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COVID-19: Federal Update (8/3)

Quick Takes

— OFFICIALS CONTINUE TALKS ON ELUSIVE COVID-19 RELIEF DEAL. The administration is reportedly weighing its options at the executive level should the parties fail to reach an agreement.

— SENATE LINES UP COVID-19 LEGISLATIVE VEHICLE. Prior to adjourning last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) queued up a legislative vehicle that could carry a potential deal on renewing the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits, as well as other pressing pandemic-related items.

— DEMOCRATIC, ADMINISTRATION NEGOTIATORS AT LOGGERHEADS OVER $600 JOBLESS BENEFIT. Democrats and Republicans remained at odds in weekend negotiations on a new coronavirus economic relief package, including aid to replace the federal $600-a-week boost to unemployment benefits that expired Friday.

— HHS ANNOUNCES EXTENSION, REOPENING OF PROVIDER RELIEF FUND OPPORTUNITIES.This is the second extension of the deadline to apply for the $15 billion Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) allotment.


Capitol Hill Update

—OFFICIALS CONTINUE TALKS ON ELUSIVE COVID-19 RELIEF DEAL. Negotiations on the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation yielded no progress over the weekend as officials struggle to coalesce behind a bipartisan agreement. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) each acknowledged that their sides have a long way to go toward reaching a deal on the next relief package, clouding the likelihood that Congress will pass a deal by week's end as negotiators originally intended. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is remaining steadfast on his desire to see a smaller relief package that would address the expired 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. The administration is also reportedly weighing its options at the executive level should the parties fail to reach an agreement. Meadows, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are scheduled to resume talks early this afternoon.

— SENATE LINES UP COVID-19 LEGISLATIVE VEHICLE. Prior to adjourning last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) queued up a legislative vehicle that could carry a potential deal on renewing the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits, as well as other pressing pandemic-related items. Senators will take up amendments to the underlying bill this week, with Republicans preparing offers that would scale back the enhanced $600 per week benefit. In particular, Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Mike Braun (R-IN) are expected to offer an amendment that would push the weekly boost back to $200, and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) will offer a proposal that would provide states with either an 80 percent wage replacement plan or a sliding weekly benefit of an extra $500 increase each week in August, $400 each week in September and $300 each week in October. Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the lower chamber will not begin its previously-scheduled August district work period until a deal on COVID-19 relief legislation is reached. Members will receive at least 24 hours' notice of any scheduled votes in August.


Washington Insider: What We're Reading

The Wall Street Journal: Democratic, Administration Negotiators at Loggerheads Over $600 Jobless Benefit ($)

Democrats and Republicans remained at odds in weekend negotiations on a new coronavirus economic relief package, including aid to replace the federal $600-a-week boost to unemployment benefits that expired Friday. House Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi want any economic-relief package to include a long-term extension of the enhanced unemployment benefit, arguing the extra funds have been a critical support to those who lost their jobs amid the pandemic. The White House and Senate Republicans, however, want to trim that additional payment, saying in some cases people are being paid more to stay at home than if they returned to work.

The Hill: Latest Trump Proposal on Endangered Species Could Limit Future Habitat, Critics Say

A new proposal from the Trump administration that defines habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) would limit the areas species will have to recover, critics say. An advance copy of the proposal from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that was obtained by The Hill writes that habitats are “the physical places that individuals of a species depend upon to carry out one or more life processes. Habitat includes areas with existing attributes that have the capacity to support individuals of the species."

The Hill: Manufacturers to Phase Out Sales of Food Packaging Containing 'Forever' Chemical

Three food manufacturers whose packaging contains a type of PFAS chemical will phase it out from their packaging over the next few years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Friday. PFAS is a class of cancer-linked chemicals found in a variety of products. They are sometimes called “forever” chemicals because of their persistence in nature and the human body.

Morning Consult: With Privacy Shield Data Pact Nullified, Ex-Commerce Officials Suggest Ways U.S. and E.U. Can Craft a New Deal

With the latest guidance from the European Data Protection Board killing any chance for a regulatory grace period for companies that rely on Privacy Shield to transfer data between Europe and the United States, the need for a replacement deal is more imperative than ever. While it’s unclear where the two regions are with negotiations, three former Commerce Department officials who have worked with Privacy Shield in various roles told Morning Consult that there are two options the United States could pursue to make a deal more likely: create stronger rights for E.U. citizens to submit complaints about how their data is used in the United States or move the Privacy Shield’s ombudsman position from its current home at the State Department to an autonomous agency to increase its independence.


