Hearings

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP): “COVID-19: Lessons Learned to Prepare for the Next Pandemic”
Tuesday, June 23, 2020: The Senate HELP committee held a hearing to cover the lessons learned from shortcomings of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in preparation for the future. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why is this important: According to the witness panel at the hearing, the U.S. was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic and needs to invest more in the tools needed to monitor outbreaks and respond rapidly to the next health crisis. The panel added that health security is national security, and should be treated as such, with more being spent on public health at all levels.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce: “Oversight of the Trump Administration’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic”
Wednesday, June 24, 2020: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a full committee hearing to discuss the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic thus far. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why is this important: FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the need for increased use of real-world evidence (RWE) to help regulators make decisions in real time, and he asked Congress to provide more support for advancing generation of RWE. He added that the FDA has an access-to-information issue.

House Committee on Ways and Means: “Examining the COVID-19 Nursing Home Crisis”
Thursday, June 25, 2020: The House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing to discuss the disproportionate effect COVID-19 is having on nursing home residents. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why is this important: According to the witness panel, the only way to truly protect the health and safety of residents and staff is for all facilities to have ready access to testing and require that residents and staff are regularly tested. Testing will help control the spread of the virus among the residents, staff and the community at large, as staff and others come and go from these facilities. Analysis suggests that up to 40 percent of U.S. deaths from COVID-19 have taken place in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

House

House Votes Today on Democratic ACA Bill
On June 29, the House of Representatives will vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, a bill by House Democrats to enhance the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by boosting the law’s tax credits, reversing the Trump administration rules seen as undermining the law and encourage states to take up the Medicaid expansion. The bill also includes drug-pricing provisions as an offset. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score for the legislation, if the 14 states that have yet to take up the Medicaid expansion would do so, another 4 million people could gain coverage. Find the legislation here.

Senate

Murray and DeLauro Concerned Trump Administration’s Leadership Changes to COVID-19 Vaccine Project Could Delay Progress
On June 23, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair, wrote to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar about the Trump administration’s recent removal of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) employees from project leadership roles on several COVID-19 vaccine contracts. The members warned these changes could delay the progress toward a COVID-19 vaccine and urged the administration to reinstall BARDA employees immediately as project leads on COVID-19 vaccine contracts. Find the full letter here.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.

The Latest

A number of House and Senate committees are continuing to hold hearings examining various issues related to COVID-19, including its impact on certain sectors and communities and the federal government response. This week, committees looked at issues ranging from how the pandemic has exposed and widened inequities in education, health, and the workforce and wealth inequity to the child care crisishealthy air travelVA telehealthpreparing for the next pandemicChina’s role in the outbreakthe Trump Administration’s responsethe Strategic National Stockpilethe impact on mineral supply chainsthe Defense Production Actcapital markets and emergency lendingthe nursing home crisisthe impact on federal courts, and the frontline federal response.

This week, the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) interim final rule on revisions to the loan forgiveness interim final rule and the SBA loan review procedures interim final rule, as well as another interim final rule making additional eligibility revisions to the first interim final rule. The SBA also released an updated PPP Round 2 report and revised the borrower application form and the lender application form.

Elsewhere, the President and federal agencies continue to take additional steps to respond to the outbreak, including:

  • The President signed a Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the US Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak. The Proclamation extends the pause on new immigrant visas through the end of the year and places an additional pause on several nonimmigrant visa programs (including H-1B, H-2B, H-4, L, and J).
  • The Vice President met with governors and the White House Coronavirus Task Force to discuss local, state, and federal COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and America’s reopening.
  • The Federal Reserve and other federal and state bank and credit union regulators issued examiner guidance to promote consistency and flexibility in the supervision and examination of financial institutions affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Department of Labor (DOL) announced a new online tool to help workers determine if they qualify for paid sick leave or extended family and medical leave to cover time away from work for reasons related to coronavirus.
  • The DOL Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report found that for the week ending June 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was approximately 1.48 million, a decrease of 60,000 from the previous week’s revised level.
  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a statement of interest challenging the constitutionality of Hawaii Governor Ige’s order requiring a 14-day self-quarantine for individuals entering the state.

A complete overview of both congressional and Administrative response efforts is available here and updated daily.

