A bipartisan group of senators said Wednesday evening they had agreed with the White House on a framework for an infrastructure package and will brief President Joe Biden in person today on the details (Politico). The package is part of the ongoing response to economic impacts resulting from the pandemic.
The plan consists largely of details the bipartisan group released in recent weeks as the senators tried to gain momentum for their proposal. The plan reportedly includes $559 billion in new spending for roads, bridges, water infrastructure, and broadband (Roll Call). Negotiators acknowledge there are still details to be worked out and the group still needs to brief their caucuses and respective leaders. More details on the framework could be released as soon as today (Politico).
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reports Wednesday night, “We support the concepts that we have heard about,” but said the bipartisan infrastructure deal would need to be paired with a filibuster-proof budget reconciliation bill that would advance climate legislation, universal pre-K, and other “soft infrastructure” sought by Democrats. He said his hope was for both packages to be voted on in the House and Senate sometime in July. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reports, “We're very excited about the prospect of a bipartisan agreement” (E&E News). Speaker Pelosi also warned that the House would not vote on the bipartisan bill until House members can see the reconciliation bill (Roll Call). Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in a radio appearance Wednesday, “The devil’s in the details and we’ll have to make sure there’s not some kind of hidden tax increase in there, and I want to see that it’s credibly paid for” (Politico).
On June 23, 64 Democratic Senators and Representatives, led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT), sent a letter to President Biden calling on him to extend the pause on federal student loan payments until at least March 31, 2022 “or until the economy reaches pre-pandemic employment levels, whichever is longer.” Student loan payments are currently scheduled to resume on October 1, 2021. The letter states that “While the economic recovery is in progress, additional financial support is needed by students and families throughout the summer, when eviction and foreclosure moratoriums may lapse, and beyond September, when the extended unemployment benefits from the American Rescue Plan are set to expire.”
On June 22, the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis held a hearing with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on “Lessons Learned: The Federal Reserve’s Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic.” The hearing addressed the Fed’s management of two emergency lending facilities — the Main Street Lending Program and the Municipal Liquidity Facility — during the recent economic downturn, how the federal government can support Americans hardest hit by the pandemic as the recovery continues, and how to ensure a strong, sustainable, and equitable economic future. Powell expressed confidence that rising inflation and lackluster job growth would both turn around as the global economy smoothed out the kinks of reopening.
On June 22, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on “Vaccines: America’s Shot at Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The hearing focused on vaccines and the United States’ best shot at finally ending the COVID-19 pandemic, with experts from various backgrounds who discussed how to increase vaccine trust and outreach, particularly in communities where there are currently gaps in vaccination rates.
On June 23, Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) announced three new areas of bipartisan oversight as part of their ongoing work to develop policy proposals aimed at improving the nation’s public health and medical preparedness and response programs: identifying the greatest barriers to vaccination among communities of color, rural communities, Tribes, and other underserved communities, with the goal of identifying the most effective strategies to increase vaccine equity; assessing the root causes of supply shortages within the Strategic National Stockpile during H1N1, Ebola, and COVID-19; and reviewing information from federal agencies and relevant experts regarding the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19, and regarding how to improve the nation’s ability to assess the safety and security of biosafety laboratories.
Treasury continues updating its FAQs document related to the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. The FAQ was last updated on June 23 and 24 and is located here. The FAQ includes a guide noting when new items are added. Treasury also updated the status of fiscal relief payments to states for distribution to non-entitlement units of local government (NEUs).
The IRS is partnering with non-profit organizations, churches, community groups and others in 12 cities to help eligible families, particularly those who normally do not file a federal tax return, file a 2020 income tax return or register for the monthly Advance Child Tax Credit payments using the new Non-filer Sign-up Tool. This tool is also designed to help eligible individuals who don't normally file tax returns register for the $1,400 third round of Economic Impact Payments and claim the Recovery Rebate Credit for any amount of the first two rounds of Economic Impact Payments they may have missed.
