House Committee Passes Highway Bill; Speaker Pelosi Announces $1.5T Infrastructure Bill

Last night, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed H.R. 2, the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act by a voice vote after agreeing to the Chairman’s amendment in the nature of a substitute by a partisan vote of 35 to 25. The final vote came after two days and 24 hours of debate that included the consideration of 177 amendments, of which 34 Republican amendments and 23 Democratic amendments were adopted.
 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced yesterday that they are going to merge several other bills with the INVEST Act and bring it to the House floor for a vote the week of June 29. The combined $1.5T Moving Forward Act will include the INVEST Act plus $100 billion to promote competition for broadband internet infrastructure to unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban communities; $25B for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund; $40B in new wastewater infrastructure; $70B for clean energy projects (including upgrading the electric grid and making it more resilient); $100B to upgrade schools in impoverished districts; $100B for affordable housing; $30B to upgrade hospitals, community health centers, clinical laboratories and Native American health facilities; $3B for shovel-ready projects to restore Great Lakes and coastal habitats and marine ecosystems; and $25B for equipment upgrades at the U.S. Postal Service.
 
The big unanswered question is how to pay for it. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richie Neal (D-MA) has indicated that he will “lean on our tax code,” reinstate Build America Bonds and Advance Refunding Bonds, and increase and expand the issuance of Private Activity Bonds. Speaker Pelosi said that “with the interest rates where they are now, there’s never been a better time for us to go big.” One financing option that is not being discussed is raising the gas tax or imposing other fees. With the election less than five months away, both of these options would be a difficult sell to any members, regardless of their party affiliation.

Congress Passes Fourth Coronavirus Response Bill

The Senate amended and passed H.R. 266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act earlier this week by voice vote. The House took up the measure yesterday and passed it by a vote of 388 (yea) to 5 (nay) to 1 (present). Four Republicans (Biggs – AZ, Buck – CO, Hice – GA, and Massie – KY) and one Democrat (Ocasio-Cortez – NY) voted no. Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) voted present.

The $484B relief package amends the original Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide an additional $310B for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program and an additional $10B for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and Emergency Grants. The bill also makes agricultural enterprises with 500 or fewer employees eligible for EIDL grants. And it provides set asides of not less than $30B for insured depository institutions, credit unions, and community financial institutions with consolidated assets between $10B-$50B and not less than $30B for insured depository institutions, credit unions, and community financial institutions with consolidated assets less than $10B. To prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, the bill provided an additional $2.1B to the U.S. Small Business Administration for salaries and expenses to administer these programs.

The bill also provides the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) an additional $1T for its Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. Seventy-five billion is health care providers for health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus, and $25B is for research, development, validation, manufacturing, purchase, administration, and expanding capacity for COVID–19 tests to effectively monitor and suppress COVID–19, including tests for both active infection and prior exposure. The HHS Inspector General will receive $6M of the bill’s funds for oversight.

President Trump will sign the measure in a noon ceremony in the Oval Office.

H.R. 266, Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act

https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hr266/BILLS-116hr266eas.pdf

What’s Next?

While H.R. 266 is the fourth bill passed by Congress to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, Congressional leaders and the administration have described it as an interim step or a CARES Act 2.0 as they negotiate the next package that they are referring to as “phase four.”

Congressional leaders have acknowledged that they need to do more. President Trump said this week that a phase four stimulus would include funding for road projects and expanding broadband service. He also wants a payroll tax cut and tax breaks for restaurants, sports and entertainment interests. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wants to extend enhanced unemployment insurance benefits past their current July 31 expiration, and provide another round of tax rebate checks. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the next bill should include funds for state and local governments, hazard pay for front-line workers, food aid, election security and funds for the U.S. Postal Service. Governors across the country are requesting at least $500 billion for state aid in the next bill. And sixty members of the New Democrat coalition asked House leadership in a letter to include policies in the next coronavirus stimulus bill to help communities start to reopen. The group details proposals on testing, surveillance and contact tracing.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), on the other hand, wants to wait and see how the first three stimulus bills work before adding additional debt. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pushed back on McConnell saying that with interest rates very low the cost of carrying the debt to the American taxpayer is quite low.

This next phase of economic stimulus likely will be the last before the 2020 elections. Congress isn’t scheduled to return to D.C. until May 4, but staff and members are negotiating and preparing a phase four in the meantime.

