Coronavirus Update
October 5, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for state, local, and regional government.
Top News
Early Friday morning, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump announced they had tested positive for the coronavirus. The President has been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, receiving treatment since Friday afternoon. According to the President’s medical team, he may be discharged from Walter Reed as soon as today. It is still unclear how the President’s diagnosis will affect the next two presidential debates, which are currently scheduled to take place on October 15 and October 22 in Miami and Nashville, respectively. It also remains to be seen how the President’s overall reelection campaign will be impacted, especially as other members of his team, including campaign manager Bill Stepien, also receive positive coronavirus diagnoses.

On Thursday evening, the House passed a trimmed down version of the HEROES Act by a vote of 214 – 207. No Republican Members voted for the bill, 18 Democrats voted against it, and 10 Republicans were not present. The updated HEROES Act has a price tag of $2.2 trillion. The original HEROES Act, which was passed by the House on May 15, totaled over $3 trillion. A TFG Brief that includes a summary of the HEROES Act with comparisons to the original HEROES Act is available upon request from your client manager or by replying to this newsletter.

The House voted on the measure after negotiations with the Administration failed to produce a compromise agreement. The House is in recess until after the elections, with a scheduled return date of November 16. With negotiations continuing, it is possible the House could return to vote on a compromise bill if an agreement between Congress and the White House is reached. However, it is likely that there will be no further action related to coronavirus relief until after the elections.

Capitol Hill. The Senate is scheduled to meet on Monday, but it may be brief after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said over the weekend that he will seek to “obtain a consent agreement for the Senate to meet in pro forma sessions for the next two weeks,” through October 19. The change comes amid an outbreak of the coronavirus at the White House and on Capitol Hill. Despite seeking a recess, Leader McConnell said the fast-track schedule for confirming President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, will not be affected by COVID-19 diagnoses of the President and Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Ron Johnson (R-WI); Lee and Tillis both serve as Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans are planning to hold confirmation hearings starting the week of October 12 and have a final floor vote during the week of October 26.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) countered that it will not be safe for the Senate to move ahead with hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett given the outbreak. While acknowledging that Democrats cannot block the hearings, he said Democrats plan to use “every tool in the toolbox” to try to delay a final confirmation vote. Schumer said holding the hearings would endanger senators and staff, and he dismissed virtual hearings as insufficient for a lifetime appointment that he said could cast deciding votes on ending abortion rights, protections for pre-existing health conditions and more.

Please visit our TFG Coronavirus Legislative Trackers public health & safety, local government relief, and business assistance for detailed information on recently introduced bills.

Administration. HHS announced $20 billion in new funding for providers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. Under the Phase 3 General Distribution allocation, providers that have already received Provider Relief Fund payments will be invited to apply for additional funding that considers financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the coronavirus. Previously ineligible providers, such as those who began practicing in 2020 will also be invited to apply, and an expanded group of behavioral health providers confronting the emergence of increased mental health and substance use issues exacerbated by the pandemic will also be eligible for relief payments. Providers can begin applying for funds on Monday, October 5, 2020.

HHS and The Rockefeller Foundation announced an agreement to identify and share effective approaches for using rapid point-of-care antigen tests to screen for COVID-19 with a focus on safely reopening K-12 schools. The partnership establishes a pilot program with select cities and states in The Rockefeller Foundation's Testing Solutions Group, a network of public officials devoted to rapidly scaling COVID-19 testing, tracing, and tracking in their communities.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced another 90-day extension of the COVID-19 national public health emergency declaration. The extension carries the declaration through mid-January 2021.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an update to the methodology to determine the rate of COVID-19 positivity in counties. Counties with 20 or fewer tests over 14 days will now move to “green” in the color-coded system of assessing COVID-19 community prevalence. Counties with both fewer than 500 tests and fewer than 2,000 tests per 100,000 residents, and greater than 10 percent positivity over 14 days – which would have been “red” under the previous methodology – will move to “yellow.” This information is critical to nursing homes, which are required to test their staff for COVID-19 at a frequency based on the positivity rate of their respective counties.

DOL Secretary Eugene Scalia issued a statement regarding the October 2 Employment Situation Report. The report shows 877,000 private-sector jobs added back in September, but a seasonally-adjusted loss of 350,000 jobs in public and private education. The Secretary noted gains in lower-wage jobs in retail and leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing added 66,000 jobs. According to Secretary Scalia, more than half the jobs lost from the pandemic have now been restored.
Industry & Advocacy
American and United Airlines will begin furloughing more than 32,000 employees this week after talks on the coronavirus relief package failed. Both airlines have stated they are prepared to reverse action if a stimulus deal is reached.

More than 175 organizations representing the public and private sector, including the American Hotel & Lodging Association, International Franchise Association, NACo, NLC, Airlines for America, and the US Travel Association wrote a letter to Congress urging Members to not go on recess without providing relief for the different sectors affected by the coronavirus.

Regal Cinemas, the nation’s second-largest theater chain, announced that it will close all 550 locations across the country as the film industry continues to be greatly impacted by the pandemic.

According to the ADP National Employment Report, large businesses led September’s jobs gains as firms with more than 1,000 employees added 222,000 workers and firms with between 500 and 999 employees added 75,000.

The National Association of Manufacturers released findings of a survey examining the economic and operational impacts of COVID-19. The survey found that 78.3% of manufacturers anticipate a financial impact, 53.1% of manufacturers anticipate a change in operations, and 35.5% of manufacturers are facing supply chain disruptions.

Fortune published an interesting article titled, “How COVID-19 will remake the restaurant industry,” highlighting how the restaurant sector has already lost $120 billion in sales since the beginning of the pandemic and how restaurateurs are expecting to recover. 
Webinars, Events and Resources
NACo Webinar: COVID-19 Beyond Quick Wins – Safeguarding Your Financial Future
October 6, 2:00 PM EDT

NACo Webinar: Navigating the Needs of Unhouse Populations Amidst COVID-19
October 14, 3:00 PM EDT

The President’s recent coronavirus diagnosis has prompted discussion regarding the Twenty-Fifth Amendment and the presidential line of succession. The following CRS reports provide detailed information on these topics:

For more information please contact Mike Miller: (707) 224-8648