What’s Next

Senate Democrats will move to bring a number of COVID relief bills to the floor next week, according to Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY), but Republicans are expected to object. Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) and other leaders, including Senator Cornyn (R-TX) continue to work on a Phase 4 package that is expected to focus on liability protections as entities continue to reopen.

Tomorrow, a House Financial Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on challenges for insurers and policyholders amid a pandemic and the House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will hear from the Government Accountability Office on its recommendations to improve the federal response.

Next week, House and Senate committees will look at COVID-related issues including safely getting back to work and schoolthe impact in the US territoriesthe 2020 tax filing seasonthe response in native communities, and the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Powell will also testify before a House Financial Services Committee pandemic response oversight hearing.

Relevant Resources

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.

The Latest

White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro said this week that President Trump “is very interested in something on the order of at least $2 trillion” for the next coronavirus response package. The statement is at odds with Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s (R-KY) previous assertions that a Phase 4 package should come in at no more than $1 trillion. In contrast, the House Democrats’ HEROES Act is approximately $3 trillion.

Congressional Republicans have generally maintained that existing relief programs need more time to take effect before moving ahead with a Phase 4. In recent days, the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA) published two new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) interim final rules (IFRs), available here and here, to make revisions to the first PPP interim final rule to conform with the PPP Flexibility Act. Another new IFR makes revisions to the program’s third and sixth IFRs. SBA also updated the borrower application and the lender application and published a new EZ loan forgiveness application (with instructions) and a new standard loan forgiveness application (with instructions). Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston also announced that the Main Street Lending Program Lender Portal is open and the Federal Reserve announced it is seeking public comment on its proposal to expand the Main Street Lending Program to provide access to credit for nonprofit organizations.

On Capitol Hill, congressional committees continued to hold COVID-19 oversight hearings focused on a range of topics, including the impact on public education, the impact on Sub-Saharan Africahow bad actors are exploiting the financial systemhow the Department of Homeland Security can safely resume operationstelehealththe PPPracial and ethnic health disparitiesinternational pandemic preparednesstax reliefresuming air travel, and jobs and unemployment.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources and House Energy and Commerce Committees also held hearings on the impact of COVID-19 on the energy industry and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testified before the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees on the semiannual Monetary Report to Congress.

Elsewhere, the President and federal agencies continue to take other steps to respond to the outbreak, including, but not limited to:

  • Vice President Pence held a briefing with governors and the White House Coronavirus Task Force on COVID-19 response and recovery with a focus on supporting small businesses and workforce development.
  • The Vice President also published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “There Isn’t a Coronavirus Second Wave” in which he discusses the Administration’s efforts related to testing, PPE distribution, and vaccine development.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a fact sheet on Operation Warp Speed, which aims to deliver 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released consolidated recommendations for COVID-19 testing, including interim testing guidelines for nursing home residents and healthcare personnel, as well as testing strategy options for high-density critical infrastructure workplaces after a COVID-19 case is identified. The recommendations compile and update previous testing guidance.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoked emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. FDA Chief Scientist Denise Hinton wrote that studies indicate the drugs “are unlikely to produce an antiviral effect” to treat coronavirus.
  • The Department of Labor (DOL) issued programmatic guidance to help ensure the accuracy of unemployment claims made due to implementation of the CARES Act.
  • A draft Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) policy statement provided guidance regarding the Commission’s response to the effects of the COVID-19 national emergency on oil pipelines.

A complete overview of both congressional and Administrative response efforts is available here and updated daily.

What’s Next

Next week, House and Senate committees have more coronavirus oversight hearings scheduled to examine inequities in education, health, and the workforcepreparing for the next pandemicthe Trump Administration’s response to the pandemichealth and wealth inequalitycapital markets and emergency lending, and insuring against a pandemic.

Relevant Resources

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.

Hearings

House Energy and Commerce Committee: “Pollution and Pandemics: COVID-19’s Disproportionate Impact on Environmental Justice Communities”
Tuesday, June 9: The Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a remote hearing on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the environmental justice communities. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone’s (D-NJ) open remarks note the high rates of infection and death for communities of color, low-income communities, Native American communities and fence-line communities (for example, communities that are adjacent to chemical plants or superfund sites).  

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP): “COVID-19: Going Back to School Safely”
Wednesday, June 10: The Senate HELP committee held a second hearing on preparing Americans to go back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently hesitated to make any broad statements about the safety of schools’ reopening, but said that conversation needs to happen with a particular focus on the infection level in each community.