House and Senate Pass $2T Phase III Coronavirus Emergency Spending Bill

The House and Senate passed H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act this week. This is the third piece of legislation to pass Congress in response to the coronavirus global pandemic. The first bill Congress passed provided $8.3B in emergency coronavirus funding and was enacted into law on March 6 (P.L. 116-123). The second bill, H.R. 6201, the $2.5B Families First Coronavirus Response Act, was signed into law on March 18 (P.L. 116-127).

The Senate passed H.R. 748 on Wednesday by a vote of 96-0. The four Senators not voting either tested positive for coronavirus or were self-quarantined because of exposure to someone: Sens. Lee (R-UT), Paul (R-KY), Romney (R-UT), and Thune (R-SD). While the vote was unanimous, negotiators spent several days working out a deal between the Senate, the House and the administration. And during floor consideration, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) offered an amendment that would have capped unemployment benefits at a person’s previous average pay. The Senate voted 48-48, falling short of the 60-vote threshold needed to pass the amendment. If Sasse had succeeded with his amendment, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) threatened to ask for an amendment that would tighten restrictions on companies that received government funds in the bill.

The House then passed the bill by voice vote today, but the vote followed a chaotic 24-hour scramble in which hundreds of lawmakers had to quickly return to DC to block a single Republican lawmaker from holding up the bill. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) asked for a recorded vote on H.R. 748, but was denied as there was an insufficient number of members of Congress requesting the recorded vote. Massie then objected and raised a point of order that a quorum was not present. The chair ruled that a quorum was present and the voice vote passing the bill was upheld.

The bill will provide Americans who earned less than $75,000 (single) or $150,000 (married) a one-time payout of $1200 (single) or $2400 (married).  In addition, they are eligible for an additional $500 per child. The rebate amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 that a taxpayer’s income exceeds $75,000 ($150,000 married). The amount is completely phased-out for single filers with incomes exceeding $99,000, $146,500 for head of household filers with one child, and $198,000 for joint filers with no children. For the vast majority of Americans, no action on their part will be required in order to receive a rebate check as the IRS will use a taxpayer’s 2019 tax return if filed, or in the alternative, their 2018 return. The bill also provides unemployed individuals with an additional $600 a week for four months on top of their regular unemployment compensation.

The bill also provides $500B for distressed businesses. However, there are some restrictions on this funding including limits on executive pay, a ban on stock buybacks, a ban on outsourcing, and requirements that companies honor collective bargaining agreements and stay neutral on any union organization efforts.

The President is expected to sign the bill later today.

CARES Act

https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/FINAL%20FINAL%20CARES%20ACT.pdf

Senate Appropriations Committee Summary (Republicans)

https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Coronavirus%20Supplemental%20Appropriations%20Summary_FINAL.pdf

Senate Appropriations Committee Summary (Democrats)

https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/032520%20Title-By-Title%20Summary%20FINAL.pdf

Unemployment Insurance Section-By-Section

https://www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/CARES%20Act%20Section-by-Section%20(Tax,%20Unemployment%20Insurance).pdf

Health Policy Section-By-Section

https://www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/CARES%20Act%20Section-by-Section%20(Finance%20Health).pdf

Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Section-by-Section

https://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/ef2d5d75-82b2-4de8-9e4e-89e1cdc2b758/EA7D2DA06BB292AB5903710F77D02485.final-section-by-section—keeping-american-workers-employed-and-paid-act.pdf

Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee One Pager

https://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/28e8263e-e7d4-4da7-a67b-077c54ba4220/9F7B494B2E355791B24536DC2162CF16.final-one-pager-keeping-american-workers-paid-and-employed-act-.pdf

Coronavirus Update

Senate Passes and President Signs Second Coronavirus Emergency Spending Bill

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 90-8 to pass H.R. 6201, the $2.5B Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The President signed it into law (P.L. 116-127). Voting no in the Senate were Sens. Blackburn (R-TN), Inhofe (R-OK), Johnson (R-WI), Lankford (R-OK), Lee (R-UT), Paul (R-KY), Sasse (R-NE), and Scott (R-SC). The bill passed the House last Saturday by a bipartisan vote of 363-40. All 40 no votes were from Republicans.

