COVID-19 Federal Update 4-27-20

April 27, 2020

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday: 54,877

Next Coronavirus Stimulus

Democrats Seek Cash in Next Stimulus: Democrats are considering proposing a new round of direct cash payments to U.S. households and extending a similar benefit to the smallest businesses, as they struggle to get federal loans. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the top Democrats on Congress’s two tax committees, want to include the payments in the next round of stimulus spending that Congress is likely to take up in May. Their effort is sure to face objections from key Republicans, such as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who say they want to put the brakes on more deficit spending. But some GOP lawmakers have complained that small local businesses are getting shut out from small business aid. Long waits at state unemployment offices and high demand for the Paycheck Protection Program — which offers forgivable loans to small businesses that keep employees on the job — have left many people and small business owners unable to claim swift relief.

“We must look at what the most vulnerable in our country are facing by putting money into their pockets with another round of stimulus payments so they can pay for essentials,” Neal, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said on Thursday. Wyden’s plan, and a similar proposal in the House, would give small businesses up to $75,000 as they struggle with closures and drop-offs in economic activity. Those payments would be limited to companies with $1 million or less in revenue and up to 50 employees. The payment would be capped at 30% of the business’s gross receipts. That’s aimed and addressing a key criticism of the Paycheck Protection Program — that the smallest businesses aren’t able to claim the loans because banks are giving priority to larger eligible companies that have existing relationships with those institutions and generate larger fees. Read more from Laura Davison.

Democrats List Next Stimulus Priorities: Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) will hold a press call today at 11 a.m. to “unveil next steps and key goals for their bipartisan Cures 2.0 legislation,” a follow-up stimulus package after Trump signed into law the latest stimulus on Friday. The two lawmakers “are working to explore how the bill can modernize the delivery of health care in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic,” according to a statement. “As our nation faces this unprecedented public health crisis, it’s more important than ever that we continue our ef forts to modernize the way we treat the world’s most vexing diseases,” DeGette and Upton said in the statement.


Take 2: SBA Loan Programs

Small-Business Relief Program Restarts Today: The Small Business Administration will restart a government coronavirus relief loan program for small businesses today with an additional $320 billion, after the first round of funding was exhausted in just 13 days. The SBA will resume accepting applications for its Paycheck Protection Program at 10:30 a.m., the agency and the Treasury Department said Friday in a joint release. Read more from Mark Niquette.  Agricultural producers, farmers, and ranchers are eligible for small business rescue loans as long as they meet certain requirements, according to new Payroll Protection Program guidance from Treasury and the SBA, reports Kim Chipman.

The SBA is capping the value of loans individual banks can arrange under a government economic relief program for small businesses that restarts today, report Niquette and Hannah Levitt. The move reflects concerns that the biggest U.S. banks could again dominate the lending and prevent money from getting to the mom-and-pop shops that need it the most. The SBA sent an email to lenders yesterday limiting the maximum dollar amount of loans each bank can issue at 10% of funding authority of the PPP. The goal of the cap is “to ensure equitable access,” according to a copy of the email seen by Bloomberg News. It wasn’t clear from the email what the dollar amount of the cap would be.

Loans Didn’t Flow to Businesses Most at Risk: Meanwhile, loans to small businesses through the program haven’t flowed to areas hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new analysis by economists. About 15% of companies in the regions with the biggest declines in hours worked and most business shutdowns received funds from the first tranche of the PPP, according to the paper from researchers at the University of Chicago’s Booth School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School and the National Bureau of Economic Research. In congressional districts least affected, firms received double that share. Read more from Katia Dmitrieva.


Economic Updates

Mnuchin Says Rising Budget Deficits to Be Focus: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that “over time” the U.S. will need to look into the sharply rising budget deficits created by the multi-trillion-dollar coronavirus support packages. Right now “we’re in a war,” Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday. “We’re going to do whatever we need” to support the economy. The good news, Mnuchin said, is that “interest rates are extremely low and we’re locking in long-term rates” at those levels. And he predicted the economy would “really bounce back in July , August and September” as the closures related to stopping the spread of Covid-19 recede. Read more from Katia Dmitrieva.

Retailers Call on States to Adopt Uniform Reopening Plans: The top two trade groups representing major retailers such as Walmart, Target and Best Buy are calling on governors to adopt uniform reopening standards as the pandemic subsides, including allowing warehouses and distribution centers nationwide to reopen all at once, rather than state-by-state.

