Coronavirus Update
May 4, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for state, local, and regional government.
Federal Response
The Administration and lawmakers postured ahead of a possible new round of coronavirus relief. President Trump said any new relief – including infrastructure legislation – must include payroll tax reductions. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin on Monday said bipartisan discussions are underway over whether more government relief funding is needed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy indicated legislation must include liability protection for employers as the economy – and businesses – reopen. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) indicated senators would be willing to provide greater flexibility in how existing funds are used but did not indicate support for additional funding. GOP senators signaled they do not expect a quick agreement as they work to fine tune the implementation of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus package passed in late March, although Sen. McConnell’s office said senators may also hold floor votes this week on “mission-critical Covid-19 nominees” as well as national security-related nominees. Meanwhile, five Republican Senators sent a letter to President Trump noting support for funding for frontline workers but noting “we cannot allow states and localities to get a blank check from American taxpayers to fund areas of their budget that have nothing to do with the Coronavirus.”

The Federal Reserve Board expanded loan options available to businesses and increased the maximum size of businesses that are eligible for support under the program. The changes include lowering the minimum loan size for certain loans to $500,000, and expanding the pool of businesses eligible to borrow.

Capitol Hill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats will push for almost $1 trillion in the next coronavirus relief package to assist states and local governments that have been hit hard by the pandemic. The House may return as soon as May 11 to consider new legislation.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), along with 10 members of the Rural Broadband Task Force and E&C Committee, announced the House Democratic Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Intern e t .

A group of Republican Senators announced they intend to introduce legislation aimed at protecting consumer data privacy during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Hill. The legislation would require companies to have consumers opt in, and allow them to opt out, before sharing or using their data to track the spread of coronavirus.  

Reps. Rose DeLauro (D-CT) and Collin Peterson (D-MN), former USDA Secretaries Tom Vilsack and Dan Glickman, and Chef Jose Andres, announced a comprehensive action plan to safeguard America’s food supply during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan, which was sent to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, includes steps that USDA should take to divert surplus food from being wasted, protect food supply workers, and assist agricultural operations.

House committees began taking steps to transition to virtual hearings as Congress continues to work remotely during the pandemic. Multiple committees have begun holding virtual forums and roundtables to test run the technology. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) also laid out his vision on Medium of how Congress should start functioning again.

Bills and Letters of Interest

A large volume of bills and initiatives were introduced since our last Update; some may be included in the next round of coronavirus relief. 

Local Government Relief:
  • 19 House Republicans sent a letter to President Trump requesting flexibility – including coverage for smaller localities – in the CARES 2.0 package for the $150 billion in Coronavirus Relief Funds that were included in the CARES Act.
  • H.R. 6652, would amend current language to allow additional flexibility for state and local governments to access previously approved federal relief funds to offset lost revenue due to the health emergency from COVID-19.
  • Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced legislation to provide 100% federal cost share for states and localities receiving FEMA disaster relief assistance.

Healthcare/First Responders/Testing:
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and 76 other members of Congress, sent a letter to congressional leadership to include funding for mental health in the next coronavirus legislation. 
  • 30 House Members sent a letter to House leadership asking for a broadened definition of essential workers to include caregivers, childcare workers, and others.
  • H.R. 6666, introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), establishes a grant program run by the CDC to mobilize coronavirus testing and contact tracing efforts. 
  • H.R.6670, introduced by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Susan Brooks (R-IN), requires the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to establish a committee to analyze the impact of U.S. dependence on pharmaceutical manufacturing during the pandemic. 
  • A bill introduced by Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) allows Medicare Part D beneficiaries electing to receive 90-day prescription refills to spread their co-pays over the same 90-day period.
  • The PRICE Act creates a federal price-controlling program on critical COVID-19 equipment to ensure lower prices and guarantee supplies are directed to where they are needed most. 

Business Relief:
  • A bill, introduced by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), gives grants to cover employee wages and benefits for businesses that have experienced at least a 20 percent drop in revenue due to COVID-19.  The bill provides up to $90,000 per worker.
  • H.R. 6646 increases support ($15 billion) for layoff aversion strategies that allow employers to receive partial funding to keep workers on the payroll while employees improve their job skills through training. 

Administration. The FDA authorized emergency use of remdesivir to treat COVID-19. The FDA factsheet on remdesivir states, “There is limited information known about the safety and effectiveness of using remdesivir to treat people in the hospital with COVID-19. Remdesivir was shown in a clinical trial to shorten the time to recovery in some people.” 

President Trump announced new initiatives to help protect nursing homes during the pandemic. The Administration will allocate $81 million to increased inspections of nursing homes and require nursing homes to report information about COVID-19 cases to the CDC.

EPA announced $1 million in grant funding to states to assist local environmental justice communities address the impacts of COVID-19.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the Federal Aviation Administration will award $1.87 billion in airport safety and infrastructure grants . FAA provided a complete list of grants available and an interactive map of airports receiving funding .

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded $20 million to increase telehealth access and infrastructure for providers and families to help prevent and respond to COVID-19.

The Treasury Department completed its payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund for states and local governments and provided guidance on the eligible uses of fund disbursements by governments, including how states can allocate funding from their received payment to localities within their state.

On April 30, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced the extension of his Keep Americans Connected Pledge from May 12 to June 30, 2020. Since launching the pledge last month, more than 700 broadband and telephone service providers committed to not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic; waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and open their Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them. 
Advocacy
NACo is hosting a webinar today, May 4 at 2:00 PM ET focused on how to access COVID-19 federal funding and prepare for federal reimbursement.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees announced a more than $1 million Fund the Front Lines campaign urging Congress to supply more funding to states and cities in the next relief package. 
For more information please contact Zachary Israel zisrael@tfgnet.com (202) 256-4386