Coronavirus Update
May 14, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for state, local, and regional government.
Federal Response
The Senate is in session this week. The House is scheduled to resume work on Friday (May 15) to vote on the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), a $3 trillion coronavirus response package introduced by House Democrats earlier this week. The legislation would provide nearly $1 trillion in relief for state and local governments, including $375 million in direct aid to all local governments via a new State and Local Coronavirus Relief Fund. The HEROES Act would also allow local governments to receive tax credits to cover the cost of providing the paid sick and paid family leave programs mandated by the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act and would make lost revenue an eligible use of CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds. More information is available in our TFG HEROES Act Brief.

Many congressional Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and the Trump Administration have expressed objections to considering another coronavirus relief package right now, saying there has not been enough time since the $2 trillion CARES Act was enacted in late March to determine whether new legislation is needed or necessary. However, Majority Leader McConnell and Republican colleagues support expanding liability protections for businesses and are currently working on a bill .

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in a speech Wednesday that Congress should consider additional ambitious stimulus to help avoid business failures, job losses, and bankruptcies. 

Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, May 12, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a full committee hearing titled, “COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School.” The witnesses at the hearing featured Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the CDC Dr. Anthony Fauci, Commissioner Stephen Hahn of Food and Drugs at the FDA, and other federal health experts. The expert witnesses shed light on expected timelines for the reopening of schools and businesses.

On Wednesday, May 13, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation convened a hearing titled “The State of Broadband Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic” featuring the heads of several broadband trade associations who testified about their needs for financial support to keep their operations running and their customers connected.  

Bills and Letters of Interest

Please visit our TFG Coronavirus Legislative Trackers for public health & safety , local government relief , and business assistance for information on the most recently introduced bills of interest related to the coronavirus, including:

  • Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) led a bipartisan letter to congressional leadership requesting that $2 billion be included in the next coronavirus relief package to help health care providers expand telehealth services by improving their access to broadband.
  • Five Democratic Senators wrote a letter to House and Senate leaders encouraging the creation of a federal program to reimburse essential workers for costs that enable them to stay on the job and perform their jobs safely and arise out of their current, ongoing emergency needs during this pandemic, including any related to a COVID-19 diagnosis.
  • Reps. David Trone (D-MD) and Terri Sewell (D-AL) led a group of 83 Representatives to urge Congressional leadership to invest $86 billion in broadband funding in the future COVID-19 response legislation. 
  • Reps. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) and Conor Lamb (D-PA) led a letter signed by 135 bipartisan Members of Congress seeking an additional $50 billion for state transportation departments.
  • Twenty-eight Senators sent a letter urging the expansion of delivery and curbside pickup options for SNAP recipients.
  • Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Jim Costa (D-CA) led a letter to congressional leadership, signed by 24 bipartisan Members of Congress, urging the inclusion of critical water infrastructure in the upcoming COVID-19 economic and infrastructure recovery package.
  • S. 3690, (Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA)) ensures all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • S. 3682, (Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD)), improves flexibility for state, local and tribal governments in using existing COVID-19 relief funds, allowing up to 25% of funds to be used to cover lost tax revenue. 
  • H.R. 6840, (Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)), makes non-congregate sheltering expenses automatically eligible for full FEMA funding reimbursement under their Public Assistance funding during the pandemic.
  • S. 3720, (Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)), helps state and local governments provide COVID-19 testing and treatment for individuals in state and local correctional facilities.

Administration. The Department of Housing & Urban Development released the allocations under the CDBG-CV program for all 50 states.

An early CDC draft document providing guidance for implementing the Administration’s Opening Up America Again framework was obtained by the Associated Press. The White House stated the guidance was only draft and was not ready for release. The White House released the official Opening Up America Again guidelines in April.

Treasury released the full list of specific allocations that were sent to all states and localities receiving Coronavirus Relief Fund money.

The White House is encouraging states to test all nursing home staff and residents for the novel coronavirus. “All states now with the guidance of the federal government are going to try to get every person in all nursing homes in this country tested in the next two weeks,” said Vice President Mike Pence during a press conference this week.

Admiral Brett Giroir, who is overseeing the Trump administration’s coronavirus testing efforts, announced the Administration is aiming to have 40 million to 50 million tests available per month by September.

The Treasury Department’s April Statement reported the deficit set a record at $738 billion. A useful exhibit is located on page 4 of the report.
Advocacy
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) sent a letter to Congress calling for immediate action by federal government to ensure the health, safety, and financial security of working people. They also asked for at least $500 billion in additional aid for state and local governments and funds for reimbursing public employers for paid sick and other leave. The letter was signed by nearly 600 state treasurers, legislators, and mayors.

Five western states have signed a joint letter to congressional leaders requesting a combined $1 trillion in coronavirus relief funding from the federal government.
Events
2020 Census – Ensuring Access
NACo Webinar
May 18, 2-3pm EDT
For more information please contact Zachary Israel zisrael@tfgnet.com (202) 256-4386