As states, cities, and companies big and small struggle over when and how to restart the economy, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the National Retail Federation have some ideas. Today, they’re sending a six-page memo to governors outlining a three-phased plan for how stores can maintain public safety once they are allowed to reopen their doors to customers. The guidelines call for stores to have “robust” health and safety protocols in place, including sanitation and social-distancing procedures.  Measures include ensuring regular handwashing, use of gloves and face masks to protect customers and employees, in addition to limiting occupancy in some cases “to no more than 5 customers per 1,000 square feet of shopping space,” or half the national fire code requirement. Read more from Naomi Nix and Ben Brody.

Back-to-Work Math Gets Messy for Americans: Across America there’s a heated discussion underway about when and how to restart an economy that was put on hold to contain the Covid-19 virus. But the often partisan debate can ignore, or reduce to caricature, what’s become a complicated calculus for millions of Americans suddenly thrown out of their jobs. It involves life and death, economics and family and has left many reluctant to return to work for the time being. It also points to the challenges now facing America’s policymakers and the sometimes clashing incentives government’s response to the crisis has created. Read more from Shawn Donnan.

IRS Recalls 10,000 Workers, Told to Bring Own PPE: The IRS has asked about 10,000 employees to return to work Monday to perform tasks, including opening mail, processing paper tax returns, and taking phone calls. The agency announced the decision in an email sent to employees Friday in which it also told employees they’d be responsible for their own mandatory face coverings until it can procure personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves. Read more from Allyson Versprille.  Meanwhile, National Institutes of Health employees were told by director Francis Collins in a call Friday not to expect to return to the agency’s Bethesda, Md. Campus until June, according to a person on the call, Nancy Ognanovich reports.

Treasury Has Paid $12.4 Billion in Aviation Payroll Support: The U.S. Treasury said it has paid out another $9.5 billion in funds to the aviation industry under a program designed to shore up carriers reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, an application form was released on Saturday for loans destined for “businesses critical to maintaining national security,” Treasury said in a statement. Total disbursements so far under the CARES Act have reached to $12.4 billion to 93 air carriers, including major airlines and smaller passenger carriers, Treasury said in its statement. Read more from Ros Krasny.

USDA Boosts Effort to Support Meat, Poultry Producers: The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will establish a “coordination center” to help livestock and poultry producers hurt by coronavirus-induced meatpacking plant closures. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will offer “direct support to producers whose animals cannot move to market” and work with state veterinarians and other public officials “to help identify potential alternative markets” as plant shutdowns increase, according to a release posted on the agency’s website. Read more from Jordan Yadoo.  The effort comes as almost 1,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture food inspectors, or about 15% of the workforce, are off the job as the coronavirus outbreak left workers sick, quarantined or facing a high risk to health, figures provided by the union showed, report Deena Shanker, Lydia Mulvany and Mike Dorning. About 25% of pork capacity and 10% of beef is now off line, according to the United Food & Commercial Workers, which estimates that at least 13 U.S. plants faced shutdowns.

Trump Sued for Denying Checks to Americans Married to Immigrants: Trump was sued over a provision of the coronavirus relief package that could deny $1,200 stimulus checks to more than 1 million Americans married to immigrants without Social Security Numbers. The suit was filed Friday by an Illinois man using the pseudonym John Doe, who seeks to represent all others in his position. Doe claims a carve-out in the relief package discriminates against him “based solely on whom he chose to marry.” Read more from Robert Burnson



Trump Calls HHS Chief Amid Ousting Rumors: Trump called HHS Secretary Alex Azar this weekend to say his job is safe after reports the White House may oust the health chief as the administration faces criticism over its coronavirus response. The call, described by a person familiar with the matter, and a Trump tweet yesterday backing Azar came after multiple news accounts saying some officials within the White House had discussed his dismissal and potential replacements. Azar also weighed in on Twitter, praising Trump’s leadership and saying reports he’s about to be replaced are fake. Some officials believe that Azar’s adversaries in the administration are trying to undermine him by promoting a narrative that he’s in trouble. Read more from Justin Sink and Jennifer Jacobs.

