Coronavirus Update
May 11, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for state, local, and regional government.
Federal Response
This morning, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said negotiations regarding additional COVID-19 relief legislation are still ongoing and the House would return to Washington no earlier than Friday, May 15. Even if the House passes a “Phase 4/CARES 2” package by the end of this week – with the text of the bill likely released by Tuesday afternoon – Senate Republicans and the Trump Administration indicated they prefer to wait at least several more weeks before passing additional COVID-19 relief legislation in order to see how the impacts of the four COVID-19 relief laws enacted over the past two months. The House Democrats’ package is likely to include significant state and local flexible funding, an extension of unemployment insurance and SNAP, and funding relief for the U.S. Postal Service.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called for the Trump Administration to adopt a set of national, science-based standards for reopening the country. Pelosi has cautioned against the difference in policies among states.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said he was open to changing the terms of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) due to the growing concerns from Congress and business advocates about the terms of the loans, seeking greater flexibility in the length of the loans and additional funding. On Friday, the SBA Inspector General also cautioned in a “ Flash Report ” that the Administration’s 25% cap on overhead costs eligible for forgiveness did not align with the CARES Act that established the PPP.  

Capitol Hill. A group of Republican Senators, including Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to increase financial assistance to state and local governments. The GOP proposals would give state and local governments flexibility to use $150 billion in stabilization funding passed by the CARES Act to cover budget shortfalls.

On Friday, May 8, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis sent letters requesting that large, public corporations immediately return taxpayers funds that Congress intended for small businesses through the PPP.

Rep. T.J. Cox (D-CA) led seven of his colleagues in sending a letter to House leadership calling for any COVID-19 infrastructure stimulus package to include Bureau of Reclamation infrastructure. “As Congress continues working to respond to the economic impacts of the pandemic, we must include funding for Bureau of Reclamation projects, especially those that increase our water storage capacity,” Cox wrote in a press release.

Bills and Letters of Interest

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) joined Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) in sending a letter to President Trump urging support for the U.S. Postal Service. Sen. Feinstein said the “letter comes as the Treasury Department considers a $10 billion loan to support the USPS, which continues to see mail traffic, and thus revenue, drop immensely during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a bill to provide monthly $2,000 payments to individuals with during the extent of the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), announced the introduction of the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020, legislation to create a $100 billion emergency rental assistance fund to help families and individuals pay their rent and utility bills and remain stably housed. This bill is in addition to a prior legislative initiative suspending rental and utility payments.
  • Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced a legislative fix helping state and local governments provide public employees with emergency paid sick and FMLA leave during the pandemic.
  • House Agriculture Subcommittee Chairs Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Jim Costa (D-CA) and Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) proposed legislation Friday that provides $25 million for states to expand or establish new Farm to Food bank projects as part of the Emergency Food Assistance Program. 

Please visit our Coronavirus Legislative Tracker for relevant legislation related to state and local government.

Administration. The White House is considering administrative economic relief measures that would not require congressional legislation, such as another deadline delay to file federal taxes. The deadline was already pushed once to July 15, but it could be extended further to September 15 or potentially December 15, according to NBC . Contemporaneously, White House officials signaled that new COVID stimulus talks should be paused for at least a month.

The Treasury Department and IRS released updated state-by-state figures for Economic Impact Payments, with approximately 130 million individuals receiving payments worth more than $200 billion in the program’s first four weeks.

The Department of Health and Human Services awarded nearly $583 million to 1,385 HRSA-funded health centers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and eight U.S. territories to expand coronavirus testing. A list of award recipients is available here .

There was some controversy in the news this week associated with a 17-page CDC report titled, “ Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework. ” 
The U.S. Conference of Mayors launched the Mayors COVID-19 Fiscal Pain Tracker , providing accounts from 150 individual cities of the significant revenue losses cities are experiencing due to the coronavirus crisis. 
News and Resources
A Harvard-NPR analysis found only nine states are distributing enough coronavirus tests to contain their outbreaks and reopen by May 15. States meeting the criteria are Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.  
Webinar: Small Business Support
May 12, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT
For more information please contact Zachary Israel (202) 256-4386