Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – August 2020 #3

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In Washington

  • Negotiations on the next COVID-19 relief bill continued behind closed doors Wednesday in meetings between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Before today’s meeting, the White House officials met with the Senate Republicans with many walking out with downbeat views of how talks will go. Republicans do not feel that Democrats are conceding enough. On Tuesday, Democrats and the White House officials reportedly swapped offers and both sides had made some concessions. POLITICO reports that Mnuchin and Meadows proposed an additional US$400/week until Dec. 15 even though Leader McConnell originally said that Republicans might agree to a US$600/week plan. Republicans also want to include the return-to-work credit. Democrats are holding out for the US$600 amount. Republicans also were willing to extend the eviction moratorium both through Dec. 15 and US$200 billion on state and local funding. It’s reported that Democrats dropped their US$25 billion requests on USPS to US$10 billion pending today’s meeting. Both parties remain far apart on a final price tag for a relief package.
  • President Trump is considering signing three executive orders if negotiations between lawmakers on the next COVID-19 relief bill are unfruitful. The orders would delay the collection of federal payroll taxes, reinstitute an expired eviction moratorium, and extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits by tapping into the US$81 billion in unspent aid approved by Congress as part of the CARES Act. Administration officials also think the Labor Department can loan state unemployment agencies additional money to boost payments to laid-off workers.
  • Sixteen Republican senators wrote a letter urging the Senate leadership to extend the US$2 trillion federal aid for airline payroll support that was provided in the CARES Act so the industry could avoid furloughs. The Senate letter follows a similar letter led by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR) and Subcommittee on Aviation Chairman Rick Larsen (D-WA) 27 July that drew 223 bipartisan signatures.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating Eastman Kodak’s announcement of its government loan of US$765 to make drug ingredients in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal. Regulators are reportedly investigating why Kodak announced the loan on the day prior to the official announcement, which sparked shares in the company to spike 25 percent higher. According to the Journal, the investigation may not produce allegations of wrongdoing, but it focuses on how Kodak controlled the loan’s disclosure.
  • President Trump continues to push for in-person schooling this fall, telling Fox and Friends Wednesday morning. The President defended his position by claiming that children are “virtually immune” from COVID-19 and the coronavirus is “going away” soon. Trump also suggested that Democrats prefer remote learning over schools physically reopening “because they think it’s going to hurt the election for the Republicans.” Public health officials have all agreed that children of all ages can become ill and transmit COVID-19. White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, have endorsed physically reopening schools provided that any surges in new cases are brought under control first.
  • President Trump on Tuesday made a one-state exception to his opposition to mail-in voting. In a tweet, the president urged his supporters in the battleground state of Florida to request ballots by mail. “Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True,” Trump wrote. The president has previously pushed in-person voting despite fears of spreading COVID-19. Trump has repeatedly leveled unsubstantiated claims that voting by mail would result in widespread voter fraud.
  • Increased funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is looking likelier as coronavirus relief bill negotiations continue. An administration official told CNBC Monday that Democrats and Republicans have agreed to extend PPP funding, though the details are unclear. Key Senators from both parties have signaled support. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, warned Wednesday that not renewing funding would prompt a wave of small business layoffs that would spread to “the rest of the economy, including the real estate sector.” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the top Democrat on the Small Business Committee, said Tuesday he was largely on board with a Republican proposal to allocate US$190 billion to the program.

In the News

  • ADP reports that 167,000 new private-sector jobs were added last month, that’s well below the expected 1.5 million the economists predicted. All but 1,000 of the jobs came in the services sector.
  • Three companies are now touting promising COVID-19 vaccine results including Moderna, Pfizer, and Novavax. Two other U.S. trials will soon be underway for a possible antibody treatment for coronavirus patients.
  • Meanwhile, Moderna announced Wednesday that it's on track to finish enrollment for a phase three study of its vaccine by the end of September. It also says it plans to make the drug affordable for most people and wants to keep it under US$40 per dose for most customers.
  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will no longer travel to Milwaukee, WI to accept his party’s nomination, but will instead stay in Delaware for the event, according to the Democratic National Convention Committee. The DNC also says the convention will be entirely virtual. Meanwhile, Biden’s campaign says it has reserved US$280 million in television and digital advertising that it plans to use largely to criticize President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has surpassed 4.7 million and 156,782 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
  • Virgin Australia announced it is cutting around a third of its workforce, or some 3,000 jobs, focus on shorter flights to reduce costs. Virgin Atlantic has filed for bankruptcy in the U.S.
  • Florida’s health care system is facing an incredible burden from the latest spike in COVID-19 cases. So far, 52 hospitals have reached ICU capacity and show zero ICU beds available, according to data released by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Starting today, Florida will provide rapid COVID-19 antigen testing at two drive-thru locations in Miami-Dade County, according to Florida emergency officials.

[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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