Trump Questions Briefing Effort: Trump has been determined to talk his way through the coronavirus crisis, but frequent misstatements at his daily news conferences have caused a litany of public health and political headaches for the White House. On Friday, Trump sought to clean up his briefing room riff from the day before about the possibility of fighting coronavirus infection in patients with chemical disinfectant or sunlight — a dangerous idea that doctors and a manufacturer of cleaning products felt obliged to publicly warn against.

By Saturday, Trump suggested the briefings, which have become a televised daily substitute for his campaign rallies, were “not worth the time and effort,” a day after a report that he plans to scale back such appearances. Trump and his coronavirus task force on Friday evening held their shortest news conference yet, at just 22 minutes. He took no questions. There was no briefing this weekend but instead, a series of Twitter messages that returned to familiar targets including the media and Democrats. Read more from Jordan Fabian  Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said Trump understands that disinfectant isn’t a treatment. “It bothers me that this is still in the news cycle,” she said on CNN, in one of three interviews yesterday. “I’ve made it clear that this was a musing” on Trump’s part. Read more from Hailey Waller.

No FDA Review for Most Antibody Tests Draws Rebuke: The Food and Drug Administration has allowed antibody tests that could show if someone has already been exposed to Covid-19 and developed some immunity to be on the market without its review and has yet to take an enforcement action, according to lawmakers. Trump has touted antibody testing as a way to unlock the U.S. economy, and experts say it could be key in doing so safely. However, there have been reports that current tests could be unsafe or inaccurate.  The FDA hasn’t assessed the reliability of most of the antibody tests on the market, according to a memo by a subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee released Friday. The Department of Health and Human Services has convened an interagency group to do so, but the program is voluntary. Only seven of the 101 test kits on the market had been submitted as of April 17.  “Serology testing for coronavirus has the potential to be a critical tool going forward for our nation. Unfortunately, senior FDA and CDC officials admitted that they have not put Americans in the best position to use this tool,” the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), said in a statement. “They have put the public’s health at risk by allowing inaccurate and potentially fraudulent tests to spread unchecked.” Read more from Shira Stein.

Meanwhile, catching Covid-19 once may not protect you from getting it again, according to the World Health Organization, a finding that could jeopardize efforts to allow people to return to work after recovering from the virus. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the United Nations agency said in a statement on Saturday. Read more from Patrick Henry.

White House Turns to Military for Supply Chain Mission: Supply chains are a fickle beast with a propensity to become unwieldy, presenting industry and government leaders a sobering test of their leadership skills. German military command learned as much in World War II during Operation Barbarossa in western Russia, as did the Romans in trying to sustain their expansive empire.  Today, the supply chain is being tested by a global health crisis. The massive effort to mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic and aid Americans sickened by the disease has made supply-chain management a top national security concern of Trump. The Department of Defense is planning to invest $133 million to increase domestic production of N95 masks by more than 39 million over the next three months, DOD spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said in an April 21 statement. 3M, Owens & Minor and Honeywell received contracts under the long standing Defense Production Act. Read more from Vince Golle.

Pompeo Seeks Exceptions to WHO Funding: Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has recommended that the U.S. keep funding World Health Organization programs to fight polio and coronavirus in seven countries, a recognition that the group provides key services in some areas despite Trump’s criticism. State Department officials informed the National Security Council that the WHO is central to the fight against Covid-19 or polio in seven countries: Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria and Turkey, said a person familiar with the discussions. Adhering to the letter of Trump’s order from last week to halt all U.S. funding to WHO for a 60- to 90-day review would therefore be unworkable. Read more from Nick Wadhams.

Virus Raises Concerns Over Disaster Response: The Covid-19 pandemic has led emergency preparedness workers to make some changes in how they deal with disasters—like a series of violent storms that killed dozens of people in the South over the past two weeks. Nineteen tornadoes have hit the state of Mississippi since Easter, Greg Michel, executive director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said at a briefing on Friday evening. Michel said the state was opening assistance centers in three counties for people who lost phone and internet access. Read more from Jennifer Kay.

