COVID-19: Federal Update (7/30)
DACA Concerns Still Loom
Senator John Cornyn Addresses North Texas Mayors This morning, U.S. Senator John Cornyn joined the region’s Mayors for our North Texas Mayors Economic Recovery call to show appreciation for what our local leaders are doing to help the communities they serve. He shared that Congress is working on the next round of funding, but he’s also cognizant of what this could do to the national debt in years to come. Senator Cornyn recognized that many decisions are being made quickly, using the analogy of building an airplane while flying it, but we can get through it if we all work together. There was discussion on the importance of targeted financial assistance to local governments.
— OFFICIALS FAR APART ON COVID-19 RELIEF DEAL. Negotiations on the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation are off to a sluggish start as key deadlines are missed and disagreements over priorities linger.
— HOUSE QUEUES UP SIX-BILL APPROPS PACKAGE. House lawmakers will convene today to begin consideration of a massive appropriations "minibus."
— COVID-19 SINKS U.S. ECONOMY IN SECOND QUARTER; LABOR MARKET STRUGGLING. The U.S. economy contracted at its steepest pace since the Great Depression in the second quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic shattered consumer and business spending.
— UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS RISE FOR SECOND STRAIGHT WEEK. Initial unemployment claims rose for the second week in a row, coming in at a seasonally adjusted 1.4 million for the week ending July 25.
Capitol Hill Update
— OFFICIALS FAR APART ON COVID-19 RELIEF DEAL. Negotiations on the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation are off to a sluggish start as key deadlines are missed and disagreements over priorities linger. Speaking with reporters yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows acknowledged that the Trump administration and Congress are "nowhere close to a deal" on the next relief package, predicting that the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits will expire as scheduled tomorrow. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump reiterated his desire to see a smaller relief package that would address the expiring unemployment benefits, extend the moratorium on housing evictions, and provide another round of direct payments — an approach that has been rejected by House Democrats thus far. As the sides remain far apart on the size and scope of the next package, it remains to be seen whether the talks can produce a bipartisan agreement prior to the start of Congress' August district work period next Friday.
— HOUSE QUEUES UP SIX-BILL APPROPS PACKAGE. House lawmakers will convene today to begin consideration of a massive appropriations "minibus." Members will kick off the marathon debate on amendments to the underlying package this morning, which includes the fiscal year (FY) 2021 spending bills for Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy-Water Development, Financial Services and General Government (FSGG), Labor-HHS-Education, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development. The measure originally included the spending bill for Homeland Security, however, House Democrats removed it from the legislation yesterday due to lingering intraparty disagreements over immigration enforcement and border security. A vote on final passage of the measure is expected tomorrow.
Washington Insider: What We're Reading
The U.S. economy contracted at its steepest pace since the Great Depression in the second quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic shattered consumer and business spending, and a nascent recovery is under threat from a resurgence in new cases of coronavirus. Gross domestic product collapsed at a 32.9% annualized rate last quarter, the deepest decline in output since the government started keeping records in 1947. The drop in GDP was more than triple the previous all-time decline of 10% in the second quarter of 1958. The economy contracted at a 5.0% pace in the first quarter. It fell into recession in February.
Initial unemployment claims rose for the second week in a row, coming in at a seasonally adjusted 1.4 million for the week ending July 25. The 1,434,000 claims was an uptick from the revised 1,422,000 the previous week. Weekly claims have surpassed an unprecedented 1 million every week since the pandemic took hold in March but had been on a downward trajectory until mid-July, as new COVID-19 outbreaks around the country led some states to reimpose restrictions that have shuttered businesses.
A sharp disagreement over whether to provide coronavirus liability protections to businesses, schools and other organizations has quickly emerged as one of the biggest obstacles to getting a deal on COVID-19 relief legislation. Both sides are digging in, with Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) and Democratic leaders — Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) — calling the issue a looming dealbreaker.
