Coronavirus Update
May 18, 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 will hold pro forma sessions and conduct some committee-level business this week, but no floor votes are scheduled. During Tuesday’s pro forma session, Members-elect Mike Garcia (R-CA) and Tom Tiffany (R-WI) will be sworn-in after winning special elections. The House is expected to be back in session on May 27 and 28.

On Friday, the House passed the HEROES Act ( H.R. 6800 ), a $3 trillion coronavirus response package introduced by House Democrats, by a vote of 208-199 , with one Republican voting in favor and 14 Democrats voting against. As we previously reported, 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. In addition, the legislation includes $5.5 billion for Lifeline and E-Rate funds to keep low-income households and students connected to high-speed Internet and provides additional funding for these programs. (See the summary memo produced by TFG for more.)  

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated she is open to negotiating the details of the HEROES Act, but Senate Republicans are in no rush to approve a fourth coronavirus response package and currently have no plans to introduce their own legislative proposal. The House approved H. Res. 965 temporarily allowing remote voting for the first time in American history; virtual markups and hearings are also allowed. The resolution allows members to vote on the House floor by proxy, but no one member can hold more than 10 proxies.

Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell said on Sunday unemployment could reach Depression-era levels but also said the country will get to “an even better place” than it was before the coronavirus and that it “won’t take that long.”

The New York Times reported Sunday an international group appears to have mounted an immense, sophisticated attack on U.S. unemployment systems, creating a network that may have already defrauded the US government out of millions of dollars in payments that were intended to avert an economic collapse.

Capitol Hill. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Andy Levin (D-MI) introduced legislation establishing a federal coronavirus contact tracing program. The Senators called for this legislation to be included into the next coronavirus relief package. The legislation would require the CDC to develop a contact tracing strategy within 21 days in collaboration with state, local, and tribal health officials. 

Bills and Letters of Interest

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

H.R. 6866 (Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)) sets strong and enforceable privacy and data security rights for contact tracing and the tracking of health information.

H.R. 6862 (Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)) provides $10 billion for essential emergency assistance to vulnerable children, families, and individuals, including those that may not be receiving other assistance during the pandemic.

H.R. 6907 (Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI)) establishes a program in the Treasury Department to allocate funds to states, units of local government, and Indian tribes to provide assistance to certain small businesses.

H.R. 6906 (Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)) establishes a fund to provide compensation for injuries to any individual, or their families, who are deemed an essential worker and required to leave their home to perform services and who have become ill or died as a result of the coronavirus. 

S. 3736 (Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)) increases access to food delivery under the SNAP program in response to the impacts of the coronavirus.

S.3742 (Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)) establishes a program in the Treasury Department to allocate funds to states, units of local government, and Indian tribes to provide assistance to small businesses.

H.R. 6901 (Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)) directs the federal government to compile and publicly share real-time information about testing supply inventory and shortages.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) led a bipartisan group of members in a letter asking the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve to consider additional measures to ease borrowing costs for state and local governments.

Twenty-eight Republicans wrote a letter to Senate leadership promoting regulatory reform as an important way to address coronavirus disruption. The Senators wrote, “Regulatory reform, whether through paperwork reduction or removing outmoded compliance requirements, is the most efficient means of promoting economic recovery.”

Administration. CDC released updated reopening guidelines for schools, workplaces, mass transit, and childcare. The guidance for schools and workplaces includes recommendations for checking symptoms of students and employees upon arrival, social distancing for students and employees, hand-washing, and wearing face coverings. The restaurant guidance calls for spacing out tables and stools, limiting occupancy and encouraging drive-thru and pickup options.

As work on a coronavirus vaccine continues, President Trump said he would prepare the U.S. military to disburse vaccines when they are ready. The President also announced Army General Gustave Perna as chief operation officer for “Operation Warp Speed,” the Administration’s program aimed at the fast development of a coronavirus vaccine.

FEMA extended the application period for FY2019 SAFER grants to May 27, 2020 at 5:00 PM ET.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) extended its foreclosure and eviction moratorium through June 30, 2020, for homeowners with FHA-insured Single Family mortgages and new FHA-insured mortgage originations through an extension of temporary policy flexibilities for lenders and appraisers.

USDA extended three nationwide waivers for family and child nutrition programs that promote social distancing, including:
  • Non-Congregate Feeding: allows meals to be served to children outside of normally-required setting to support social distancing.
  • Parent Pickup: allows parents and/or guardians to pick up meals and bring them home to children.
  • Meal Times: waives requirements that meals be served at certain standard times to allow for to-go options. 

HHS announced a new funding opportunity that will award $5 billion in FY2020 to support high-impact studies that evaluate the responsiveness of health care delivery systems, health care professionals, and the overall health care system to the coronavirus.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to consider a declaratory ruling and further notice of proposed rulemaking at its June 9 Open Meeting that would further streamline the Commission’s wireless infrastructure rules. Chairman Pai is expected to release a blog posting today about the draft item, which will likely be released tomorrow and responds to petitions filed last year by the Wireless Infrastructure Association and CTIA.

The FCC announced 774 broadband and telephone providers took the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and extended the commitment through June 30, 2020. As we previously reported, Chairman Pai called for the commitment from providers in April.

Bloomberg Law noted May 20 as the likely date after which Trump regulations could be rolled back under the Congressional Review Act which allows a new Congress to disapprove any final rule finalized in the last 60 days of the prior year.
Resources and Advocacy
According to survey data released by the Census Bureau, less than 40 percent of small businesses have received support from the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The data shows that while 74.9 percent of small business respondents applied for a PPP loan, only 38.1 percent actually received aid.

NLC published a brief on revenue shortfalls in cities as a result of coronavirus impacts. In total, cities anticipate $360 billion in revenue shortfalls.

Mayors representing 100 cities across the country sent a letter to congressional leadership endorsing a bipartisan small business relief plan proposed by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) along with two other Senators and two Representatives. The mayors wrote that the proposal, which would provide immediate support to very small, minority-owned, and rural businesses, should be included in the next relief package.

A group of water utility advocates wrote a letter to congressional leaders regarding decreases in utility revenues and the need for assistance from the federal government.
Events
2020 Census - Ensuring Access
NACo Webinar
May 18, 2-3PM ET

The Intersections of Justice Reform and Housing in Response to COVID-19
NLC Webinar
May 19, 11am-12:15pm EDT

Tracking a Moving Target: Researching the Impact of COVID-19 on County Government
NACo Webinar
May 21, 2-3pm EDT
For more information please contact Zachary Israel zisrael@tfgnet.com (202) 256-4386