Virus puts off Trumps’ Other Health Plans: Some of President Donald Trump’s top health priorities before the coronavirus pandemic, including HIV prevention and paying for patient outcomes instead of individual procedures, have been swept away by the virus response and could end up permanently sidelined, former administration officials and some leaders of the policy efforts said. Many leaders at the Health and Human Services Department pushing forward the policies have had to back away to lead the Covid-19 response, and Trump’s Office of Management and Budget has limited resources to review and approve rules not related to the pandemic. HHS officials are going to have to pick and choose which policies to prioritize before the end of Trump’s term. HHS leaders including Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, CMS Innovation Center Director Brad Smith, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield have been redeployed to work on Covid-19 testing, flexibility in Medicare policies, and increasing the supply of personal protective equipment.

The timeline of the pandemic is uncertain and could last until the presidential election in November, creating the possibility that none of these policies are finished if presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden emerges victorious. The list of major policies—many of which are bipartisan—that still require action by the administration is long. It includes efforts to lower prescription drug prices and regulations to encourage that more dialysis be performed from home. The coronavirus pandemic “has supplanted everyone’s priority because it’s a life-or-death situation,” said Carl Schmid, co-chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Read more from Shira Stein on the president’s health-care agenda that has been put on the back burner—potentially for good—due to the pandemic.

CMS Suspends Doctors’ Loan Program for Grants: Doctors’ offices, clinicians, and medical equipment suppliers now will receive emergency funds through the recent rescue packages approved by Congress rather than a loan program that requires them to repay the money within a year. CMS said yesterday that it won’t accept applications for its Advance Payment Program, which is typically used to address cash flow issues for health providers other than hospitals when there is disruption in claims submission or claims processing. The CMS will continue to accept applications for loans for its companion program for hospitals, the Accelerated Payment Program, but will reevaluate new and pending requests in light of the direct grant payments already available through the agency’s Provider Relief Fun d. Read more from Fawn Johnson.

FDA Warns Against Trump-Touted Drugs: The Food and Drug Administration warned of potential serious heart risks from malaria drugs touted by Trump for the coronavirus, becoming the latest federal agency to dial back hopes of a fast pharmaceutical solution to the pandemic. The president has been a proponent of giving Covid-19 patients the antimalarial medicines hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. But Friday, the FDA said Covid-19 patients shouldn’t take the drugs unless they’re carefully monitored in a hospital or during a clinical trial. Robert Langreth, Riley Griffin, and Michelle Fay Cortez have more.

States Push for Racial Disparity Data: Health departments across the nation are trying to fill large gaps in the reporting of racial information on coronavirus patients, but more than one-third of reported cases still lack such information, according to state and federal health data. State health departments have only just started reporting demographic data on coronavirus patients to help them direct resources and to give public health groups a sense of which communities are most affected by the pandemic. African Americans are disproportionately hit by the virus, early demographic data show.  Many states quickly found they were getting complete information about those who died from the illness, but health-care providers have been inconsistent on whether they collect information about the race of their patients, public health officials say. This lack of reporting has left knowledge gaps many fear will make it difficult to address the health disparities faced by communities of color. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

HHS Stocking Up on Drugs: The HHS is spending $256 million to secure drugs and pharmaceutical ingredients needed during the pandemic, according to the General Services Administration website. Due to the crisis, the supply chain for the items has been “nearly depleted” and often times, such items have to “be sourced directly from the manufacturer or distributors,” the HHS said in a document. Read more from Shira Stein.

EU Says Data Can Be Sent to U.S.: European Union privacy watchdogs said that citizens’ health data may be shared with the U.S. in the race to develop a vaccine and therapies for Covid-19. An EU data protection regulatory panel told the U.S. embassy in Brussels that there are exemptions to the bloc’s strict privacy law to permit scientists to internationally to share health information. Any solutions that guarantee the sustained protection of people’s privacy rights should be favored, the European Data Protection Board said. But some exemptions can be applied due to the urgency of the situation, they said, Stephanie Bodoni reports.  Meanwhile Friday, the World Health Organization and the leaders of France and Germany launched an $8 billion drive to accelerate the development of a vaccine, stressing it should be available to everyone without favor shown to the country that makes it first. “The world needs these tools and it needs them fast,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a conference. “In the past they have not been available to all. That cannot be allowed to happen again.” Read more from Hugo Miler and Ania Nussbaum.

