With just five days remaining before Election Day and with both chambers now in recess, it remains all but certain that a coronavirus relief package will not be agreed to by the Trump Administration, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) before November 3.
On Tuesday, President Trump acknowledged that a deal will not be reached until after Election Day, but he remained optimistic a deal will eventually be secured. Speaking to reporters at the White House, President Trump said, “After the election, we will get the best stimulus package you have ever seen.”
It seems that several major issues still need to be worked out between Congressional Democrats and the White House before an agreement can be reached. This morning, Speaker Pelosi sent a letter to the White House’s principal relief package negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, stating that Congress is still awaiting draft legislative language and/or responses on several issues “of critical importance,” including testing, tracing and treatment, state and local funding, schools, child care, earned income and child tax credits, unemployment insurance, OSHA, and liability.
Lawmakers continue to be under pressure to finalize a relief package soon. On Wednesday, markets tumbled as the U.S. reported more than 80,000 new coronavirus cases, a new daily record for the third time in the past week.
Capitol Hill. As reported in The Hill, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) outlined an ambitious legislative agenda for Congress in 2021. Additional coronavirus relief is atop Mr. Hoyer’s agenda, along with strengthening the Affordable Care Act, infrastructure legislation, police practices reform, and climate change.
On Oct. 22, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), Chairman of the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent a strongly-worded letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar following up on Committee demands for information regarding the agency’s coronavirus response.
Administration. On Oct. 22, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it had approved the antiviral drug Veklury (remdesivir) for use in adult and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older and weighing at least 40 kilograms (about 88 pounds) for the treatment of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization. Veklury is the first treatment for COVID-19 to receive FDA approval.
On Oct. 28, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it had “released a comprehensive plan with proactive measures to remove regulatory barriers and ensure consistent coverage and payment for the administration of an eventual vaccine for millions of Americans.” The resources “are designed to increase the number of providers that can administer the vaccine, ensure adequate reimbursement for administering the vaccine in Medicare, while making it clear to private insurers and Medicaid programs their responsibility to cover the vaccine at no charge to beneficiaries.”
HHS released its Transparency in Coverage final rule aimed at “putting health care price information in the hands of consumers and other stakeholders” by making negotiated rate and payment information available to the public.
The IRS announced it is giving certain recipients of federal benefits more time to register to get stimulus payments for their children this year. Federal beneficiaries who already received payments of $1,200 for themselves but have not yet received $500 payments for their dependents under age 17 have until Nov. 21 to use the IRS's non-filer web tool to claim the child payments. The previous deadline was Sept. 30.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the Farm Service Agency (FSA) approved more than $7 billion in payments to producers in the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. CFAP provides agricultural producers with financial assistance to help absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Through CFAP 2, USDA is making available up to $14 billion for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. The FSA will accept CFAP 2 applications through December 11, 2020.
Department of Justice attorneys filed court papers averring that all further court challenges to the Trump Administration’s census efforts should be suspended as the Census Bureau works to produce census numbers by the December 31 deadline (Associated Press).
DOL reports unemployment insurance initial claims was 751,000, a decrease of 40,000 from the previous week's revised level. The 4-week moving average was 787,750, a decrease of 24,500 from the previous week's revised average. The insured unemployment rate was 5.3 percent, a decrease of 0.5 percentage point from the previous week's revised rate.
The Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP) published a “True Rate of Unemployment” measuring functional unemployment. “Using data compiled by the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the True Rate of Unemployment tracks the percentage of the U.S. labor force that does not have a full-time job (35+ hours a week) but wants one, has no job, or does not earn a living wage, conservatively pegged at $20,000 annually before taxes.” LISEP pegs the September True Rate of Unemployment at 26.1%.
Washington, Oregon, and Nevada have joined California in a pact to independently review the safety and efficacy of any coronavirus vaccine that is ultimately approved by the FDA before any distribution occurs in those states.
Last month the Trump Administration announced it would provide 150 million rapid antigen tests to detect COVID-19, two-thirds of which would go to states and territories to help reopen schools and their economies. But there is concern among states and school administrators how to implement such processes. Marcus Plescia, the chief medical officer at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said states face several challenges in trying to establish testing systems in schools and that many had not yet decided how to roll out tests, according to Roll Call.
Federal researchers ended a study into the effectiveness of Eli Lilly’s antibody treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients due to a lack of effectiveness. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found little clinical benefit in the treatment and recommended it be stopped. AstraZeneca and Regeneron are among other companies working on antibody treatments.
A report released from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota said that COVID-19 related drug shortages in the U.S. have reached “unacceptable” levels. The report, “Ensuring a Resilient US Prescription Drug Supply,” found that 29 out of 40 (73%) of drug treatments for COVID-19 are experiencing shortages, including propofol, albuterol, midazolam, hydroxychloroquine, fentanyl, azithromycin and morphine.
Smaller television and movie production companies have come together to form the American Coalition for Independent Content Producers to seek financial relief from Congress. The Coalition’s goal is to secure a federal guarantee that covers the risk of COVID-19 related losses in order for independent production studios to get back to work.
The Boston Marathon has been postponed from April 2021 until sometime in the fall 2021 due to the coronavirus, although no date for next year’s race has been set.
The City of Chicago will ban indoor dining and indoor bar service again starting Friday as the city faces increased COVID-19 cases. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced a return to some coronavirus restrictions as the number of daily coronavirus-related hospital admissions is averaging more than double the statistics from last month.
El Paso County, Texas, has imposed a two-week stay-at-home order with a daily curfew in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The order comes after the region experienced a 160 percent increase in the positivity rate in the past three weeks.
According to a survey from NBC News and Survey Monkey, 68 percent of those surveyed said they personally knew someone who had contracted the coronavirus since December 2020. More than 30 percent said that someone in their household had been tested for the coronavirus in the past 30 days and showed that 74 percent of adults said the virus had majorly impacted their lives in some way.
Almost 800,000 children in the U.S. have been infected by COVID-19 this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said Monday, according to The Hill.
As reported on in the TFG Transportation Notes, the CEO of Delta Airlines reported that 460 people have been added to its no-fly list for not wearing masks during flights.
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