The Trump administration said Tuesday that it will reject new applications and shorten renewal periods for an Obama-era program that shields young people from deportation, taking a defiant stance after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to let it be scrapped completely. The move, detailed in a memo from Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, ended a month of uncertainty about how the administration would respond to its Supreme Court defeat in an election year that has President Donald Trump looking for ways to energize his base.
COVID-19 Legislative & Regulatory Trackers
Senate Republicans officially introduced their opening offer proposal for the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation following days of intraparty negotiations between GOP Senators and White House officials. The legislative package was officially released as multiple pieces of legislation, with six total sections:
Click here to view TRP's side-by-side of the Senate GOP HEALS Act and the House Democratic HEROES Act.
— HHS ISSUES TRENDS REPORT ON TELEHEALTH UTILIZATION. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has published a report detailing utilization trends of telehealth services for primary care delivery in Fee-for-Service (FFS) Medicare during the COVID-19 pandemic.
— CMS UPDATES DATA ON COVID-19 IMPACTS ON MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its first monthly update of data that provides a snapshot of the impact of COVID-19 on the Medicare population, including data for American Indian/Alaskan Native Medicare beneficiaries. Information on the is here and an FAQ on the data release is here.
— FED EXTENDS COVID-19 LENDING FACILITIES THROUGH END OF 2020. The Federal Reserve announced a three-month extension for pandemic-related lending facilities that were scheduled to expire on or around Sept. 30.
The extensions apply to the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility, the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, the Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility, and the Main Street Lending Program.
— CDC ISSUES GUIDANCE ON REOPENING SCHOOLS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new resources and tools for school administrators, teachers, parents, guardians, and caregivers regarding school reopening efforts.
— AZAR RENEWS COVID-19 PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY. HHS Secretary Alex Azar officially renewed the COVID-19 public health emergency last week. Click here to read TRP's analysis.
— CMS ALLOCATES ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR NURSING HOMES. CMS announced the agency will allocate additional resources for nursing homes to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes $5 billion in funding from the Provider Relief Fund for Medicare-certified long term care facilities and state veterans’ homes, as well as a requirement that all nursing homes in states with a five percent positivity rate or greater test all nursing home staff each week.
— HHS ISSUES REPORTING GUIDANCE FOR PROVIDER RELIEF FUND. HHS released initial information for the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) reporting requirements, including the timing for submissions. HHS indicated that detailed guidance and materials will be released by August 17, 2020.
— HHS ANNOUNCES NEW NATIONAL TESTING IMPLEMENTATION FORUM. HHS announced the rollout of a new National Testing Implementation Forum. The Forum will bring together representatives from key stakeholder groups to share information and provide input to federal leaders about the virus, testing and diagnostics.
— HHS, DOD TO PROCURE PFIZER COVID-19 VACCINE. HHS and the Department of Defense (DoD) announced an agreement with Pfizer Inc. for large-scale production and nationwide delivery of 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States following the vaccine’s successful manufacture and approval.
— WAYS AND MEANS REPUBLICANS CIRCULATE TELEHEALTH DISCUSSION DRAFT. The Republicans of the House Ways & Means Committee issued a discussion draft of a bill to make permanent several of the temporary telehealth flexibilities implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to read TRP's analysis of this legislation.
— HHS OCR ISSUES GUIDANCE ON CIVIL RIGHTS PROTECTIONS DURING COVID-19. HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance to ensure that recipients of federal financial assistance understand that they must comply with applicable federal civil rights laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in HHS-funded programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
— HHS ANNOUNCES DISTRIBUTION OF $10B FOR HIGHLY IMPACTED HOSPITALS. HHS announced that it would distribute $10B to hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots beginning this week. Click here to read TRP's updated provider relief fund memo.
This distribution, which was first announced June 8, is based on data that HHS collected from hospitals in June detailing COVID-19 admissions through June 10. In addition, the agency extended the deadline for Medicaid and CHIP providers to apply for relief funds from June 20 to August 3.