Cuomo Announces Phased Plan to Reopen: New York’s state Covid-19 deaths fell to 367 yesterday, the lowest in almost a month, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) floated a phased-in reopening that begins with construction and manufacturing. That could start as soon as May 15, he said, and probably begin in upstate before New York City. Cuomo’s briefing, filled with technicalities and conditions for restarting the state, was a sharp contrast to the depths of the virus outbreak in New York. On April 9, a record 799 people died. Total fatalities are now at 16,966, even as new hospitalizations and intensive care cases continue to drop. Read more from Ian Fisher and Henry Goldman.

Pence Says Outbreak May End by Memorial Day: Vice President Mike Pence said he thinks the U.S. coronavirus outbreak may be over by Memorial Day on May 25, 2020. “I truly do believe that if we all continue to do that kind of social distancing and other guidance broadly from federal and state officials, that we are going to put this coronavirus in the past,” Pence told Geraldo Rivera Friday, adding that he thinks “by early June, we’re going to see our nation largely past this epidemic.” Read more from Justin Sink.

Democrats Flag ‘Aggressive’ Immigration Policies: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee top Democrat Patty Murray (Wash.) and House Appropriations Labor-HHS Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Azar to express “serious concern” over reports that the Office of Refugee Resettlement “is considering new aggressive” immigration policies, urging him to make sure the office “remains focused first and foremost on the wellbeing of the children in its care,” according to a Friday statement. Their letter comes as Trump signed an executive order last week to severely restrict immigration to the U.S.



How Coronavirus will change Air Travel: Higher fares, fewer routes, pre-flight health checks and less free food: The coronavirus pandemic is ushering in a new era of air travel.  A seismic shift is underway as the world’s airlines reassess their operations and how they will look emerging from the crisis. At eerily empty airports, mask-wearing and social distancing already show a behavioral change among the few staff and travelers left. A long shakeup lies ahead that is set to touch almost every aspect of flying after limits on movement unwind. “We should be prepared for a choppy, sluggish recovery even after the virus is contained,” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said in a letter to employees last week. “I estimate the recovery period could take two to three years.”

In a matter of months, the coronavirus reset the clock on a decades-long aviation boom that’s been one of the great cultural and economic phenomena of the postwar world. The explosion in air travel shrunk the planet, created jobs and hundreds of millions of first-time fliers, and dispersed families rich and poor over continents. Now it’s all on hold, with airlines slashing seat capacity by more than 70% since January, according to analytics firm Cirium. There’s no knowing when people will be willing to pack into enclosed cabin spaces again, though an International Air Transport Association survey found 40% of recent travelers anticipated waiting at least six months after the virus is contained before flying again. Budget carrier EasyJet Plc is among those planning to keep middle seats empty, at least initially, to reassure customers about personal spacing. At Korean Air Lines, cabin crew now have goggles, masks, gloves and protective gowns. Read more from Angus Whitley.

Airlines Cut Work Hours: Airlines are cutting some of their employees’ work hours less than a week after the federal government began disbursing $25 billion in payroll support. Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways have pared the work schedules of thousands of workers, sparking the ire of a machinists’ union. United Airlines is in talks to reduce hours, prompting that union to warn of potential violations of the CARES Act, the government’s roughly $2.2 trillion rescue plan that includes airline relief aimed at shielding w orkers’ incomes. The savings efforts point to the next phase of the airlines’ fight for survival amid the worst crisis in industry history, as the coronavirus pandemic all but erases travel demand. While the U.S. bailout package restricts cuts to employment and pay rates through Sept. 30, carriers are pulling all the levers they can to lower costs in the next five months—and signaling deeper cuts in October. Justin Bachman and Mary Schlangenstein have more.

Treasury Has Paid $12.4 Billion in Aviation Payroll Support: The U.S. Treasury said it has paid out another $9.5 billion in funds to the aviation industry under a program designed to shore up carriers reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, an application form was released on Saturday for loans destined for “businesses critical to maintaining national security,” Treasury said in a statement. Total disbursements so far under the CARES Act have reached to $12.4 billion to 93 air carriers, including major airlines and smaller passenger carriers, Treasury said in its statement. Read more from Ros Krasny.

Trump Says U.S. Should Buy Plane Tickets: Trump suggested that the federal government should buy four to five years’ worth of plane tickets in advance at a discount to inject struggling U.S. airlines with new money. “One of the ways we can help the airlines is buying tickets at a very large discount, maybe 50% off or maybe more,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “You infuse them with some cash.” He added: “In the meantime we’re flying the people of our country for a fraction of the cost it would be when the airlines get back.” Jordan Fabian has more.

