With New Federal Aid Bill to Pass Thursday, Congress, White House Eye Next Funding Package
As was reported in yesterday's Capitol Buzz , a dditional federal relief for small businesses, hospitals and COVID-19 testing will soon come from the federal government. The U.S. Senate adopted the bipartisan deal late Tuesday , and it is expected that the U.S House will follow suit, passing the $484 billion aid package on Thursday. The bill would provide additional funding for small businesses and hospitals, as well as money for expanded coronavirus testing .

But even before the ink is dry on this latest round of funding, Congress and the Trump administration are already negotiating the next wave of federal stimulus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to news reports, both Congress and the White House are looking at more comprehensive, and potentially more costly, follow-up measures to address the health and economic fallout from the crisis.

The "phase four" federal aid package, according to President Trump, will provide funding for state and local governments, as well as potential funding for infrastructure projects. Democrats, reportedly, are also seeking funding for state and local governments, plus hazard pay for front-line workers, food aid, election security and funds for the U.S. Postal Service.

It is still unknown if, or when, these new negotiations will produce a bipartisan deal. As Democrats in Congress are looking for the new relief package to rival the historic CARES Act that was passed last month, Republican leaders are questioning the fiscal implications of the country accumulating so much debt, as the nation's annual deficit could reach $4 trillion.

Negotiations will continue on what the next phase of relief will contain. Congress is not scheduled to return to session until May 4.
Daily COVID-19 update for Pennsylvania

The state Department of Health reported more than 1,150 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, bringing the state total to 35,684. In addition, 1,622 Pennsylvanians have died from complications from the virus. To date, there have been more than 136,000 negative cases across the state.

Gov. Tom Wolf is still asking all Pennsylvanians who must leave their homes for life-essential reasons to wear a mask to help stop the spread of the virus . The state Department of Health has provided guidance on how individuals can create homemade masks for their use in order to preserve high quality personal protection equipment for health care workers. The Centers for Disease Control also announced recommendations for people to wear face masks in public .

An executive order issued on April 15 requires customers entering a place of business to wear a mask.
Other News...
Gov. Wolf says state will focus on early reopening efforts for less-impacted areas of the state. In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf said he will begin to reopen the Commonwealth similar to how stay-at-home orders were provided -- on a county-by-county basis. He said that he believes less-impacted areas of the state could reopen "in a fairly robust way" beginning May 8.

UPMC to resume some elective surgeries as predicted surge of COVID-19 patients has not occurred. With the threat of a potential surge of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania dissipating, and with the Commonwealth seeing success in flattening the curve of cases, UPMC announced plans to resume some of the elective surgeries that were cancelled as the result of government directives to conserve beds and supplies for COVID-19 patients.

Esports, other digital games thrive during COVID-19 pandemic. With all major traditional sports shutdown across the world due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital gaming and esports have flourished as a popular outlet for sports fans and competitors. The growth of the online gaming community has boomed during the crisis, as has the prospect of fans wagering on professional esports contests in the U.S.

Speaking of traditional sports...Tampa Bay Bucs are now Super Bowl contenders? Those of us at Capitol Buzz know that the sporting news of the week does not include any of our in-state professional teams, but in a sign that ANY sports news is worth reporting these days (especially one that makes New England Patriot fans squirm a bit), breaking news came out of the NFL when the Patriots traded currently retired Rob Gronkoswki to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's a move that reunites "Gronk" with future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, and makes the Bucs a 9-1 favorite to win Super Bowl LV.
Unprecedented times, but McNees is here to help
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing by the hour. Capitol Buzz will do its best to keep our readers as up-to-date as possible as to local, state and federal actions relating to the virus.

As we have stated in previous editions, for those businesses seeking guidance or assistance on how to proceed during this unprecedented time, please contact the McNees Labor and Employment Practice Group , or for government relations assistance please contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG) . You can also visit the McNees COVID-19 Article & Resource Page for more information on various legal and political issues created by the novel coronavirus.

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC's coronavirus information page or visit www.health.pa.gov .

The Senate stands in recess until the call of the President Pro Tempore.

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The House stands adjourned until Monday, April 27 at 1:00 p.m.

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