Coronavirus Update
September 21, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for state, local, and regional government.
Top News
Congressional leaders and the White House have agreed to support a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will extend funding for the federal government through December 11, though discussions on the details of the CR are still ongoing. A vote on the CR is expected this week in the House with Senate action to follow shortly thereafter. As we have previously reported, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed to keep discussions related to the next coronavirus relief package separate from the CR, so coronavirus relief measures are not expected to be included in the CR. Talks regarding the next coronavirus relief package remain stalled, with both sides reportedly still about $1 trillion apart.

The passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday will only further complicate an already packed Congressional schedule, almost certainly impacting discussions on, and consideration of, the next coronavirus relief package. As a result, we do not expect Congress to consider a relief package before the November elections.

Capitol Hill. A Congressional Budget Office report released Friday finds that the first four coronavirus bills signed into law in March and April are projected to add $2.3 trillion to the deficit in FY 2020 and $576 billion in FY 2021, and increase GDP by 4.7 percent in 2020 and 3.1 percent in 2021. The report states that from FYs 2020 through 2023, “for every dollar that it adds to the deficit, the legislation is projected to increase GDP by about 59 cents.”

This week’s Congressional hearings related to the pandemic and the federal response include:

  • Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on “COVID-19: An Update on the Federal Response.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn are scheduled to testify.
  • House Financial Services Committee hearing on “Oversight of the Treasury Department’s and Federal Reserve’s Pandemic Response.” Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are scheduled to testify.
  • House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing with Chair Powell to discuss the “Federal Reserve’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.”
  • Senate Banking Committee hearing on the “Quarterly CARES Act Report to Congress,” with Chair Powell and Secretary Mnuchin.
  • Joint Economic Committee hearing to discuss “The Economic Impact of America’s Failure to Contain the Coronavirus.”
  • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management hearing on “State and Local Cybersecurity: Defending Our Communities from Cyber Threats amid COVID-19.”
  • House Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access hearing to review Paycheck Protection Program forgiveness.
  • House Small Business Subcommittee on Innovation and Workforce hearing to discuss the Paycheck Protection Program, loan forgiveness, Small Business Administration legacy systems, and inaccurate data.
  • House Ways and Means Committee hearing on “Restaurants in America During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing on “Health Care Lifeline: The Affordable Care Act and the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
  • House Science Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight hearing on “Data for Decision-Making: Responsible Management of Data During COVID-19 and Beyond.”

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

Administration. The FDA reissued the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Abbott ID Now COVID-19 test. The changes to the previous letter of authorization include a revised intended use to indicate that testing is for specimens collected from individuals who are suspected of COVID-19 within the first seven days of onset symptoms. The changes also clarify that testing facilities in the US are required to report all results to the appropriate public health authorities. As of September 18, 248 tests have been authorized by the FDA under EUAs.

The CDC updated its guidance on coronavirus transmission through the air, stating that it is “thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” The CDC guidance also notes that COVID-19 most commonly spreads through airborne particles when an infected person “coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breathes.”

The CDC also updated its guidance on the spread of COVID-19 through asymptomatic individuals, or individuals who are not experiencing symptoms. CDC’s testing guidelines now encourage people who have been within six feet of a person “with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection” for at least 15 minutes get tested even if they are not showing symptoms of infection.

The Trump Administration announced up to an additional $14 billion in relief will be provided for agricultural producers who face market disruptions associated with the economic impacts of COVID-19.

USDA announced an extension of flexibilities in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) allowing participants to continue receiving the food and health support they need during the pandemic. The waivers include new flexibilities allowing participants to be approved for WIC without being physically present in a local office, remote issuance of benefits to participants, and flexibility in food package requirements.

The IRS released a state-by-state breakdown of the nine million people receiving a special mailing this month encouraging individuals to see if they are eligible to claim an Economic Impact Statement.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced new funding for two grant programs focused on supporting distance-learning opportunities and individual student needs in education. The programs are the Expanding Access to Well-Rounded Courses Demonstration Program and the Well-Rounded Education Through Student-Centered Funding Demonstration Grants Program.

The FCC published a final rule for the Wireline Competition Bureau to adopt temporary rules to provide immediate relief to schools that participate in the E-Rate program as they continue to deal with the ongoing disruptions caused by the pandemic. These temporary rules make available additional E-Rate funding to schools in FY 2020 to purchase additional bandwidth needed to meet the unanticipated and increased demand for on-campus connectivity resulting from the pandemic. 
Industry & Advocacy
The New York Times (NYT) reports some businesses are working through a growing number of intermediaries to bypass large national labs and rapidly obtain test results – often in one to three days – by relying on unused capacity at smaller labs.

NYT also reports several major New York City hotels are shutting down for good due to “the weight of overdue mortgage payments and property taxes.” The 478-room Hilton Times Square and two Courtyard by Marriott hotels in Manhattan said they would not reopen, joining several others including the 399-room Omni Berkshire Place in Midtown. More than 25,000 hotel employees have been out of work for more than six months according to NYT.

Taxpayers for Common Sense continues updating its Stimulus Tracker, providing information about who is receiving federal funding by way of COVID-19 relief and how funding is spent.

Airlines for America (A4A) reports passenger volumes remain down approximately 70% despite upticks in air travel. A4A also reports the 10 states with the largest year-over-year declines in TSA checkpoint volume: New York (-86%); Hawaii (-85%); Washington, D.C. (-83%); Vermont (-83%); Massachusetts (-82%); New Jersey (-81%); Rhode Island (-79%); California (-79%); New Mexico (-78%); and Connecticut (-75%).

Airline executives are calling for a six-month extension of the Payroll Support Program (PSP). The CARES Act prohibits airlines from firing or laying off any employees until Oct. 1. Congress would need to pass new legislation to provide an extension.

NBC launched a Plan Your Vote campaign on television and the internet. Web resources provide state-by-state information on voting requirements and restrictions, including a Q&A.
Webinars, Events and Resources
NACo Webinar: Counties and the 2020 Election: Ask the Experts
Sep. 22, 2022, 2:00 PM EDT
Hear from federal and local elections officials about how they are working to ensure a safe, fair and secure election this fall. During the town hall, which will be live streamed, participants will have the unique opportunity to engage directly with elections experts during an open discussion.

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