National Forest System.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee began marking up a surface transportation reauthorization bill on Wednesday.  The bill is likely to include provisions related to relief for state and local transportation projects and transit operations; we will provide an update as the markup unfolds. The markup webcast is here .

Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) were joined by 28 senators on a letter asking Senate leadership to permanently expand telehealth services after the coronavirus pandemic ends.

A group of 179 House Democrats wrote a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer urging relief for the clean energy sector which has lost more than 600,000 jobs since February. The group advocates extending expiring tax credits and converting some tax breaks to direct payments.

Hearings

There are numerous hearings this week, including:


Administration. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Congress should extend enhanced unemployment insurance after the $600 increase to unemployment expires on July 31. During a House Financial Services Committee hearing this week, Powell stated “It’s important to just keep in mind that some of the jobs are not coming back soon” in reference to travel, hospitality, dining, entertainment and leisure industries.

The Federal Reserve Board launched registration for its Main Street Lending Program (MSLP) on Monday. The MSLP is designed to prop up businesses that were stable before the pandemic with emergency loans. Under the MSLP, a business with up to 15,000 employees or 2019 revenue no greater than $5 billion can apply for a loan to be repaid in five years.

HHS released a “ Fact Sheet: Explaining Operation Warp Speed ,” detailing how the Administration plans to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021.

The Treasury Department and SBA released an easy version of the PPP loan forgiveness form requiring fewer calculations and documents. A revised version of the standard form was also released. The changes stem from congressional direction changing the program, including a 24-week program extension.

The FCC approved an additional 62 funding applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, totaling $128.23 million in overall awards from the program.

The Federal Housing Administration announced a two-month extension of its foreclosure and eviction moratorium through August 31, 2020, for homeowners with FHA-insured Single Family mortgages.

The SBA resumed accepting applications from small businesses for loans under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Emergency Advance. SBA stopped taking new requests for EIDL loans and grants when initial funding ran out on April 15. EIDL received more than 5 million applications before temporarily shutting down.
Advocacy
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) urged Americans to support the nation’s health departments as they receive increased scrutiny on keeping businesses closed and requiring PPE for individuals as the nation begins to reopen. “Public health departments are facing lawsuits over their authority to close businesses, schools, and places of worship in order to protect the community at large.” 
Webinars, Events and Resources
NACo Webinar: Tips to Defend Against Cyberattacks Related to COVID-19
June 18, 2:00 – 3:00 PM EDT
 
NACo Webinar: FEMA Continuity of Operations Plans (COOP) during COVID-19
June 18, 3:30 – 5:00 PM EDT
 
FEMA WEBINAR SERIES - COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season
June 23, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm ET
June 24, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm ET
June 25, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm ET
 
CBO REPORT: Budgetary Effects of Laws Enacted in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The report details the latest figures of the deficit increase coming from the CARES Act. The bill alone accounted for $1.72 trillion in deficit increases expected over a decade. 
For more information please contact Zachary Israel zisrael@tfgnet.com (202) 256-4386