This is the second bill Congress has passed to respond to the coronavirus global pandemic. It provides free virus testing, gives up to 12 weeks of paid family and sick leave to workers at companies with fewer than 500 employees to deal with virus-related issues (including staying home to care for children whose schools are closed), enhances Unemployment Insurance, strengthens food security programs, and increases federal Medicaid funding to states. The first bill Congress passed provided $8.3B in emergency coronavirus funding and was enacted into law on March 6 (P.L. 116-123).

Bill Text

https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20200309/BILLS-116hr6201-SUS.pdf

Bill Summary

https://appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/Families%20First%20Summary%20FINAL.pdf

Summary of paid leave provisions outside the Appropriations Committee’s jurisdiction, incorporating changes made by technical correction

https://appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/2020-03-17%20Emergency%20Paid%20Sick-Family%20Leave%20Fact%20Sheet%20Enrolled%20FINAL.pdf

White House Initiates Additional Coronavirus Responses

In addition to enacting the two bills passed by Congress, the President and his administration have taken several other steps to respond to the health crisis and provide Americans with some economic relief, including:

  • Invoking the 1950 Defense Production Act to accelerate the production of medical supplies that are in short supply
    • Allows the U.S. Government to make contracts with industry, provide loan guarantees or lend money directly to targeted industry, shield industry from anti-trust actions, and give the federal government the right to purchase products above anyone else
  • Moving the Tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15, providing taxpayers and businesses with additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties
  • Not enforcing standardized testing for K-12 schools
  • Allowing federal student loan borrowers suspend payments for at least 60 days without penalty
  • Imposing travel restrictions on cross-border non-essential travel between the U.S. and Canada and the U.S. and Mexico
  • Halting (temporarily) enforcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), except for efforts to deport foreign nationals who have committed crimes or pose a threat to public safety
  • Relaxing the limits on bringing hand sanitizer onto airplanes
  • Deploying U.S. Navy hospital ships to New York and the West Coast to take on non-coronavirus patients to free up shore-based hospital beds for COVID-19 cases
  • Halting any evictions or foreclosures by HUD, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac until the end of April
  • Halting military travel in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan

OMB Memo to Federal Agencies – Updated Guidance for the National Capital Region on Telework Flexibilities in Response to Coronavirus

https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/M20-15-Telework-Guidance-OMB.pdf

OMB Memo – Updated Federal Travel Guidance in Response to Coronavirus

https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/M-20-14-travel-guidance-OMB-1.pdf

Administration Sends Next Funding Request to Congress

On Tuesday, the Administration sent a letter to Congress requesting an additional $45.8B in FY2020 funding to address ongoing preparedness and response efforts. Details on the Administration’s request can be found in the letter the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent to Congress (see link below).

In addition to the emergency supplemental funding, the Administration amended its FY2021 budget request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases (NIAID). The administration requested an additional $1.33B for CDC for a total of $8.33B and an additional $439.6M for NIAID bringing total funding for NIH to $5.89B for FY2021. This is a reversal for OMB Acting Director Russ Vought who told House appropriators last week that the administration did not plan to alter its FY2021 budget request.

The request also included three requests from the Judiciary totaling $7.5M.

OMB March 17, 2020 Letter to Congress

https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Letter-regarding-additional-funding-to-support-the-United-States-response-to-COVID-19-3.17.2020.pdf

Senate Introduces Third Coronavirus Response Bill

On Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released the next stimulus bill for responding to the coronavirus. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act focuses on four major priorities:

  • Direct financial help for the American people;
  • Relief for small businesses and their employees;
  • Steps to stabilize the economy and protect jobs; and
  • Support for healthcare professionals and coronavirus patients

Direct Financial Help

  • Provides recovery checks to most taxpayers, providing cash immediately to individuals and families. Individuals are eligible for checks up to $1,200 and married couples filing jointly are eligible for checks up to $2,400, with an extra $500 for each child. So that relief is focused on those who need it most, eligibility for recovery checks is reduced starting at $75,000 in 2018 income for individuals and $150,000 in 2018 income for joint filers. Individuals with 2018 income exceeding $99,000 and joint filers with 2018 income exceeding $198,000 are ineligible.
  • Extends the traditional April 15thtax filing deadline to July 15th and allows individuals required to make estimated tax payments to postpone them until October 15th.
  • Waives penalties for early withdrawal from qualified retirement accounts for coronavirus-related purposes of up to $100,000.
  • Allows the Secretary of Education to defer student loan payments and allows students who were forced to drop out of school due to coronavirus to keep their Pell grants.
  • Grants colleges and universities flexibility to continue work-study payments to students who cannot work due to coronavirus closures.