House Committee on Appropriations: “Indian Health Service Covid-19 Response”
Thursday, June 11: The Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies of the House Committee on Appropriations held a hearing on how the Indian Health Service (IHS) has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: Statistics shown at the hearing claim that the Indian Health Service (HIS) needs at least $9.1 billion to meet the needs of their covered communities. IHS’s current budget currently falls far short of that amount. Tribal communities are suffering during the pandemic, with data in Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota and Wyoming showing that American Indians and Alaska Natives are being infected at higher rates than the general population.

Senate Special Committee on Aging: “Combating Social Isolation and Loneliness During the COVID-19 Pandemic”
Thursday, June 11: The Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing to discuss the mental health implications of social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: Even in pre-pandemic times, seniors faced risk factors such as social isolation, financial challenges, illness, grief and loss, all associated with greater rates of anxiety and depression. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, geriatric mental health issues are at high risk of an increase.

Senate

Sen. Alexander Releases White Paper on Pandemic Preparedness, Requests Feedback by June 26
On June 9, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released “Preparing for the Next Pandemic,” a white paper with five recommendations to address future pandemics based on lessons learned from COVID-19 and the past 20 years of pandemic planning.

The white paper recommends Congress should work with federal departments and agencies, states and the private sector to address these specific issues and newly identified gaps:

  1. Tests, Treatments and Vaccines – Accelerate Research and Development
  2. Disease Surveillance – Expand Ability to Detect, Identify, Model and Track Emerging Infectious Diseases
  3. Stockpiles, Distribution and Surges – Rebuild and Maintain Federal and State Stockpiles and Improve Medical Supply Surge Capacity and Distribution
  4. Public Health Capabilities – Improve State and Local Capacity to Respond
  5. Who Is on the Flagpole? – Improve Coordination of Federal Agencies During a Public Health Emergency

Comments, responses and any additional recommendations for the Senate HELP Committee to consider are due on June 26, 2020.

Find the white paper here.

Senators Seek Details on HHS’s Plan for Handling Next COVID-19 Wave

On June 9, a bipartisan group of senators asked Trump administration officials how many diagnostic tests and how much protective gear the administration has stockpiled for the next wave of the coronavirus. Members of the Senate Committee Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing last week said that they still do not know the country’s testing capacity and that it is impossible to estimate how widespread the virus is without more testing. Chair Ron Johnson (R-WI) said that it is evident that the country’s preparedness enterprise, resources and supply chains were stressed past the capacity required to meet a nationwide pandemic. Find more details here.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.

The Latest

Last Friday, the President signed into law the bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (the Act), extending the covered period of expenses for which Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans will be forgiven from eight weeks to 24 weeks or December 31, whichever comes first. In a statement, the President said he signed the Act without delay to protect jobs, but urged Congress to pass the bill again “through traditional in-person voting,” questioning the constitutionality of the new House proxy voting system.

In order to comply with the new law, the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA) published a new PPP interim final rule to revise the first program interim final rule by changing key provisions, such as the loan maturity, deferral of loan payments, and forgiveness provisions. It also makes conforming amendments to the use of PPP loan proceeds for consistency with amendments made in the new law. Several of these amendments are retroactive to the date of enactment of the CARES Act, as required by section 3(d) of the Act. SBA also updated its summary of cumulative PPP data as of June 10.

Elsewhere, the Federal Reserve announced it expanded the Main Street Lending Program to permit more small- and medium-sized businesses to receive support. Specifically, the Fed lowered the minimum loan size for certain loans from $500,000 to $250,000; increased the maximum loan size for all facilities; increased the term of each loan option from four to five years; extended the repayment period for all loans by delaying principal payments for two years, rather than one; and raised the Reserve Bank’s participation to 95% for all loans. The Fed also published new or updated term sheets for the Main Street New Loan Facility, the Main Street Priority Loan Facility, and the Main Street Expanded Loan Facility.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate resumed regular legislative business and committees continued to hold hearings on various aspects of the pandemic response. This week, Senate committees held hearings on the federal government’s procurement and distribution strategiescombating fraudunemployment insurancewildfire management challengesthe disproportionate impact on environmental justice communitiesthe impacts on transportation workerssupporting charitable givingCARES Act implementationgoing back to school safelysupporting essential workersthe impact on rentersthe Economic Injury Disaster Loan programunique challenges facing seniorsstimulus paymentsthe impact on elections, and the Indian Health Service response, among other topics.

