Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – May 2020 #18

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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.

To read our recent client alert “House and Senate considering bills to enhance flexibility for PPP borrowers” click here. This is a revision of the May 22 client alert, which was updated due to new developments. 

In Washington:

  • The House passed (417-1) the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (H.R. 7010).  The bill extends the ability to use the Small Business Administration (SBA) loans from 8 weeks to 24 weeks and changes the deadline for rehiring workers to June 30.  The bill would also allow businesses to repay any non-forgiven balance over five years, instead of two, reducing the size of each payment. The original bill, H.R. 6886, was slated to remove the requirement that 75 percent of the loan must be spent on payroll, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin objected to a cut saying that it should stay at 75 percent.  On May 27, House Republicans and Democrats negotiated a new bill language lowering the ratio to 60 percent that would be required to be used for payroll.  With the passage of the House version, it is expected that the House and Senate will be able to reach a deal on how small businesses can use the loan program when the Senate returns.  The House also passed the TRUTH Act (H.R. 6782) in a vote of 269-147  requiring the SBA to publicly publish online a database identifying the businesses and other entities that have received more than $2 million combined from the PPP and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL).  
  • The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus, chaired by Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), will hold a video briefing on Friday with seven mayors to discuss the need for more money for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  According to a press release the briefing will “examine what their communities need from the federal government to stabilize local economies, protect the health and well-being of their residents, and safely reopen.” The mayors include Bryan Barnett of Rochester Hills, Michigan, Stephen Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina, Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, Georgia, Jenny Durkan of Seattle, Washington, Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, California, Mary Jane Scott of Magnum, Oklahoma and Lenny Curry of Jacksonville, Florida. 
  • According to POLITICO, as part of the next coronavirus stimulus package, the White House is pushing for an end to “surprise” medical bills.  The draft plan would no longer allow health care providers to put insured patients on the hook for staggering costs of emergency or out-of-network care.  Instead, billing disputes would have to be worked out on a case-by-case basis. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) included this prohibition in the House-passed coronavirus relief bill, “The HEROES Act” (H. R. 6800),  and administration officials now want to pass a blanket prohibition on all hospitals and physicians.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that all Americans should wear facial coverings as the country begins returning to normalcy. “There’s no stigma attached to wearing a mask. There’s no stigma attached to staying six feet apart.  You have an obligation to others in case they might be asymptomatic carriers of the virus” he said. 
  • During a virtual hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) said that minority communities are in “desperate need” of better COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.  James Hildreth, president, and chief executive officer of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, said four schools including his own want to create a consortium of black medical colleges using $5 billion in federal funds that would expand health programs in low-income African American communities, which have seen higher rates of infection and death compared with white communities.
  • In a letter to Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos, Senators Margaret Wood Hassan (D-MA), Tim Scott (R-SC), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) said more instructions to colleges handling financial aid appeals due to coronavirus was necessary.  Lawmakers said the department should ask about the loss of family income from the pandemic in the application for federal student aid.
  • House and Senate Democrats announced legislation yesterday for a federal stabilization fund for childcare centers at risk of closure because of the coronavirus pandemic. The proposal would award grants to childcare centers that reopen as workers return to jobs outside their homes. The bill would prioritize childcare centers for underserved communities and require that they offer relief on tuition for families struggling with payments.
  • House Oversight and Reform Committee Democrats introduced legislation requested by the Trump administration to delay by four months the reporting of U.S. Census Bureau population totals to Trump until April 30, 2021, and to states for redistricting purposes until July 31, 2021.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued recommendations on how employers could bring workers back to office buildings more safely.  The guidelines included improving ventilation, spacing workers apart, and reducing shared objects like communal coffee pots.

In the News: 

  • Another 2.1 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, the lowest total since the coronavirus crisis began, according to the Labor Department.  That brings the total number to 41 million people who have applied for aid since the coronavirus intensified in March. 
  • The American economy shrank more than expected in the first quarter of the year due to the coronavirus lockdown, according to new data published by the Commerce Department.  Gross domestic product fell at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5 percent in the three-month period from January through March.
  • California became the fourth state with at least 100,000 known COVID-19 infections, following Illinois, New York, and New Jersey.
  • American Airlines plans to cut 30 percent of its management and support staff, or about 5,000 jobs due to coronavirus, according to a company memo, CNBC reports.  The airline also started offering buyouts to these employees and plans to offer voluntary leave and buyouts for front-line staff, like flight attendants, in June. 
  • At least 12 states so far have inflated testing numbers or deflated death tolls amid the push to lift stay-at-home orders, Politico reports. Others have shifted their metrics for a “safe” reopening or tried to avoid sharing bad news by shuttering their modeling operations.
  • The National Association of Manufacturing released its second-quarter survey and just 33.9 percent of respondents say they have a positive outlook about their business, the lowest percentage since 2009.  Nevertheless, manufacturers have continued to operate through the crisis 67.1 percent or temporarily halted only part of their operations 31.6 percent. 
  • Epidemiologists are saying that COVID-19 could be an endemic disease like measles, HIV, chickenpox that will never go away even after a vaccine is discovered.  The coronavirus could remain for decades to come, circulating among the world’s population.

[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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