NATaT Coronavirus Update (updated 5/27/2020)
The House is back in session Wednesday with new proxy voting rules in place – a first in American history. The Senate is also in session but is only scheduled to meet in pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. The House is likely to consider a bill changing the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to extend the time small businesses have to spend government loans from 8 to 24 weeks.
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said it is likely Congress will need to pass more stimulus legislation for the US economy and supported extending the PPP loan program timeframe. The outlook for additional relief legislation, including the HEROES Act and the SMART Act, remains uncertain as Republicans are generally in favor of waiting to see the results of relief legislation already enacted. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said another relief bill is likely “in a month or so.”
The Trump Administration released a report Sunday on a new national coronavirus testing strategy. The report holds individual states responsible for planning and carrying out all coronavirus testing with some federal assistance. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the Administration report.
Capitol Hill. The Congressional Research Service published an overview of FCC-related responses to the COVID-19 pandemic including the Commission’s numerous rules waivers, grants of special temporary authority, and disbursements of CARES Act broadband funds.
Bills and Letters of Interest
S.3778 (Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)) allows the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to waive a requirement that states provide a 20 percent match for the $400 million in election assistance grants included in the CARES Act if circumstances related to the coronavirus prevent them from providing this match.
S.3805 (Sen. Angus King (I-ME)) adjusts PPP rules that have prevented some businesses from fully utilizing the funds to address severe economic impacts of the pandemic, extends loans over a longer period of time, and allows for some flexibility in where the funds can go.
S.3806 (Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS)) requires FEMA to provide a 100 percent cost share for all federal emergency declarations and major disaster declarations during calendar year 2020.
S.3823 (Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)) creates a new formula to ensure the Provider Relief Fund has a dedicated set-aside amount directed towards rural areas of America.
S.3825 (Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)) directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants to establish a Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Network.
S.3827 (Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC)) rebuilds the Strategic National Stockpile and strengthens domestic PPE manufacturing to ensure the U.S. is better prepared for future public health emergencies.
S.3793 (Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)) provides businesses experiencing significant financial hardship as a result of the virus with a refundable tax credit big enough to rehire and pay laid off and furloughed workers up to $90,000 per year, including health care benefits.
H.R.6983 (Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)) creates a federal reinsurance program similar to the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program for pandemic risks in order to promote the availability and affordability of insurance coverage that includes pandemic risks.
H.R.6973 (Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-IA)) allows small businesses to use funds from PPP loans on personal protective equipment for their employees and eliminates the 75% payroll requirement.
H.R.6968 (Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)) establishes a pilot grant program to deliver healthy meals to children in rural and difficult-to-reach areas who rely on nutritious school-provided meals during the school year.
There are numerous Congressional hearings taking place this week related to COVID-19, including:
· May 27, 12pm ET House Ways and Means Committee hearing on “The Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color”
· May 28, 10am ET House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction—Veterans Affairs hearing on “Department of Veterans Affairs—Response to COVID-19”
· May 28, 10:15am ET House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections hearing on “Examining the Federal Government’s Actions to Protect Workers from COVID-19”
· May 29, 1pm ET House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation hearing on “The Status of the U.S. Maritime Supply Chain During the COVID-19 Pandemic”
Administration. FEMA released a “Community Mitigation Decision Support Tool” gathering all data from the President’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again including cases, testing results, and hot spot percentages. The tool provides a large variety of coronavirus related data and an account is required for access.
HHS announced a 45-day deadline extension for providers who are receiving payments from the Provider Relief Fund to accept the “Terms and Conditions” for the payments. This grants providers 90-days from the date they received a payment to accept the Terms and Conditions of the loan or return the funds.
Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the Department will be making up to $1 billion in loan guarantees available to help rural businesses meet their economic needs through the Business & Industry CARES Act Program. Agricultural producers ineligible for Farm Service Agency loans may receive funding under this program.
The FCC is partnering with the Institute of Museum and Library Services to promote the use of the $50 million provided from the CARES Act to address the digital divide highlighted by the pandemic.
The CDC published guidance to help prevent exposures to the coronavirus in institutions and communities of faith as states and localities begin to resume normal operations.
HHS is distributing billions in additional relief funds to skilled nursing facilities to assist nursing homes that have faced significant expenses or lost revenue in order to serve the vulnerable senior population during the pandemic.