Coronavirus Update
September 17, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for state, local, and regional government.
Top News
On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of Members from the House Problem Solvers Caucus unveiled a $1.5 trillion coronavirus relief package framework in an attempt to provide potential compromise legislation before the November elections. However, just like the “skinny” legislative proposal released by Senate Republicans last week, this new proposal did not gain much traction with House leadership.

In a joint statement, a group of eight Democratic committee leaders said, “While we appreciate every attempt at providing critical relief to American families, the Problem Solvers Caucus’ proposal falls short of what is needed to save lives and boost the economy.” As reported by Bloomberg Government, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said the proposal was “lower than a responsible deal.” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) also suggested that the amount of state and local assistance included in the proposal ($500 billion through 2021) could be “problematic” and that the top-line number of $1.5 trillion could cause “a lot of heartburn” for many Republicans.

NACo released a statement supporting the House Problem Solvers Caucus initiative. “This framework spotlights the real needs of state and local governments as countries face massive budgetary impacts totaling a much as $202 billion through FY2021.”

Yesterday, President Trump urged Congressional Republicans to “Go for the much higher numbers” in the next coronavirus relief package and expressed support for “the larger numbers” in the Problem Solvers Caucus’ $1.5 trillion framework. In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said they were “encouraged” by President Trump’s call for higher spending levels in the next relief package. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows characterized the framework as a “thoughtful suggestion” and said it “provides a foundation for us to come back to the table.”

Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, Speaker Pelosi said that she wants the House to remain in session until congressional leaders can reach a coronavirus stimulus deal. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders initially appeared to indicate the House was poised to scrap some of its pre-election four-week recess planned for October if needed. However, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters that the situation would not be much different than what the House did throughout August. Members will be able to go home to their districts on Oct. 2, he said, while Democratic leaders will carry on negotiations throughout the month. Members will receive 24 hours' notice to get to Washington for votes if a deal is reached.

On Thursday, it was reported that Senate Republican leaders are also hoping to let their colleagues hit the campaign trail by the end of September, acknowledging the slim chances of passing significant legislation other than a government funding stopgap bill before Election Day. Senators are officially scheduled not to recess for the election until Oct. 9, but no major bills are expected to pass before Election Day other than the Continuing Resolution (CR), which the House is likely to pass early next week. Senate Republican leadership has indicated that if there is an unexpected breakthrough in the negotiations between the White House and Democratic leaders, the Senate can return to town to vote on another relief package in October.

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 and DOD released a report to Congress detailing a strategy to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine beginning in January 2021.

HHS released an “Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations” to help local public health programs and partners “plan and operationalize a vaccination response.” An infographic outlining the vaccine process accompanied the report.

CDC Director Robert Redfield told Senate appropriators $6 billion will be required to help states and cities develop plans to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

CDC also released indicators to help schools make “dynamic decisions” about in-person learning as local conditions evolve throughout the pandemic.

Recognizing the many challenges facing schools as they shift to full or partial remote learning, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a temporary emergency rule that opens a second 2020 filing window to allow schools to request additional E-Rate funding. 

The FAA published a notice proposing to extend exemptions from minimum airport slot usage requirements at capacity-constrained airports until March 2021 to provide airlines additional relief as passenger demand remains low throughout the pandemic.

The Fed announced it will leave the baseline interest rate at zero to 0.25 percent. The Board wrote, “The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus. The ongoing public health crisis will continue to weigh on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term.”

DOL reports weekly initial unemployment insurance claims at 860,000, a decrease of 33,000 from last week. The unemployment rate was 8.6 percent for the week ending September 5, a decrease of 0.7 percentage point from the previous week.
Industry & Advocacy
US Conference of Mayors released a study showing 69% of US mayors believe investing in infrastructure to generate jobs and economic growth is the top immediate priority for cities. The study also found that a majority of US mayors (94%) agree their city’s economic recovery depends on containing and preventing community spread of the COVID-19 virus.

American Airlines sent a letter to the Trump Administration and congressional leadership asking to extend by six months the CARES Act relief for airlines to avoid massive layoffs. The CARES Act included the Payroll Support Program for airlines which provided support and prohibited firing or layoffs of employees until October 1. Following this deadline, without additional relief, American Airlines expects to cut 19,000 jobs.

US News reported that keeping schools closed due to the coronavirus could cost the economy between $14 trillion and $28 trillion, according to a new report from OECD. The report explains that students whose education is affected by closures might expect some 3 percent lower income over their entire lifetimes – resulting in overall economic loss if schools are unable to restart quickly.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a poll series titled, “The Impact of Coronavirus on Households Across America,” offering a look at the problems emerging from the pandemic relating to household finances, jobs, health care, housing, transportation, caregiving, and well-being. Researchers interviewed 3,454 adults age 18 or older across the US. 
Webinars, Events and Resources
NLC US Mayors Roundtable: Our Fight to Economic Recovery
September 17, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EDT

US Conference of Mayors: Helping Restaurants Rebound
September 17, 3:00 PM EDT

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

CRS reports of interest:
For more information please contact Mike Miller: (707) 224-8648