In the Executive Branch, the White House and federal agencies continue to take steps to respond to the outbreak, including, but not limited to:

  • Vice President Pence met with governors to discuss reopening with a focus on reopening schools, camps, and universities.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced at least $15 billion in additional distributions from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund to eligible Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) providers and $10 billion in additional distributions to safety net hospitals.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reissued Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) revising which types of respirators can be decontaminated for reuse.
  • The Department of Labor (DOL) announced three Dislocated Worker Grant awards totaling nearly $17 million to help address the workforce-related impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency. DOL also published FAQs regarding the use of masks in the workplace.
  • The Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a nationwide extension of a waiver to allow local partners to continue to serve free meals to all children, regardless of location, for the remainder of the summer.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it allocated the remaining $2.96 billion in CARES Act Emergency Solutions Grants funding to support homeless Americans and individuals at risk of becoming homeless due to COVID-19.

A complete overview of both congressional and Administrative response efforts is available here and updated daily.

What’s Next

Senate Republicans continue to work on their proposal for a Phase 4 response and relief package. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said this week that he and other Republican leaders will unveil a proposal next month to provide broad employer liability protection as businesses reopen. The proposal is expected to provide a safe harbor for companies that follow government guidelines of their choosing—federal, state, or local—in good faith.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced this week that pending committee action on the Justice in Policing Act, the House is now expected to meet on June 25 and 26 and from June 29-July 2.

Next week, congressional committees have another lineup of hearings on coronavirus, including sessions that will focus on the PPPpublic educationsub-Saharan Africacybercrime and fraudtelehealthsafely resuming Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operations, and racial and ethnic health disparities in COVID-19 and the healthcare system. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources and House Energy and Commerce Committees will each hold a hearing on the impact of COVID-19 on the energy sector. The Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees will also hold their semiannual hearings on the Monetary Policy Report.

Relevant Resources

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.

Hearings

House Committee on Energy and Commerce: “How Governors are Battling the COVID-19 Pandemic”
Tuesday, June 2, 2020: The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing to cover how state governors are addressing the current coronavirus pandemic. The panel of witnesses includes the governors from Colorado, Michigan and Arkansas. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: Subcommittee Chair Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) called on the Trump administration to encourage testing in all states and criticized the administration for not improving the testing supply in the past. House Democrats have repeatedly criticized the Trump administration for not doing enough to give adequate testing supplies to states, as well as for what they say is a lack of supply chain transparency.

Senate Finance Committee: “COVID-19 and Beyond: Oversight of the FDA’s Foreign Drug Manufacturing Inspection Process”
Tuesday, June 2, 2020: The Senate Finance full committee held a hearing on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the FDA’s foreign drug manufacturing inspection process. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: Appearing before committee, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) health care director Mary Denigan-Macauley criticized the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) oversight of foreign drug manufacturing, including the FDA’s practice of notifying overseas drug manufacturers in advance of inspections, despite U.S. pharmaceutical companies’ not receiving the same prior warnings. Judith McMeekin, the associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at the FDA, addressed the concerns by saying the agency has conducted more inspections of foreign drug manufacturers than U.S. pharmaceutical companies annually since 2015.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP): “COVID-19: Going Back to College Safely”
Thursday, June 4, 2020: The Senate HELP committee held a hearing on preparing Americans to go back to college during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: The purpose of the hearing was to explore the current challenges and implications of decisions that leaders of institutions of higher education are making as they develop plans to safely reopen colleges and universities this fall. The committee was interested in hearing recommendations for how colleges and universities could effectively coordinate with state and local public health officials and take into consideration the needs of all students when reopening in August. 

House

House Democrats Seek Information on COVID-19 Vaccine Contracts
On June 2, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), the chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services requesting the COVID-19 vaccine research contracts with the private sector. The letter sked if the contracts that fund the development of a potential coronavirus vaccine include provisions to ensure the vaccines or therapeutics are affordable. It also claims that HHS has shared only limited information to date with Congress, with government websites listing a subset of contracts with the private sector, but not disclosing the terms, such as the allocation of any intellectual property rights between the government and private companies. Find the full letter here.