Air Passenger Traffic Falls 96% Year Over Year: Daily passenger numbers in the U.S. averaged 101,686 last week, compared with 2.34 million a year earlier, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Boeing Poised to Cut Dreamliner Output: Boeing is poised to cut 787 Dreamliner output by about half and announce workforce reductions when it reports first-quarter earnings this week, said people familiar with the plans. Details of the production changes for Boeing’s commercial lineup are still being finalized and will determine the number of jobs to be eliminated through layoffs and buyouts, said the people, who asked not to be named as the discussions are confidential. The plane maker plans to lower the Dreamliner’s monthly output, which began the year at 14 jets, to a single-digit rate. Dave Calhoun, Boeing’s CEO, hinted that painful measures would be needed when he warned employees last month of a “new reality” with a far smaller jetliner market when the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. Global airline sales are projected to plunge by $314 billion this year, according to an industry trade group, and travel may not recover fully until mid-decade.

The forbidding landscape leaves Boeing with no easy decisions. Airbus, its European rival, has already announced plans to pare output by about a third. Both companies probably burned through record amounts of cash in the first quarter: 6.5 billion euros for Airbus and $8 billion for Boeing, according to calculations by Melius Research analyst Carter Copeland. Read more from Julie Johnsson and Siddharth Philip.

Boeing is also walking away from its proposed $4.2 billion combination with Embraer’s commercial-aircraft business, ending years of talks, as the plane makers brace for a reduced jetliner market after the pandemic. The deal’s collapse turns two long-time business partners into competitors and strengthens Airbus’s long-term advantage in the lucrative market for single-aisle planes. The partnership with Brazil’s Embraer would have armed the U.S. aerospace giant with smaller jets to compete against a new offering from Airbus. Read more from Julie Johnsson.

Auto Industry Restart Hinges on Suppliers: The global auto industry is going through the biggest disruption since at least World War II, and in order to recover from the billions in lost sales and profit triggered by the economic shutdown, it needs every link in the supply chain to survive. Manufacturers have a lot more to worry about than just making parts. To avoid spread of the disease, factories have got to be spotless, and workers under constant medical surveillance. There’s a patchwork of state and local quarantine orders to abide by, and an intricate supply chain to navigate in order to ship the roughly 30,000 components that go into a vehicle. Read more from Gabrielle Coppola.

Meanwhile, Tesla is calling some workers back to its lone U.S. vehicle-assembly plant starting this week, before San Francisco Bay area stay-home orders are scheduled to expire. Supervisors told some staff in the paint and stamping operations of the factory in Fremont, Calif., to report to the facility on April 29. In messages seen by Bloomberg News, plant leaders ask workers to reply and say whether they plan to show up. Tesla representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Read more from Josh Eidelson.

Uncertain Times for Railroads: The fallout from the coronavirus is shredding not just the obvious consumer sectors like hotels, shops and restaurants that are closed during extended lockdowns. It’s hitting America’s industrial economy with equal force and similar uncertainty about what’s around the bend. “We’re just doing everything in our power to adjust to this dramatic decline in volume,” Lance Fritz, chief executive of Union Pacific Railroad, said Thursday in a Bloomberg TV interview. “Right now it’s all about getting th e business right-sized for our current volume environment and trying to get an understanding for how deep and how long this downturn is going to last.” Read more from Brendan Murray.

Postal Service Skipped in Bankruptcy Talk: The U.S. Postal Service may functionally share more in common with private corporations than with government agencies: its revenue is from sales and not taxes, it can borrow money on its own, and it files financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But its options for averting financial ruin amid the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic stand in stark contrast to the business world.

Distressed U.S. companies, and even cities, that are being crippled by the economic toll of the Covid-19 pandemic can look to the nation’s bankruptcy laws for protection while they reorganize and restructure liabilities. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week suggested letting states use bankruptcy laws as well. But legal experts said the law is clear that the USPS remains too much of a federal government entity to be eligible for the same relief. Read more from Alex Wolf and Louis C. LaBrecque.