The IRS also launched two additional online tools designed to help families manage and monitor the advance monthly payments of Child Tax Credits under the American Rescue Plan. The new Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant allows families to answer a series of questions to determine whether they qualify for the advance credit. The Child Tax Credit Update Portal allows families to verify their eligibility for the payments and if they choose to, unenroll, or opt out from receiving the monthly payments so they can receive a lump sum when they file their tax return next year.
The New York Times reports President Biden is considering a one-month extension of the federal eviction freeze.
The FCC published further guidance on the administration of the Connected Care Pilot Program, including guidance on eligible services, competitive bidding, invoicing, and data reporting for selected participants. Relevant documents are here.
NIH researchers report the prevalence of COVID-19 in the United States during spring and summer of 2020 far exceeded the known number of cases and that infection affected the country unevenly. For every diagnosed COVID-19 case in this time frame, the researchers estimate that there were 4.8 undiagnosed cases, representing an additional 16.8 million cases by July alone.
CDC and HHS awarded $200 million to 59 jurisdictions to bolster support and enhance the disease intervention specialists (DIS) workforce.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services released a new enrollment trends snapshot report showing a record high; over 80 million individuals have health coverage through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Nearly 9.9 million individuals, a 13.9% increase, enrolled in coverage between February 2020, the month before the public health emergency (PHE) was declared, to January 2021.
FEMA has provided nearly $364 million to 54,000 people for COVID-19 related funeral costs. The national average for an award is $6,756. Last week FEMA reported $278 million had been distributed.
As reported yesterday in TFG’s Transportation Notes (TN), Treasury announced the application portal is open for the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Program. CERTS was created to support transportation service providers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including motor coach, school bus, passenger vessel, and pilot vessel companies. The application deadline is July 19. Also in TN yesterday, The FAA announced $8 billion in ARPA Airport Rescue Grants.
Delta plans to hire 1,000 pilots by next summer as part of its effort to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Delta had to let go over 1,800 pilots last year through early retirement packages and placed another 1,700 pilots on inactive status. The company announced in March that it planned on having all pilots currently placed on inactive status back to work this fall.
Airline industry groups sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland last week asking him to crack down on violent passengers amid a string of confrontational incidents. The group includes Airlines for America, Allied Pilots Association, Transport Workers Union of America, and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is expected to extend service cuts on five New York City subway lines until late 2022. The extended service cuts come as the MTA is struggling to gain back past riders. Daily ridership is down 60 percent from before the pandemic.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors met with Dr. Anthony Fauci to discuss the urgent work cities are doing in conjunction with President Biden’s Month of Action to increase COVID-19 vaccinations. The Mayors Challenge, which is being led by Richmond, VA Mayor Levar Stoney, and USCM President and Dayton Mayor Van Whaley, aims to boost the percentage of residents vaccinated with at least one shot by July 4.
The National Governors Association (NGA) launched the “State Equitable Recovery Coalition” to partner with other national organizations and build on existing efforts to drive equitable economic recovery and growth championed by Governors of states and territories. The coalition will complement existing networks that NGA and other organizations are working with to take advantage of shared expertise to help drive a sustainable, equitable recovery and growth from the economic disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
HRSA’s Uninsured Program has paid over 5 million claims to health care providers for administering COVID-19 vaccines to uninsured individuals.
The NIAID is conducting a study to evaluate the immune responses generated by the COVID-19 vaccine administered to pregnant or postpartum women. The study will improve the understanding of antibody responses to the COVID-19 vaccine among pregnant and postpartum women and the transfer of antibodies to their infants during pregnancy or through breast milk.
The European Medicines Agency announced there are “good scientific grounds” that mixing different COVID-19 vaccines is safe and effective as most coronavirus vaccines work similarly by inducing an immune response to spike proteins.
The University of Oxford is developing an anti-parasitic drug as a COVID-19 treatment introducing the drug Ivermectin. Ivermectin is a globally available drug that has been used to treat other infectious conditions.
The CDC safety panel said there is a likely association of mild heart inflammation in adolescents after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Most reports came from people in their late teens and early 20s, and many more occurred after their second dose than the first.
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