Senate

Senate Passes Revisions to Small-Business Program, President Trump Signs
On June 3, the Senate unanimously approved the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act to relax rules under the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program, giving borrowers more time to spend the money and use it on a broader set of expenses while still qualifying to have the loans forgiven, a key feature offered in exchange for employers’ maintaining payrolls. On June 5, President Trump signed the revisions into law. The House last week passed the bill in a 417-1 vote.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.

The Latest

Last night, the Senate passed the bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act by unanimous consent, sending it to the President for his signature. The bill extends the covered period for which Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) expenses will be forgiven beyond the current eight weeks to 24 weeks or December 31, whichever comes first. While lawmakers were able to agree on this tailored fix to a coronavirus relief program, Democrats and Republicans remain at odds on what a Phase 4 package will look like as Senate Republicans prepare to release their proposal, likely later this month.

On Tuesday, the Senate Banking Committee held a remote hearing on “Implementation of Title IV of the CARES Act.” The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on “COVID-19 and Beyond: Oversight of the FDA’s Foreign Drug Manufacturing Inspection Process” and the Senate Judiciary Committee convened a hearing on “Examining Best Practices for Incarceration and Detention During COVID-19.” On the other side of the Capitol, Governors Jared Polis (D-CO), Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI), and Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for a remote hearing entitled “On the Front Lines: How Governors are Battling the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

On Wednesday, a Senate Small Business Committee a hearing examined “Perspectives from Main Street: COVID-19’s Impact on Small Businesses and the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on “The State of Transportation and Critical Infrastructure: Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The House Budget Committee heard from two former Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Directors during a virtual hearing on “Addressing the Economic Impacts of COVID-19.” A House Judiciary Committee hearing examined “Protecting the Right to Vote During the COVID-19 Pandemic” and the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions convened a virtual hearing on “Promoting Inclusive Lending During the Pandemic.”

Today, the Senate Health, Labor, Educations, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on “COVID-19: Going Back to College Safely” and the Senate Environment and Works Committee convened a hearing to examine “Infrastructure: The Road to Recovery.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield also appeared before a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on “COVID-19 Response.”

Elsewhere, the President and federal agencies continue to take other steps to respond to the outbreak, including, but not limited to:

  • President Trump hosted a roundtable with industry executives on economic reopening.
  • The President signed a Memorandum on Governors’ Use of the National Guard to Respond to COVID-19 to Facilitate Economic Recovery extending the deployment of National Guard troops supporting coronavirus response efforts through August 21.
  • The Small Business Administration updated its report on Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) approvals through May 30.
  • The Federal Reserve announced it is expanding the number and type of entities eligible to use the Municipal Liquidity Facility (MLF) and published an updated term sheetFAQs, and limits per state.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a $628 million contract to advance manufacturing capabilities and capacity for a potential COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutics. HHS also announced it is providing an additional $250 million in CARES Act funding to healthcare systems to support pandemic response efforts.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a voluntary Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) template for at-home sample collection kits in line with its revised Policy for COVID-19 Tests During the Public Health Emergency.
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) said in an Order that it will ban passenger flights to the United States on Chinese airlines effective June 16. The Civil Aviation Authority of China has so far not approved several US airlines’ requests to resume service to China amid the pandemic.

A complete overview of both congressional and Administrative response efforts is available here and updated daily.

What’s Next

Senate Republicans are expected to release their Phase 4 proposal later this month. Liability protections will be a cornerstone of the proposal, which will likely be under $1 trillion, in stark contrast to the House Democrats’ HEROES Act, which totals over $3 trillion.

Next Tuesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Evaluating the Federal Government’s Procurement and Distribution Strategies in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” the Senate Judiciary Committee will examine “COVID-19 Fraud: Law Enforcement’s Response to Those Exploiting the Pandemic,” and a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing will focus on “Wildfire Management in the Midst of COVID-19.” The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on “Unemployment Insurance During COVID-19: The CARES Act and the Role of Unemployment Insurance During the Pandemic.” A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will also convene a hearing on “Pollution and Pandemics: COVID-19’s Disproportionate Impact on Environmental Justice Communities” and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing entitled “On the Front Lines: The Impacts of COVID-19 on Transportation Workers.”

On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Carranza will testify before the Senate Small Business Committee during a hearing on “Implementation of Title I Of the CARES Act” and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on “COVID-19: Going Back to School Safely.” The House Oversight and Reform Committee will hold a hearing entitled “No Worker Left Behind: Supporting Essential Workers.” The House Financial Services Committee has also scheduled a series of COVID-focused hearings throughout June.