Small Business Relief

  • Provides cash-flow assistance through federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. If employers maintain their payroll, the loans would be forgiven, which would help workers to remain employed and affected small businesses and our economy to quickly snap-back after the crisis.
  • Expands the allowable uses for certain small business loans to permit payroll support, including paid sick leave, supply chain disruptions, employee salaries, mortgage payments, and other debt obligations to provide immediate access to capital for small businesses who have been impacted by the coronavirus emergency.
  • Changes regulations in the paid leave mandate for small businesses.
  • Makes unemployment insurance applications more easily accessible.

Steps to Stabilize the Economy and Protect Jobs

  • Provides loans that must be repaid to the government.
    • Up to $50 billion for passenger air carriers
    • Up to $8 billion for cargo air carriers
    • Up to $150 billion for other eligible entities
  • Allows the Treasury Secretary to provides loans and loan guarantees to passenger air carriers, cargo air carriers, and other major industries severely impacted by government health restrictions to combat the coronavirus.
  • Prohibits companies receiving assistance from increasing executive pay or providing “golden parachutes” for two years.
  • Directs the Treasury Secretary to ensure the U.S. government is compensated for the loans to these industries.
  • Provides tax relief to businesses affected by the coronavirus emergency. Allows deferred payments on estimated taxes and some payroll taxes, increased deductibility for interest expenses, immediate expensing of qualified property improvements, especially for the hospitality industry, and corrects errors in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that inadvertently affected certain businesses.

Support for Healthcare Professionals and Coronavirus Patients

  • Addresses supply shortages for drugs and critical equipment, including ventilators and medical masks.
  • Expands testing and ensures coronavirus tests are free for patients.
  • Speeds the development of new vaccines and treatments, such as reducing barriers to work with the private sector.
  • Permits patients to use health savings accounts to cover telehealth services and expands telehealth access for Medicare beneficiaries.
  • Increases Medicare payments to hospitals treating a patient admitted with coronavirus.

Majority Leader McConnell has acknowledged that the legislation is likely to change over the course of discussions with the White House, Senate Democrats and House leaders. Some Senate Republicans want to hold off on sending a second check until they see that they get the first check right and see that there is still a need. And other Republicans prefer boosting unemployment insurance benefits instead of sending out checks to those who haven’t lost a job. On the Democratic side, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized McConnell for drafting a bill without Democratic input. While the Senate bill does come with some “strings attached,” Schumer called for additional requirements for companies that get federal aid, such as not cutting the number, salary, pensions, and benefits of their workers. The bill does not include any of the $45.8B requested by the Administration earlier this week.

A vote on this third bill is likely early next week. Discussions on a fourth bill have already started in a general way. That bill could include a major infrastructure package.

Bill Text

https://www.republicanleader.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/CARES%20Act%20Final%20-%20Mar%202020.pdf

Summary

https://www.republicanleader.senate.gov/newsroom/research/the-cares-act-major-coronavirus-relief-for-american-workers-families-and-small-businesses 

Senate Appropriations Committee Press Release

https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/shelby-thune-wicker-unveil-liquidity-assistance-for-distressed-american-industries-within-coronavirus-package

Senate Finance Committee Press Release

https://www.finance.senate.gov/chairmans-news/senators-recommend-tax-policies-for-phase-3-coronavirus-response

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Press Release

https://www.help.senate.gov/chair/newsroom/press/health-care-provisions-of-third-covid-19-bill-will-keep-americans-healthy-improve-access-to-medical-supplies-help-doctors-and-nurses

Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Press Release

https://www.sbc.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=3B42CB4F-CF1C-4D6F-9212-290E6A19AB52

Section-by-Section of Health Provisions

https://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/HELP%20Committee%20Provisions%20CARES%20Act%20Section%20by%20Section.pdf

Section-by-Section of Finance Committee Provisions

https://www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Finance%20Committee%20Provisions%20Section%20by%20Section.pdf

White House Issues Updated Coronavirus Guidance

President Trump held a press conference today and provided updated guidance from the CDC. He warned that the coronavirus crisis could affect the U.S. until July/August. They are now asking everyone to do their part to slow the spread of the virus. The new guidance includes:

 
  • Work from home
  • Avoid gatherings of 10+ people
  • Avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants or food courts (use drive-thru, pick up or delivery options)
  • Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips and social visits
  • Don’t visit nursing homes, long-term care facilities, or retirement communities
 
And, most importantly, continue to wash your hands.

