While the Senate remains in recess until July 20, the House is continuing to hold hearings examining various COVID-19-related issues, including its impact on certain sectors and communities and the federal government response. This week, committees looked at issues ranging from increased risks to consumers during the pandemic, examining the national response to the pandemic, exposure notification and contact tracing: how AI helps localities reopen safely and researchers find a cure, challenges for women- and minority-owned businesses accessing capital and financial services during the pandemic and confronting the unequal impacts of COVID-19.
The Administration was focused this week on encouraging schools to reopen for in-person instruction this fall. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos suggested on Tuesday that schools that do not reopen will not be eligible for federal funding, a sentiment President Trump echoed on Wednesday on Twitter. The President also hosted a roundtable on school reopening on Tuesday. In the meantime, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.
Elsewhere, the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA) released Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan-level data on the 4.9 million loans made to date. The data includes specific data such as business names and addresses for loans over $150,000 and overall statistics on loan dollars per state and distribution by industry, among other data points. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston also announced the Main Street Lending Program is fully operational and ready to purchase qualifying loans.
As coronavirus cases continue to spike in dozens of states, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said this week that the current status of the pandemic in the United States is “really not good” and that the country is still “knee-deep in the first wave.” The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched ‘surge’ COVID-19 testing in hotspot jurisdictions in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas as HHS and the Department of Defense (DOD) announced a $1.6 billion agreement with Novavax to demonstrate commercial-scale manufacturing of the company’s COVID-19 investigational vaccine. HHS and DOD also announced a similar agreement with Regeneron for its investigational anti-viral antibody treatment.
The Senate returns to Washington the week of July 20 and Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) is expected to unveil Senate Republicans’ proposal for Phase 4 coronavirus response legislation shortly thereafter with limited floor time remaining before Congress is scheduled to recess for most of August. Vice President Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short reiterated this week that the White House wants Congress to send the President legislation to sign before the recess.
The bill will differ significantly from the House Democrats’ $3 trillion HEROES Act. McConnell has maintained that the package will not exceed $1 trillion, a figure echoed this week by Short. It will also center on liability protections for businesses as the economy continues to reopen. Chief among the disagreements between Republicans and Democrats will be whether to extend the temporary $600/week pandemic unemployment benefits authorized by the CARES Act. Most Republicans oppose this relief as a disincentive to return to work.
The Senate will be in recess next week, but House committees have scheduled a number of COVID-19-related hearings on topics including ICE contractors’ response to the pandemic, capital markets and worker protections, Department of Energy oversight, and federal and state pandemic supply preparedness and response, the importance of transatlantic cooperation during the pandemic, federal investments in technology, and long-lasting solutions for small business recovery.
- Federal Response Timeline
- New Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports:
- Potential Impact of COVID-19 on Dependent Care Flexible Spending Arrangements
- State and Local Fiscal Conditions and COVID-19: Lessons from the Great Recession and Current Projections
- FCC Covid-19 Telehealth Program and Connected Care Pilot Program: Funding to Assist Health Care Providers and Patients
- Changes to Behavioral Health Treatment During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- COVID-19: Resources for Tracking Federal Spending
- COVID-19 Relief Assistance to Small Businesses: Issues and Policy Options
- COVID-19: Restrictions on Travelers at U.S. Land Borders
- Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Live Map
- KFF: State Data and Policy Actions to Address Coronavirus
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.