Relevant Resources

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.

Hearings

House Ways and Means Committee: “The Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color”
Wednesday, May 27, 2020: The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting American communities of color. Find more details on the hearing here.

Why this is important: Specific data on coronavirus infection rates remains incomplete, yet data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last month showed that African Americans make up approximately 30 percent of cases, despite representing 13 percent of the U.S. population.

House

House Energy and Commerce: Letter to Trump Administration on COVID-19 Vaccine Plan
On May 21, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and ranking member Greg Walden (R-OR), and oversight subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) and ranking member Brett Guthrie (R-KY) sent a letter to the Trump administration regarding a need for a national COVID-19 vaccine plan. The plan should lay out how the federal government will scale manufacturing of potential vaccines, prioritize and allocate vaccines to at-risk populations, ensure all Americans can afford a vaccine regardless of insurance coverage and conduct public education and outreach. The letter was addressed to the White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx and requested a briefing on the White House’s Operation Warp Speed, which aims to speed vaccine clinical trials. Find the letter here.

Senate

Senate Democrats Urge HHS to Protect ACA’s Anti-Discrimination Provisions in Midst of COVID-19 Pandemic
On May 22, thirty-one Senate Democrats led by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking for the withdrawal of a proposal to roll back the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) nondiscrimination provisions. The senators argue that the consumer protections are particularly critical to vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been reviewing the final version of the rule since April 23 and it could be released shortly, although HHS has at least 10 meetings scheduled with stakeholders on the rule through June 9, according to OMB. Follow the rule at OMB here. Find the letter here.

Read more on healthcare policy in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.

The Latest

While House Democrats – who passed a $3 trillion Phase 4 coronavirus response package earlier this month – and the White House and Senate Republicans remain at an impasse on moving ahead with the next phase of comprehensive relief, there has been movement towards making bipartisan, tailored reforms to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Before leaving Washington for Memorial Day, Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) committed to hold a vote after the recess on a bipartisan bill to extend the current eight-week period businesses have to use PPP loans to pay employees and other expenses for the loan to be forgiven to 16 weeks. The bill would also allow businesses to use PPP loans to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees and to install or expand protections like drive-thru windows.

Today, the House voted 417-1 to pass the bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, which would reform the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to allow forgiveness for expenses beyond the current eight week covered period to 24 weeks. A similar bill that the Senate is expected to vote on next week would extend the covered period to 16 weeks. The House also voted 269-147 in favor of the Small Business Transparency and Reporting for the Underbanked and Taxpayers at Home (TRUTH) Act, which would direct the SBA to explain and justify all disbursements of coronavirus relief funds, but it failed to secure the two-thirds supermajority necessary to pass under suspension of the rules. The House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections also held a rescheduled hearing this morning on “Examining the Federal Government’s Actions to Protect Workers form COVID-19.”

This week’s House votes marked the first time in the chamber’s history that Members have voted remotely. Over 70 Members, all Democrats, submitted letters to the Clerk authorizing their proxies. Earlier in the week, House Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA) and other Republicans filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of new House rules allowing for remote voting by proxy. In response, Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement that the rules are “fully consistent with the Constitution” and “supported by expert legal analyses.”

While Congress considers PPP reforms, the Treasury Department updated FAQs on the program and published an interim final rule on loan forgiveness and an interim final rule on loan review procedures and related borrower responsibilities. The SBA also updated its report on PPP Round 2 approvals through May 23 and its summary of Round 2 data.

The Administration, through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), delivered to Congress a congressionally mandated report on its national COVID-19 testing strategy. As anticipated, the report drew criticism from Democratic leaders.

Elsewhere, the President and federal agencies continue to take other steps to respond to the outbreak, including, but not limited to:

  • President Trump signed a Proclamation honoring the victims of the coronavirus pandemic and a Proclamation restricting most non-US citizens from entering the country if they have been in Brazil in the past 14 days.
  • Vice President Pence met with governors and the White House Coronavirus Task Force to discuss the COVID-19 response and reopening efforts, including efforts to maximize testing and outbreak modeling.
  • National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said the Administration may support “back to work” bonus payments in Phase 4 coronavirus response legislation, specifically citing a proposal by Senator Portman (R-OH) that would temporarily provide unemployed workers with an extra $450 per week upon returning to work.
  • HHS announced $500 million in payments from the Provider Relief Fund to the Indian Health Service (IHS) and tribal hospitals, clinics, and urban health centers to support the tribal response to COVID-19.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued interim guidelines for COVID-19 antibody testing in clinical and public health settings.
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Pai and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Krebs wrote letters to governors and Washington, DC Mayor Bowser urging them to recognize certain communications infrastructure entities and workers as essential to COVID-19 response efforts.