CDC Guidance:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/03.16.20_coronavirus-guidance_8.5x11_315PM.pdf

 

House Passes 2nd Coronavirus Response Bill

The House passed H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Act last night by a vote of 363 (yeas) – 40 (nays) – 1 (present). All no votes were from Republicans, and the one vote “present” was from Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI). President Trump backed the deal that was negotiated between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The bill includes free testing for everyone who needs it, two weeks of paid sick leave, enhanced jobless benefits and increased food aid for children, senior citizens and food banks.

The measure now goes to the Senate who could consider it this coming week.

House-Passed Version of H.R. 6201

https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20200309/BILLS-116hr6201-SUS.pdf

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Dear Colleagues

https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/31320-1

https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/31320-0

 

President and Congress Take Steps to Address Coronavirus Global Pandemic

President Trump officially declared a national emergency this afternoon and announced several other steps the White House is taking to address the coronavirus global pandemic. The national emergency declaration will allow up to $50 billion in federal aid for local municipalities and states to use to combat the illness. He also called on every state to set up emergency operations immediately and every hospital to implement their emergency procedures. The executive order also will allow the Secretary of Health and Human services to waive certain regulations and laws to more quickly deliver testing and care for coronavirus patients. And the President has directed the Secretary of Energy to purchase “large quantities” of crude oil for the strategic petroleum reserve. Finally, he said that they are waiving interest on student loans that are held by the federal government.

Earlier in the week, after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic on Wednesday, the President addressed the nation from the oval office informing the country of the measures the administration was taking to stop the spread of the outbreak as well as to shore up the economy. The President called for Congress to “put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify together.” More specifically, he said that his administration is:

  • Suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days beginning on Friday 3/13 at midnight.
    • S. citizens are exempt from the ban, but must undergo “appropriate screenings.”
    • The prohibitions will not apply to trade and cargo.
    • The restrictions do not apply to the United Kingdom.
  • Reevaluating the restrictions on travel from China and South Korea for a possible early opening.
  • Working with the health insurance industry to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments, extend coverage for these treatments, and prevent surprise medical billing.
  • Reducing federal “red tape” to make antiviral therapies available.
  • Issuing guidance on school closures, social distancing, and reducing large gatherings.
  • Instructing the Small Business Administration to provide economic loans in affected states and territories, and asking Congress to increase funding for this program by an additional $50 billion.
  • Instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments, without interest or penalties, for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted.
  • Requesting Congress pass an immediate payroll tax relief bill. The president wants to cut the Social Security payroll tax from 6.2% on the first $137,700 in wages to as low as zero through December 31. Another option is to cut only the employee share of the tax to 2%.

Following the President’s initial address on Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee introduced H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Act. The bill provides the following:

