Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – June 2020 #2

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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 Senate is expected to pass the bipartisan fix, The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act  (H.R. 7010), to provide more flexibility to the small business loan program soon.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said “I hope and anticipate the Senate will soon take up and pass legislation that just passed the House by an overwhelming vote of 417-1.”  The bill expands the time for borrowers to use loans and adjusts the payroll ratio requirement from 75 percent to 60 percent.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations held a virtual hearing today featuring three governors including Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) to discuss their local coronavirus testing strategies and what’s still needed from the federal government.
  • The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing Tuesday previewing the coming debate on the economic effects that COVID-19 has had on the U.S. and the implementation of Federal Reserve lending facilities and the Main Street Lending Program established by the CARES Act. The hearing focused also on state and local governments’ recovery, with Democrats and some Republicans called on bailing out those whose budgets have been devastated by coronavirus crisis. Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) are floating draft legislation that would provide state and local governments $500 billion.
  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) released a report on Monday of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) totals through May 30 with loan approvals by the industry for the first time since the first round of funding ended on April 16. That report showed construction, professional, scientific and technical services, manufacturing, and health care as the top-funded industries.  Small businesses in the U.S. health-care and social-assistance industry have emerged as the top recipients of federal coronavirus relief loans.
  • The Senate will likely confirm, along party lines, Brian Miller as a special inspector general for pandemic recovery today.  He will be charged with overseeing billions of dollars in aid to American businesses grappling with the economic fallout of coronavirus.  Democrats are concerned that President Trump’s attorney won’t sufficiently challenge the administration when necessary.  Nevertheless, Mr. Miller has some bipartisan support in Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) who said as an inspector general under both Presidents Bush and Obama “demonstrated his independence” and that “his experience made him qualified.”
  • Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he intends to push for a vote this year on S.2543, the “Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019” would limit price hikes of drugs.  He cited a need to prepare for future pandemics and to keep “bad actors” in the drug industry “from hiking prices astronomically” in the next health crisis.  If the measure fails to pass, Grassley said he’s worried drugmakers will charge “whatever they want to” for COVID-19 drugs. “It will be the Wild West.”
  • Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at protecting consumers’ privacy on contact-tracing smartphone apps.  The “Exposure Notification Privacy Act” would prohibit any automated exposure notification service that is not operated by or used in collaboration with a public health authority. It would also require consumers to give consent and be allowed to request data deletion at any time.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a news release there were 60,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in nursing homes and 26,000 of these residents died because of the virus.  This is the first nationwide tally of a population especially hard hit by the illness.  The agency also outlined plans to bring enforcement actions against homes that don’t take sufficient steps to control and prevent infections.
  • A court hearing has been scheduled for July 24, for the House Republican lawsuit challenging Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) new proxy voting system.  Democrats have until June 19 to file their response to the lawsuit.  The case is being overseen by Judge Rudy Contreras.

In the News:

  • Economic activity in the second quarter has been cut by more than half, according to a tracker employed by the Atlanta Federal Reserve.  The GDPNow outlook is now showing a 52.8 percent tumble, following data Monday that U.S. manufacturing remains firmly in decline and will weigh on investment and consumption.
  • Across the nation, the mass protests over the death of George Floyd continue to create new COVID-19 transmission risks, as some testing sites are now shut down and health officials are warning of a likely spike in new cases.  Illinois closed all of it’s 10 free community testing sites, Philadelphia shut nine of its testing sites on Monday, while in Jacksonville, a popular testing site that averaged 400 to 500 tests per day was shuttered due to protests.   The Surgeon General told Politico “Based on the way the disease spreads, there is every reason to expect that we will see new clusters and potentially new outbreaks moving forward.”
  • Remdesivir, Gilead’s treatment for patients infected with the new coronavirus, produced only modest benefits in the early stages of the disease in hospitalized patients who were not critically ill, according to a large clinical trial.
  • North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D), rejected the GOP’s plans for a full-fledged convention in Charlotte telling Republican officials in a letter today the only way the convention would move forward is with proper health protocols in place. “The people of North Carolina do not know what the status of COVID-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity,” Cooper wrote.  President Trump and Republicans want a 50,000-person event.
  • Online retailer and wardrobe styling service Stitch Fix said it would lay off 1,400 stylists in California between now and the end of September, affecting about 18 percent of its workforce. Stitch Fix said Monday that it plans to eventually hire 2,000 stylists in U.S. locations which have a lower cost of living than cities in California – places like Austin, Texas, or Minneapolis.
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced on Monday that she lifted her state’s stay-at-home order and said restaurants can reopen for dine-in service next week.  Businesses where close contact is necessary, such as gyms, hair salons, theaters, and amusement parks, will remain closed under a new order.

[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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