A complete overview of both congressional and Administrative response efforts is available here and updated daily.

What’s Next

Just before Memorial Day, Leaders McConnell and McCarthy met with President Trump, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff Meadows to discuss Phase 4 legislation. McConnell reiterated, and all agreed, that the bill must include liability protections. Senator Grassley (R-IA) later said that Senate negotiations will not start until the third or fourth week of June. Senator Blunt (R-MO) added that passing a bill by the July recess would be a challenge, but it should be passed before the August recess.

Tomorrow, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation will hold a virtual hearing on “The Status of the US Maritime Supply Chain During the COVID-19 Pandemic” and the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security will hold a briefing with the Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and CISA on cyberthreats related to the global coronavirus response.

Next Tuesday the Senate Banking Committee will hold a remote hearing on “Implementation of Title IV of the CARES Act,” while the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on “COVID-19 and Beyond: Oversight of the FDA’s Foreign Drug Manufacturing Inspection Process” and the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Examining Best Practices for Incarceration and Detention During COVID-19.” On the other side of the Capitol, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a remote hearing entitled “On the Front Lines: How Governors are Battling the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

On Wednesday, the Senate Small Business Committee will hold a hearing on “Perspectives from Main Street: COVID-19’s Impact on Small Businesses and the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on “The State of Transportation and Critical Infrastructure: Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The House Budget Committee will hold a virtual hearing on “Addressing the Economic Impacts of COVID-19: Views From Two Former CBO Directors.” The House Judiciary Committee will examine “Protecting the Right to Vote During the COVID-19 Pandemic” and the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions will hold a hearing on “Promoting Inclusive Lending During the Pandemic.” The Senate Health, Labor, Educations, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will also hold a hearing next Thursday on “COVID-19: Going Back to College Safely” and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will have a hearing on “Infrastructure: The Road to Recovery.”

On June 9, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will have a hearing on “Evaluating the Federal Government’s Procurement and Distribution Strategies in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.” On June 10, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Carranza will testify before the Senate Small Business Committee during a hearing on “Implementation of Title I Of the CARES Act” and the HELP Committee will hold a hearing on “COVID-19: Going Back to School Safely.”

Relevant Resources

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.

Hearings/Markups

House Committee on Appropriations: “Department of Veterans Affairs – Response to COVID-19”
Tuesday, May 19: The House Committee on Appropriations, subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies held a hearing on the response to COVID-19 by the Department of Veterans Affairs, with a witness panel of officials from the VA. Find more details on the hearing here.

Senate Committee on Aging: “Caring for Seniors Amid the COVID-19 Crisis”
Thursday, May 21: The Senate Committee on Aging held a hearing on caring for senior citizens during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Find more details on the hearing here.

House

Carter Introduces Bill for 30 Percent Tax Credit to U.S.-Manufactured Drugs, Medical Equipment
On May 22, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) introduced a bill to give a 30 percent tax credit to drug manufacturers and makers of medical gear and diagnostics that are manufactured in the United States. The Manufacturing API, Drugs, and Excipients (MADE) in America Act is sponsored by Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), David McKinley (R-WV), Eric Crawford (R-AR) and Darren Soto (D-FL).

Energy and Commerce Committee Probes Administration’s COVID-19 Response
The House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee announced they will spend the next few months investigating the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The investigation will focus on COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, the supply chain for personal protective gear and vaccine development. The goal is to outline ways to improve the response moving forward.

Senate

Senate Democrats Release Plan to Expand Health Care Coverage & Affordability During COVID-19
On May 22, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tina Smith (D-MN), with Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), released a plan to expand health care coverage and affordability during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a white paper, the senators outline a series of common sense legislative priorities that the Senate should take up immediately, including expanding premium support through subsidies and tax credits, incentivizing Medicaid expansion in hold-out states and having a special open enrollment period. Their proposal also calls for all COVID-19 treatment costs to be covered, including for the uninsured. Find the plan here.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Washington Healthcare Update.