2020 Elections State of Play

TRUMP VS. BIDEN. Current polling projects a close, hard fought race for the White House in 2020. Recently, Vice President Biden has shown a consistent lead in national polls, as well as a slight edge in key swing state polls such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida, The Democratic nominee is also demonstrating strong poll numbers in traditionally red states such as Arizona, Georgia, and Texas. Click here to view TRP's newest slide deck on the 2020 election outlook.

· RCP Aggregate: Biden +7.4 percent (source)

· 538 Aggregate: Biden +8.3 percent (source)

· PredictIt Market: Biden (60¢) Trump (40¢) (source)

· Gallup POTUS Approval (7/23): 41 percent (source)

What policies has Vice President Biden championed during his 2020 presidential bid? Check out TRP's analysis of the Democratic nominee's health and economic policy platforms.


—SENATE OUTLOOK. The Senate currently features a 53-47 Republican majority. With 23 out of the 35 seats up this cycle held by Republicans, Democrats are statistically well-positioned to narrow or even flip the Senate GOP Majority. According to current political forecasts, the seat most likely to flip this fall is Alabama’s, held by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL). If that happens, Democrats need to win four GOP-held Senate seats to reach a 50-50 tie, in which case control would rest with the president’s party. As of today, there is a widespread consensus that there are four races that may effectively decide the majority: Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina are the seats that Democrats see as their best chance of flipping. However, Democrats are also eyeing seats in Georgia, Iowa, Montana, Texas, and Kansas as potential long-shot flips.


HOUSE OUTLOOK. Democrats are currently favored to keep their House majority, and have maintained a consistent lead in generic ballot polling since 2018, according to polls aggregated by RCP and 538. While Republicans could end up flipping some of the 30 Democratic districts that voted for President Trump in 2016, redistricting in North Carolina — as well as the retirements of Republican lawmakers in tossup districts in Texas, Georgia, and Iowa — leaves the GOP with a slim margin of error in their push to trim or flip the House Democratic majority.

· 538 Aggregate: Democrats +8.1 percent (source)

· RCP Aggregate: Democrats +8.2 percent (source)

Which lawmakers will not be returning for the next Congress? Stay informed and get ahead of the game on the changing landscape in Washington with the TRP Congressional Casualty List.


COVID-19: What We're Hearing

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:

· Appropriations (text; summary);

· Finance (text; summary);

· Small Business (text; summary);

· HELP (text; summary; child care one-pager; student loan one-pager; Education Freedom Scholarship one-pager);

· Liability (text; summary); and

· Supply Chain (text; summary).

Click here to view TRP's side-by-side of the Senate GOP HEALS Act and the House Democratic HEROES Act.

COVID-19 Legislative & Regulatory Trackers


NEW TODAY...

— HHS ANNOUNCES EXTENSION, REOPENING OF PROVIDER RELIEF FUND OPPORTUNITIES. On July 31, HHS announced a second extension of the deadline to apply for the $15 billion Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) allotment. The new deadline is August 28. Eligible providers may receive up to two percent of reported revenue from patient care.

· HHS also announced that, starting the week of August 10, the department is offering another opportunity for Medicare providers to apply for additional funding from the $20 billion portion of the $50 billion Phase 1 Medicare General Distribution.

· Providers will have until August 28, 2020, to complete an application to be considered for the balance of their additional funding up to two percent of their annual patient revenues.

· Finally, starting the week of August 10, HHS is also allowing providers who experienced change in ownership challenges to submit their information by August 28 for consideration for Provider Relief Fund payment.

— NIH AWARDS FUNDING FOR NEW COVID-19 TESTING TECHNOLOGIES. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced nearly $250 million in new contracts for companies developing COVID-19 testing as a part of the agency's Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS...

— TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES 'WARP SPEED' PARTNERSHIP WITH SANOFI, GSK. The Departments of Health and Human Services and Defense announced a new "Operation Warp Speed" partnership with Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to support advanced development of a COVID-19 investigational adjuvanted vaccine.

— HHS OIG UPDATES COVID-19 FAQs. The (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has updated its list of frequently asked questions pertaining to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

— CMS, CDC ANNOUNCE PROVIDER REIMBURSEMENT FOR COUNELING PATIENTS. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that payment is available to physicians and health care providers to counsel patients, at the time of COVID-19 testing, about the importance of self-isolation after they are tested and prior to the onset of symptoms.

— HHS ISSUES TRENDS REPORT ON TELEHEALTH UTILIZATION. 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. 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.

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