  • $500 million for a special supplemental nutrition program for Women Infants and Children (WIC)
  • $400 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
  • Provision to allow the Department of Agriculture to provide emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to households with children who would have otherwise received free or reduced-price meals at their schools
  • $100 million for nutrition assistance grants to Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • $5 million to the Department of Labor to administer the emergency paid sick days program
  • $250 million for the Senior Nutrition program in the Administration for Community Living
  • Provides the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to issue nationwide school meal waivers
  • Allows all child and adult care centers to operate as non-congregate (i.e. they can serve outside the school or in individual settings) and waive all meal pattern requirements if there is a disruption to the food supply
  • Suspends the work and work training requirements for SNAP during the crisis
  • Allows states to request special waivers from the Secretary to provide temporary, emergency CR-SNAP benefits to existing SNAP households
  • Requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) within 30 days, requiring employers within the health care sector – and any other sectors that either OSHA or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) designate at elevated risk – to develop and implement a comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plan to protect health care workers from exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID19
  • OSHA shall issue a permanent health and safety standard, which the Occupational Safety and Health Act stipulates shall be issued 6 months after the ETS has been issued
  • Requires that hospitals and skilled nursing facilities operated by state or local government agencies, which are not otherwise subject to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 or a State occupational safety and health plan, shall comply with the ETS and the permanent OSHA standard required in this Act as a condition of receiving Medicare funds
  • Creates a new federal emergency paid leave non-taxable benefits program as Title VI of the Social Security Act, consisting of the following Social Security Act sections
  • Provides the Social Security Administration with additional direct (mandatory) funding for both the cost of the benefits and the cost of administering the program
  • $1 billion in 2020 for emergency grants to states for activities related to processing and paying unemployment insurance (UI) benefits
  • Provides states with access to interest-free loans to help pay regular UI benefits through December 31, 2020, if needed
  • Requires the Secretary of Labor to provide technical assistance to states that want to set up work-sharing programs, in which employers reduce hours instead of laying employees off, and then employees receive partial unemployment benefits to offset the wage loss
  • Provides 100% federal funding for Extended UI Benefits for states that experience an increase of 10 percent or more in their unemployment rate (over the previous year) and comply with all the beneficiary access provisions in section 102
  • Requires all employers to allow employees to gradually accrue seven days of paid sick leave and to provide an additional 14 days available immediately in the event of any public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis
  • Requires all employers to provide an additional 14 days of paid sick leave, available immediately at the beginning of a public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis
  • Ensures paid sick leave covers days when your child’s school is closed due to a public health emergency, when your employer is closed due to public health emergency, or if you or a family member is quarantined or isolated due to a public health emergency
  • Reimburses small businesses—defined as businesses with 50 or fewer employees—for the costs of providing the 14 days of additional paid sick leave used by employees during a public health emergency
  • Enables construction employees to receive sick pay based on hours they work for multiple contractors
  • Requires private health plans to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the cost of a provider, urgent care center and emergency room visits in order to receive testing. Coverage must be provided at no cost to the consumer.
  • Requires Medicare Part B to cover beneficiary cost-sharing for provider visits during which a COVID-19 diagnostic test is administered or ordered
  • Requires Medicare Advantage to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the associated cost of the visit in order to receive testing
  • Requires Medicaid to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the cost of a provider visit in order to receive testing
  • Requires the National Disaster Medical System to reimburse the costs of COVID-19 diagnostic testing provided to individuals without insurance
  • Requires certain personal respiratory protective devices to be treated as covered countermeasures under the PREP Act Declaration for the purposes of emergency use during the COVID-19 outbreak and ending October 1, 2024
  • Ensures that individuals enrolled in TRICARE, covered veterans, and federal workers have coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing without cost- sharing
  • Ensures that American Indians and Alaskan Natives do not experience cost sharing for COVID-19 testing, including those referred for care away from an Indian Health Service or tribal health care facility
  • Provides a temporary increase to states’ federal medical assistance percentage for the duration of the public health emergency for COVID-19

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have had several discussions the past two days trying to negotiate a compromise coronavirus response bill. President Trump said that House Democrats are not giving enough in the negotiations. Republican lawmakers are waiting for a signal from President Trump on whether he’ll support a deal worked out by Secretary Mnuchin and House Speaker Pelosi. Speaker Pelosi said the House will pass legislation today whether or not the President agrees.

President’s Address to the Nation

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-address-nation/

H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Act Bill Text

https://rules.house.gov/sites/democrats.rules.house.gov/files/BILLS-116hr6201ih.pdf

H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Act Bill Summary

https://appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/Families%20First%20summary.pdf

Speaker Pelosi’s Dear Colleague

https://www.speaker.gov/newsroom/31220-1

Small Business Administration Coronavirus Guidance

https://www.sba.gov/page/guidance-businesses-employers-plan-respond-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

Department of Homeland Security Outlines New Process for Americans Returning from Certain European Countries, China, and Iran

https://www.dhs.gov/news/2020/03/13/department-homeland-security-outlines-new-process-americans-returning-certain

DHS Notice of Arrival Restrictions

https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2020-05578.pdf

 

House and Senate Pass Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental

The House and Senate passed an $8.3B coronavirus emergency spending bill this week and sent it to the President who signed it this morning. The House passed H.R. 6074 by a vote of 415 to 2. Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Ken Buck (R-CO) were the two dissenting votes. The Senate then cleared the package by a vote of 96 to 1. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) voted no after offering an amendment aimed at avoiding a deeper deficit by slashing more than $7B from foreign aid programs. The amendment was tabled by a vote of 81-15. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) criticized Paul’s amendment saying that it would not “do much for the debt, but it’s going to do a lot to make us less safe.”

