Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – May 2020 #16

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[author: Shelley Castle]

Your guide to the latest Hill developments, news narratives, and media headlines provided by the Hogan Lovells Government Relations and Public Affairs team.

In Washington

  • The House will be in session on Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to vote on two bills dealing with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) giving small businesses more flexibility in the use of the forgivable loans. One will extend the ability to use the loans from 8 weeks to 24 weeks and eliminate 75 percent payroll requirement. The second bill (H.R. 6782) requires SBA to publish an online database identifying the businesses and other entities that have received over US$2 million through PPP and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) combined. Lawmakers are also planning to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and use proxy voting for the first time on the floor. Leaders of the House Appropriations Committee say they won’t move to mark up its bills until Congress can agree on another federal coronavirus relief measure, which may be weeks down the line. The Senate is not scheduled to be in session this week.
  • While the House plans votes on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) this week, the Treasury Department and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) released new PPP guidance Friday night providing clarity on a few loan forgiveness issues. The two new interim final rules issued late Friday build upon the loan forgiveness application and instructions released 15 May. One addresses requirements for loan forgiveness (read rule) and the other outlines PPP loan review procedures and related borrower and lender responsibilities (read rule).
  • There appears to be bipartisan momentum behind certain provisions in the House-passed coronavirus relief bill, “The HEROES Act” (H. R. 6800), including tweaking the employee retention credit to make it more usable, providing further financial assistance through the tax code to help businesses cover fixed costs during shelter-in-place orders, and loosening IRS rules on deductions related to loans issued under the Paycheck Protection Program. Uncertainty remains on whether Republicans would agree to another round of direct payments to Americans, something they viewed as an emergency bridge to increased unemployment benefits.
  • The Administration submitted a new COVID-19 testing strategy to Congress on Sunday, 15 May, holding individual states responsible for planning and carrying out all coronavirus testing. The federal government plans to provide some supplies such as swabs and tubes, needed for the tests. The proposal also says existing testing capacity, if properly targeted, is sufficient to contain the outbreak despite epidemiologists disagreeing and believing the country needs more.
  • The Trump Administration will ban people who have been in Brazil within the past two weeks from traveling into the U.S. effective at midnight, according to a statement from the White House. Brazil is the world’s number two coronavirus hotspot, behind the U.S.
  • Over the weekend, the Department of Health and Human Services submitted a report to Congress on the COVID-19 strategic testing plan. The federal government will maintain a system of “supporting and encouraging” states to expand testing capabilities but doesn’t specifically lay out a nationwide testing goal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions said in a statement, “this disappointing report confirms” that Trump’s national testing strategy is to “deny the truth that there aren’t enough tests and supplies, reject responsibility and dump the burden onto the states.”
  • More than 28,000 people have died of COVID-19 in care facilities. The nursing home industry is turning its energies to obtaining nationwide protections from Congress in the upcoming coronavirus relief bill. 20 states have acted to limit legal exposure to the industry which risks huge losses if families of coronavirus victims successfully sue facilities hit by the pandemic.
  • President Trump sent a series of tweets on 25 May, demanding NC Governor Roy Cooper (D) to “give an answer now” whether or not he will allow the Charlotte stadium holding the Republican National Convention to be fully occupied by the August convention date. If not, he says “we will be reluctantly forced to find with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site.” Vice President Mike Pence suggested a few other states for the convention, including Georgia, Texas, and Florida.
  • President Trump said he’s completed his course of treatment with hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug he’s touted as a therapy for COVID-19 despite concerns from medical professionals about its unproven efficacy and potential side effects. The World Health Organization temporarily halted its tests on hydroxychloroquine in its COVID-19 drug trials pending more data because of safety concerns.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged that there would most likely be a Phase 4 coronavirus relief bill. “Many of you are asking, what next? I think there’s likely to be another bill. It will not be the US$3 trillion bill the House passed the other day. But there’s still a likelihood that more will be needed,” McConnell said Tuesday. Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he is meeting President Trump Wednesday to discuss infrastructure spending.

In the News

  • Tyson Foods has transformed its facilities nationwide since its workers started getting sick from COVID-19. To slow the spread they have set up on-site medical clinics, are screening employees for fevers at the beginning of their shifts, requiring the use of face coverings and installed plastic dividers between stations. Despite these efforts more than 7,000 have contracted the coronavirus.
  • The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is nearing 100,000, more than double that of any other country, while some 1.7 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • The world’s largest developing nations including Brazil, Mexico, India, and Peru are following recent steps by the U.S. and Europe to ease restrictions aimed at slowing the growth of the coronavirus pandemic in order to spare further pain to their battered economies while new infections and deaths are growing, rather than slowing. Health experts say the timing risks an explosive rise in cases and deaths across the world.
  • U.S. consumer confidence unexpectedly rose in May as states slowly started to reopen, according to data released by The Conference Board. The consumer confidence index rose to 86.6 this month from 85.7 in April. Economists expected a decline to 82.3 in May, according to Dow Jones.
  • Stocks rallied Tuesday, propelled by optimism about the continued reopening of the economy and a new potential coronavirus vaccine. The Dow climbed above 25,000 points, a level it hasn’t hit since 10 March. The S&P 500 traded 1.9 percent higher and the Nasdaq Composite was up 1.5 percent
  • Federal Agencies’ approach to returning to work has been uneven with wide variation in safety standards. There are no plans for broad testing or contact-tracing and the haphazard approach has led to confusing and often contradictory messages being sent to more than 2 million federal workers, 85 percent of whom live outside the greater Washington, D.C., region.
  • Dozens of global leaders across government, industry, international and non-governmental organizations and academia signed a letter calling on international governments and the United Nations to help prevent the cyberattacks that have plagued health care and research facilities during the coronavirus crisis.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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