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COVID-19: Federal Update (6/30)

Quick Takes

— HOUSE SET TO VOTE ON $1.5T INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGE. House lawmakers will convene for legislative business today to consider a sweeping 10-year, $1.5 trillion package of infrastructure legislation

— SENATE PICKS UP NDAA DEBATE. The Senate will convene this morning to resume consideration of the upper chamber's FY 2021 NDAA.

— IRS PROCEEDING WITH JULY 15 FILING DEADLINE. The Treasury Department and IRS said late Monday that they are proceeding with a July 15 tax-filing deadline.

— TREASURY UPDATES CORONAVIRUS RELIEF FUND FAQS. New information includes non-federal match requirements under the Stafford Act, nonprofit eligibility, and flexibility on covering costs of public health and public safety employees.

— TRP SPECIAL REPORT: COVID-19 EMERGENCY DECLARATIONS AND HEALTH POLICY. TRP's newest Special Report describes how emergencies are declared, how they end, the health-related flexibilities that were enabled by the declarations, and what will happen when the emergencies expire.


Capitol Hill Update

— HOUSE SET TO VOTE ON $1.5T INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGE. House lawmakers will convene for legislative business today to consider a sweeping 10-year, $1.5 trillion package of infrastructure legislation (text; summary; fact sheet) prior to adjourning for the July 4 district work period. The wide-ranging, ambitious package would allocate funding to address several key areas including surface transportation, schools and child care facilities, hospital and health care infrastructure, drinking water, housing, broadband, and green energy. It would also look to promote and expand bond financing tools to help state and local governments raise money to address their own projects. The package is likely to pass the lower chamber along party lines today but is considered dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate after the White House issued a veto threat yesterday. However, with the current surface transportation law set to expire on Sept. 30, officials will likely look to reach a compromise version that reflects bipartisan priorities in the House and Senate surface transportation reauthorization measures.


— SENATE PICKS UP NDAA DEBATE. The Senate will convene this morning to resume consideration of the upper chamber's FY 2021 NDAA (text; summary; report; tables). With the upper chamber eyeing passage of the bill ahead of the July 4 district work period, Senators will meet during their weekly caucus meetings today to discuss a path forward on additional amendments, as well as a timeline for the final passage of the $740 billion measure. Meanwhile, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) released an updated amendment in the nature of a substitute yesterday, which incorporated dozens of amendments to the underlying bill.


— HOUSE PASSES ACA, DRUG PRICING REFORMS. The House passed a bill yesterday along mostly party lines to shore up the ACA. The Affordable Care Act Enhancement Act (H.R. 1425) would expand ACA subsidies to higher income brackets along with other reforms to the marketplaces, provide incentives for more states to expand Medicaid and penalties for those who do not, and create a mandatory 12-month continuous eligibility period for Medicaid. It would also adopt the prescription drug negotiation and international reference pricing strategy contained in H.R. 3, the Democrats’ major drug pricing legislation that passed last year. Two Republicans, Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), voted in favor of the bill, while one Democrat, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), voted against it. An additional 18 Republicans did not vote (full roll call results are here). Rep. Peterson voted against the original ACA when it passed the House in 2010, and of the 34 Democrats who voted against the bill, he is one of only three still serving in the House, with Reps. Steven Lynch (D-MA) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL). Meanwhile, an aide to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that the Finance Chairman would re-introduce his drug pricing legislation, the Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act, “in the coming days.” Sen. Grassley also published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal accusing Democrats of walking away from negotiations on drug pricing but asserting that he would push to include his legislation in a coming COVID-19 relief package.


Washington Insider: What We’re Reading


The Hill: IRS Proceeding With July 15 Filing Deadline

The Treasury Department and IRS said late Monday that they are proceeding with a July 15 tax-filing deadline, after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week left the door open to an additional extension. Treasury and the IRS in March extended the tax filing and payment deadlines from April 15 to July 15, due to the coronavirus pandemic. As is typically the case, people can request a filing extension to Oct. 15.


The Wall Street Journal: Fed Chairman Says Economy Faces New Challenges From Coronavirus ($)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell was set to tell lawmakers Tuesday that the reopening of the U.S. economy—and the accompanying upturn in spending and hiring this spring—came sooner than central bank officials had expected. But he says the push to lift restrictions on commercial activity carries risks, evidenced by recent increases in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in states across the U.S. South and Southwest. “We have entered an important new phase and have done so sooner than expected,” Mr. Powell says in testimony prepared for delivery before a congressional committee. “While this bounce back in economic activity is welcome, it also presents new challenges—notably, the need to keep the virus in check.”