The amount of funding provided in the emergency supplemental far exceeds the administration’s original $1.8B request submitted to Congress on February 24. The administration requested $1.25B in emergency funding for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the authority to transfer $535M from an account for the prevention and treatment of Ebola to the COVID-19 response. The funding comes as there have been 11 deaths attributed to the virus in the U.S. and the number of infections in the U.S. is 164 in 19 states (CDC data).

The bill provides the following:

  • $61M for the FDA to facilitate the development and review, both pre-market and post-market, of medical countermeasures, devices, therapies, and vaccines to combat the coronavirus.
  • $1 billion for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide loan subsidies to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture producers, and non- profit organizations that have been impacted by financial losses as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This funding could enable the SBA to provide an estimated $7B in loans to these entities. It also provides $20 million to administer these loans.
  • $2.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus
  • $300 million to replenish the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund
  • $300 million for global disease detection and emergency response
  • $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to prevent or treat the effects of coronavirus as well as a requirement that vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics developed using taxpayer funds must be available for purchase by the Federal government at a fair and reasonable price and must be affordable in the commercial market.
  • $1 billion for procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to support healthcare preparedness and Community Health Centers, and to improve medical surge capacity
  • Requirement to reimburse $136 million to programs across the Department of Health and Human Services that were temporarily transferred to support emergency preparedness and response activities at the CDC and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.
  • $10 million for worker-based training through the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to prevent and reduce exposure of hospital employees, emergency first responders, and other workers who are at risk of exposure to coronavirus through their work duties.
  • $2 million for the HHS Office of Inspector General to conduct oversight of activities related to coronavirus preparedness and response.
  • Authority for HHS to hire public health experts, as expeditiously as necessary, to perform critical work relating to coronavirus.
  • $264 million for consular operations, emergency evacuations of State Department staff and dependents, and other emergency preparedness needs at embassies around the world.
  • $435 million to support health systems overseas to prevent, prepare and respond to the coronavirus, of which $200 million is for the Emergency Reserve Fund.
  • $300 million to respond to humanitarian needs arising in countries coping with a coronavirus disease outbreak.
  • $250 million to protect against the effects of an outbreak including economic, security, and stabilization requirements.
  • $1 million for the USAID Inspector General to perform oversight of coronavirus response activities.
  • Requires a comprehensive strategy to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and regular reporting on the use of funding.
  • Ensures that the President cannot use funds appropriated in this bill for any other purpose, except for repayment of transfers within the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to waive certain Medicare telehealth restrictions during the coronavirus public health emergency. These waivers would allow Medicare providers to furnish telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries regardless of whether the beneficiary is in a rural community. This provision would also allow beneficiaries to receive care from physicians and other practitioners in their homes. This provision is estimated to cost $500 million.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) said even more funding would be provided if the current measure proves insufficient. “If they need money, we will provide it,” he said. “Money should be no problem or no object when it comes to the health of the American people, especially to prevent something this contagious.”

Bill Text

https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20200302/BILLS-116hr6074-SUS.pdf

Section-by-Section Summary

https://appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/Coronavirus%20Supp%20Summary%203.4.20.pdf

Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2020-03/hr6074.pdf

White House Sends $1.25B Supplemental Funding Request to Congress to Respond to Coronavirus

White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Russell Vought sent a letter to Congress requesting additional federal resources to take steps to prepare for a potential worsening of the coronavirus situation in the United States. The administration requested $1.25B in emergency funding for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to continue supporting critical response and preparedness activities. In addition, the administration requested that Congress permit the $535M in emergency supplemental funding appropriated in the FY20 Agriculture appropriations bill for the prevention and treatment of Ebola instead be used for COVID-19 response. Finally, the administration requested the ability for HHS to transfer funds to the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and other components as necessary to carry out response activities.

