Coronavirus Update
September 24, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for state, local, and regional government.
Top News
On Tuesday the House passed a Continuing Resolution (CR, H.R. 8337) to keep the federal government funded from October 1 through December 11 at enacted FY 2020 funding levels. The vote occurred after Congressional leaders reached a deal on a White House request to include aid for farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic but with measures sought by Democrats to prohibit payments to fossil fuel refiners and importers. The deal also includes $8 billion in additional nutrition program assistance. The CR now heads to the Senate for consideration. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he was optimistic the CR would become law “well before” the September 30 deadline.

With the CR seemingly in place, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said he would like to see the House consider coronavirus relief legislation next week before the House breaks for the October recess, even if the legislation is a “substantial reduction in what we thought was necessary, but nevertheless dealing with all of the issues that are critical if we’re going to confront COVID-19.” With a limited number of business days left in session, it is unclear if the House will be able to put together a package for consideration next week, especially one that could break the partisan logjam. Notwithstanding the short timeframe, Secretary Steve Mnuchin said today he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have agreed to restart negotiations on a follow-up relief bill.  However, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby expressed strong doubts about the likelihood of additional relief legislation passing through Congress.  

Capitol Hill. For the second time this week, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are scheduled to testify together before a congressional committee regarding the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. Chair Powell and Secretary Mnuchin will testify before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee today to provide a quarterly CARES Act implementation report to the Committee.

On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office released a “Long-Term Budget Outlook” report finding that a fiscal plan to restore the national debt to pre-coronavirus levels will require spending cuts and revenue increases amounting to $900 billion, or 3.6 percent of GDP, every year for a quarter century.

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

Administration. FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first antibody point-of-care (POC) test for COVID-19. The Assure COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid Test Device was first authorized for emergency use by certain labs in July 2020 to help identify individuals with antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, indicating recent or prior COVID-19 infection. Yesterday’s authorization means fingerstick blood samples can now be tested in POC settings like doctor’s offices, hospitals, urgent care centers and emergency rooms rather than having to be sent to a central lab for testing.

FDA also announced the availability of final guidance on investigational COVID-19 convalescent plasma. The guidance provides recommendations to healthcare providers and investigators on the use of investigational convalescent plasma for the treatment of the COVID-19.

CDC released a report on the changing age distribution of the COVID-19 pandemic. CDC found a higher incidence among older adults during the winter and spring, then a shift to persons aged 20-29 during the summer. This summer surge in young adult infections likely resulted in a resurgence of infections among older adults. In particular, the pattern is found in southern states where recent increased infections among older adults (60+) was preceded by increases among younger adults.

DHS announced an extension of temporary travel limitations at the US-Mexico and US-Canada land and ferry ports. Travel will continue to be limited to “essential travel” until at least October 21, 2020.

HHS announced CDC will provide $200 million to jurisdictions for critical infrastructure support to help states prepare for the COVID-19 vaccine.

HUD announced approximately $500,000 in additional funding to HUD Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) agencies in 12 states under the CARES Act.

USDA issued a rule providing additional assistance under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to agricultural producers who continue to be impacted by the effects of COVID-19. The rule specifies the eligibility requirements, payment calculations, and application procedures for a second round of payments (CFAP 2).

The National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) extended its temporary rule providing it with authority to waive on-shore and on-vessel observer coverage requirements due to health and safety concerns or the unavailability of observers due to COVID-19. The temporary rule is extended through March 26, 2021.

DOL reported initial unemployment insurance claims at 870,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week's level. The insured unemployment rate was 8.6 percent for the week ending September 12.
Industry & Advocacy
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Indiana University, the University of Washington, and Davidson College released a study estimating an extra 3,200 cases of the coronavirus occurred due to face-to-face instruction at colleges and universities.

The American Association for Clinical Chemistry released a survey finding 67% of labs are having issues getting COVID-19 test kits and the chemicals used to process the tests.

A group that advises the CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, has decided to put off a vote on recommending which individuals should receive the initial limited doses of any COVID-19 vaccines in the US until after Committee members know more about the vaccines.

The Hill published an article weighing the benefits and costs of the work-from-home reality of many Americans due to the pandemic. The article addresses the investments spent by businesses investing in virtual work routines versus brick-and-mortar office space and the impacts of less commuter traffic on coffee and lunch shops and other businesses in urban centers.

The Business Roundtable (BRT) is urging Congress to continue bipartisan negotiations on the stalled COVID-19 relief bill. BRT’s Quarterly CEO Outlook Survey found that 76% of businesses – large and small – do not expect their businesses to recover from the economic impacts of the coronavirus.

The Helsinki Airport in Finland is launching a new pilot program to combat the spread of COVID-19 with coronavirus-sniffing dogs. The canine team could deliver results on travelers carrying the virus within 10 seconds. People who agree to the coronavirus screening will swab their necks and these samples will be transferred through an opening in a wall for the trained dogs to sniff. 
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

CRS Reports of interest:
For more information please contact Mike Miller: mmiller@tfgnet.com (707) 224-8648