Roll Call: Effort to Crack Big Tech’s Legal Shield Gains Bipartisan Momentum

Bipartisan support for a pair of Senate bills that would force social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to change their content moderation policies could mark a turning point in Washington’s ongoing efforts to maintain greater control over Silicon Valley. Both Republicans and Democrats have frequently criticized a landmark 1996 law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, that protects online companies from being sued for third-party content posted on their sites. Section 230 is credited with fostering the technology sector’s rapid growth in the past two decades, even as some have argued it gives large companies too much power.


The Hill: Nearly Twice as Many Homes at Risk for Serious Flooding Than Previously Predicted, Study Finds

Nearly twice as many homes face a substantial risk of flooding than the number in earlier government predictions, according to new study. The study from the First Street Foundation estimates some 14.6 million properties around the country are at risk, with nearly 6 million people “currently unaware of or underestimating the risk they face.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), by comparison, estimates just 8.7 million properties are at risk of a 100-year flood.


COVID-19: What We’re Hearing


— 'CARES 2.0' STATE OF PLAY. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated that Congress will likely need to pass another round of COVID-19 relief legislation, Republicans are pushing for a more narrowly-targeted relief package following better-than-expected jobs numbers for the month of May, and the White House would prefer to wait and see the June labor numbers before negotiating with Congress in earnest. Conversely, Congressional Democrats are remaining steadfast on their push for another robust stimulus package. As the public health emergency continues to unfold, lawmakers are mulling over several policy options for the next round of legislation, including:

  • Liability. Leader McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) are working on legislation that would limit the liabilities of health care workers, business owners, and employees from lawsuits pertaining to the COVID-19 outbreak. Leader McConnell emphasized that any future COVID-19 relief efforts must include these protections in order for the Senate to consider additional relief legislation.

  • House Democratic leadership appears open to negotiating a deal on liability protections. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) emphasized that these protections must not undermine the health and rights of workers, but indicated that the issue is open for further discussion and negotiation.

  • Unemployment Reform. Senate Republicans are spearheading efforts on reforming the enhanced unemployment benefits so that generous payments approved in the CARES Act don’t become an obstacle to rehiring workers.

  • A key option on the table includes enhancing a tax credit that would give employers a tax break for keeping workers on the payroll.

  • State and Local Governments. Funding for state and local governments is a key pillar of the Democrats' next stimulus bill. While there is bipartisan agreement that more needs to be done to help stymie economic hardships for these entities, allocating additional funding has become a divisive issue within the Republican conference.

  • It appears likely that some Senate Republicans — particularly those who are up for re-election — would coalesce behind a bipartisan proposal that would provide additional funding and flexibility to address needs at the state and local level.

  • PPP. Following Congressional passage of the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, Lawmakers are eyeing further reforms to the PPP.

  • Prior to Senate passage of H.R. 7010, Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Mike Lee (R-UT) — who had expressed concerns and opposition to the House-passed bill secured a letter from key Small Business Committee members in both chambers clarifying that the intent of the legislation is not to reauthorize the program through the end of the year without additional reforms.

  • Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) have also indicated they are working on a technical change to the legislation that would ensure businesses can have their loans forgiven in some form regardless of whether they reach the 60 percent threshold.

  • Additionally, there has been a bipartisan push in Congress to expand PPP eligibility to 501(c)6 organizations and other currently ineligible nonprofits in the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation.

  • Surprise Billing. Reports out of the Trump administration suggest that the White House will push for action on surprise medical bills ahead of the next round of relief legislation.

  • During the CARES Act negotiations, Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) were actively trying to tack their surprise billing legislation onto the package.

  • Budget Reform. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers penned a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) calling for provisions that address the federal debt and trust funds for Medicare and Social Security to be included in the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation.

APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend the Congressional schedule, lawmakers are adjusting their expectations for consideration of fiscal year (FY) 2021 spending bills.

  • House. Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) officially announced the House Appropriations Subcommittee markup schedule for the week of Jul. 6.

  • Jul. 6: State & Foreign Operations, Agriculture, Military Construction-VA

  • Jul. 7: Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, Legislative Branch, Energy-Water, Labor-HHS-Education

  • Jul. 8: Commerce-Science-Justice, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, Financial Services and General Government, Defense.

  • Senate. Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) is delaying the forthcoming markups ahead of the July 4 recess amid partisan disagreements over COVID-19 relief and police reform amendments that Democrats want to offer.