The February 24 letter also stated that the President created a Coronavirus Task Force and appointed HHS Secretary Alex Azar as the lead on the task force. Two days later, the President held a press conference where he announced that Vice President Mike Pence would be in charge of the administration’s response to the coronavirus. Vice President Pence, in turn, appointed Ambassador Debbie Birx as the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. Birx serves as the U.S. government’s leader for combatting HIV/AIDS globally. She will also join the White House’s coronavirus task force led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Also on the task force are Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury; Dr. Jerome Adams, Surgeon General of the United States; Larry Kudlow, Director of the National Economic Council; Robert O’Brien, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health; Deputy Secretary Stephen Biegun, Department of State; Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Deputy Secretary, Department of Homeland Security; Joel Szabat, Acting Under Secretary for Policy, Department of Transportation; Matthew Pottinger, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor; Rob Blair, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff; Joseph Grogan, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council; Christopher Liddell, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination; and Derek Kan, Executive Associate Director, Office of Management and Budget.

Democrats criticized the request as falling short of what is really needed, and some Republicans also thought the administration’s plan may be insufficient. House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said in a statement that the administration’s request was “woefully insufficient” and that her committee would “move quickly to enact a robust package that fully addresses this global emergency without allowing this administration to steal from other necessary programs.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) released an emergency funding bill totaling $8.5B. Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy (D-VT) expressed concern about the administration transferring COVID-19 emergency supplemental funds to other purposes, such as the southwest border wall.

The House most likely will vote on a funding plan to combat coronavirus the week of March 9. Bipartisan, bicameral meetings are happening now to work out the details of the supplemental funding bill. Senate and House appropriations leaders want bipartisan, bicameral agreement on coronavirus funding legislation by early next week. The measure will likely fall somewhere between $6-8 billion. Democrats are also pushing for provisions that will prevent the president from transferring these new funds to anything other than the coronavirus and fighting infectious diseases; ensure that vaccines for the coronavirus are affordable and available to all that need it; provide interest-free loans to small businesses that are impacted by the outbreak; and reimburse state and local governments for costs incurred while assisting the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak. The bill may skip committee consideration to go straight to the floor for a vote.

White House COVID-19 Funding Request Letter

https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Coronavirus-Supplemental-Request-Letter-Final.pdf

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer’s Proposal

https://www.democrats.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/022620%20LEADER%20SCHUMER’S%20CORONAVIRUS%20REQUEST.pdf

President Releases National Drug Interdiction Plan and Border Strategies

This week White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Jim Carroll released the National Interdiction Command and Control Plan (NICCP), which outlines the Trump Administration’s interdiction strategy to reduce the availability of illicit drugs in the United States. In conjunction with the recently released National Drug Control Strategy, the NICCP provides strategic guidance to relevant drug control agencies regarding interdiction efforts to disrupt Transnational Criminal Organizations that traffic drugs to the United States.

Additionally, the Administration released two counternarcotics strategies, outlining priorities in stopping the flow of drugs along both the Southwest and Northern borders.

The Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy aims to prevent drug trafficking along the almost 2,000-mile border that separates the United States and Mexico. The strategy specifically states, “To secure the SWB, the United States must continue to enhance interdiction and law enforcement capabilities at and between the ports of entry (POEs). The United States must bolster domain awareness through the employment of technologies, augmented by the fusion of investigative information and criminal intelligence to enable interdictions, facilitate criminal investigations, and achieve successful prosecutions” and “To deter effectively and reliably the trafficking of illegal drugs between Mexico and the United States, the Federal Government will implement a multi-layered deterrence capability consisting of manned and unmanned systems, physical and virtual barriers, and land and air-based sensors.” And with respect to tunnels and subterranean passages, the strategy calls for Federal agencies and departments to continue “to collaborate to develop ground-based sensors and other technology, thus enhancing domain awareness and cueing investigative and interdiction actions. Enhanced detection and monitoring of tunnel construction and use would enable law enforcement to identify unexplained voids; acoustic, gravitational, electronic, or seismic anomalies; subtle changes in ground moisture; or subsidence (sinking) for further investigation and tunnel discovery early in construction or use. Departments and agencies should continue their efforts to improve tunnel detection technology, including researching existing private sector capabilities and promising new methods. The use of horizontal directional-drilling equipment provides another opportunity for law enforcement.”

The Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy aims to prevent the illegal trafficking of drugs across the United States-Canada border with regard to our 5,225-mile shared border – the longest in the world between two countries.

National Interdiction Command and Control Plan

https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/2020-National-Interdiction-Command-and-Control-Plan.pdf

National Drug Control Strategy

https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/2020-NDCS.pdf 

Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy

https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/2020-Southwest-Border-Counternarcotics-Strategy.pdf

Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy

https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/2020-Northern-Border-Counternarcotics-Strategy.pdf