  • When the Appropriations Committee begins its markup process, appropriators will look to skip subcommittee markups for seven out of the FY 2021 spending bills, going straight to full committee markups instead. Senators on the panel are also expected to vote on the 302(b) funding allocations for each of the 12 bills ahead of the forthcoming markups.


COVID-19 Legislative & Regulatory Trackers


NEW TODAY...

— TRP SPECIAL REPORT: COVID-19 EMERGENCY DECLARATIONS AND HEALTH POLICY. TRP's newest Special Report describes how emergencies are declared, how they end, the health-related flexibilities that were enabled by the declarations, and what will happen when the emergencies expire.

—TREASURY UPDATES CORONAVIRUS RELIEF FUND FAQS. The Treasury Department recently updated its list of frequently asked questions for the state, local, and tribal Coronavirus Relief Fund. New information includes non-federal match requirements under the Stafford Act, nonprofit eligibility, and flexibility on covering costs of public health and public safety employees.

— FED ISSUES NEW TERM SHEET FOR PMCCF. The Federal Reserve issued a new term sheet outlining pricing information for the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility.


RECENT DEVELOPMENTS…

— HHS SECURES NEW SUPPLY OF KEY COVID-19 TREATMENT. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced an agreement to secure more than 500,000 doses of the antiviral remdesivir for U.S. hospitals from Gilead Sciences through September.

— FEDERAL RESERVE PUBLISHES STRESS TEST, COVID-19 SENSITIVITY RESULTS. The Federal Reserve published results of its stress tests for 2020 and additional sensitivity analyses that the Board conducted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

— CMS ISSUES SPECIAL TRENDS REPORT ON HEALTHCARE.GOV SIGNUPS DURING COVID-19. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a special trends report outlining the number of individuals who signed up for coverage on HealthCare.gov through a special enrollment period (SEP) during the pandemic.

— CMS TO END BLANKET WAIVER REQUIRING NURSING HOMES TO SUBMIT STAFFING DATA. CMS announced plans to end the emergency blanket waiver requiring all nursing homes to resume submitting staffing data through the Payroll-Based Journal (PBJ) system by August 14, 2020.

— HHS LAUNCHES PROGRAM AIMED AT FIGHTING COVID-19 IN MINORITY, RURAL COMMUNITIES. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new three-year, $40 million program with the Morehouse School of Medicine to deliver COVID-19 information to minority and rural communities in an effort to combat the pandemic in these areas. — CFPB ISSUES INTERIM FINAL RULE ON LOSS MITIGATION OPTIONS FOR HOMEOWNERS. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued an interim final rule that will allow borrowers who have experienced financial hardships due to COVID-19 to delay payments even if they have only a limited amount of information on the homeowner.

— NEW FED EXAMINER GUIDANCE SEEKS TO PROMOTE FLEXIBILITY. The Federal Reserve issued new examiner guidance that seeks to promote consistency and flexibility in the supervision and examination of financial institutions that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

— CMS RELEASES COVID-19 DATA, ISSUES CALL TO ACTION ON VALUE-BASED CARE. CMS released new data on the COVID-19 outbreak that highlights racial and socioeconomic divides among Medicare beneficiaries who were infected. As a result of this data, the agency is calling for a renewed national commitment to value-based care.

— SBA, TREASURY REACH AGREEMENT ON PPP TRANSPARENCY. The Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury Department reached an agreement with Congress to disclose information regarding recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The names of businesses who received loans ranging from $150,000 to $10 million will be disclosed publicly by the federal government.

— SBA LAUNCHES TOOL TO CONNECT BUSINESSES WITH CDFIS AND SMALL ASSET LENDERS. SBA launched an online tool for small businesses and non-profits to be matched with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), Certified Development Companies (CDCs), Farm Credit System lenders, Microlenders, as well as traditional smaller asset size lenders in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

— SBA REOPENS EIDL AND EIDL ADVANCE PROGRAM. The SBA announced that it has reopened the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance program portal to all eligible applicants experiencing economic impacts due to COVID-19.

— HHS ANNOUNCES $25 BILLION IN RELIEF FUNDING FOR MEDICAID PROVIDERS, SAFETY NET HOSPITALS. HHS announced the allocation of $25 billion from the Provider Relief Fund, including $15 billion for Medicaid and CHIP providers, as well as $10 billion for safety net hospitals. TRP's comprehensive analysis of the COVID-19 provider relief fund can be read here.





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