Democrats Push for Bus Industry Support: House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) requested Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell consider providing at least $5 billion in loans to over-the-road bus carriers under a program enacted by the CARES Act (Public Law 116-136). The pandemic “has decimated the motorcoach industry,” the lawmakers said in a letter. “Based on reports from motorcoach companies, between 80 and 95 percent of motorcoach trips have been cancelled or are simply not being booked due to the pandemic, and scheduled service operations are down 80-90%.”

ALPA Concerned for Pilot Safety: The Air Lines Pilots Association wrote to President Donald Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell(R-Ky.), raising concerns that airlines are failing to comply with federal guidelines put in place to protect pilots and travelers from the coronavirus pandemic. The group asked for a requirement in future coronavirus legislation that airlines comply with CDC and FAA guidelines related to flight deck cleaning and disinfection, personal protective equipment for flight crews, and employee notification of test-positive cases in the workplace.

Trump Says ‘Joke’ Postal Service Should Boost Rates for Amazon: Trump said the U.S. Postal Service is “a joke” and should quadruple the rate it charges major companies to ship a package, but is too frightened of Amazon to do so. Speaking in the Oval Office Friday as he signed the latest coronavirus aid bill, Trump launched into a critique of the national mail carrier and hinted he’d block any aid if the service doesn’t set higher rates. “The Postal Service is a joke. Because they’re handing out packages for Amazon and other internet companies and every time they send a package, they lose money on it,” Trump said. “The Post Office should raise the price of a package by approximately four times.”

Later Friday, Trump tweeted that he would “never let our Post Office fail. It has been mismanaged for years, especially since the advent of the internet and modern-day technology. The people that work there are great, and we’re going to keep them happy, healthy, and well!” A representative for Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The company still uses the USPS in rural areas where the sparse population makes household delivery more expensive. Read more from Josh Wingrove and Jordan Fabian.


Campaign Trail

Pelosi Endorses Biden for President: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid today, citing the fellow Democrat’s role in helping to manage the federal response to the 2008 financial crisis and in passing Obamacare, Deana Kjuka reports.  In a video published on Biden’s YouTube page, Pelosi said that the presumptive Democratic nominee “has been a voice of reason and resilience, with a clear path” to lead the U.S. out of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden meanwhile called on the Trump Administration to vastly expand the country’s testing capabilities for the coronavirus, including launching a new public health jobs corps of 100,000 people to assist with the testing and contact tracing, as he laid out his vision for safely reopening the economy in a new memo today. In a lengthy plan written by Biden and his public health committee, he criticized the president’s inaction on testing and detailed how the country should expand its capabilities i n order to catch a spike in infections before it spreads. Tyler Pager has more.

Biden also railed against the coronavirus stimulus packages in an interview published Saturday, calling corporate America “greedy as hell” while demanding legislation that includes stricter conditions on business bailouts and more oversight of the Trump administration. In the interview with Politico, Biden said the next stimulus bill should be “a hell of a lot bigger” than the first $2.2 trillion CARES Act and assailed big business and banks. Read more from Tyler Pager.

Summers Plays Down Role as Adviser to Biden: Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers played down his role advising Biden’s campaign amid an uproar among some progressives over his potential influence on the nominee. “Oh, I wouldn’t over-read things. The vice president and I have been friends for a long time and I’m one of many, many people who his campaign talks to but I don’t have any formal relationship to his campaign,” Summers said Friday on Bloomberg Television’s “Wall Street Week.” Summers works as a commentator on Bloomberg Television and “Wall Street Week.” Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

Deutsche Bank Turns Down Bid for Trump Details: Deutsche Bank has turned down a request by four U.S. senators to release details about the lender’s contacts with the family business of Trump, which asked the bank for leniency on some of its loans. In a letter to Deutsche Bank earlier this month, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said that contact between the Frankfurt-based lender and the Trump Organization raises “troubling new concerns about the extent to which Deutsche Bank holds financial leverage over the president,” and whether administration officials would offer “regulatory favors” as enticement.  On behalf of Deutsche Bank, law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld responded in a letter dated April 21 and obtained by Bloomberg, saying that “there is a critical legal distinction between inquiries conducted pursuant to congressional rules adopted by duly authorized committees, on the one hand, and informational requests made by individual members, on the other.” Read more from Rainer Buergin and Steven Arons.



Other stories

Businesses Push to Delay Minimum Wage Hikes: Business groups are pressuring Democratic officials in several states to postpone planned minimum-wage increases, arguing that embattled businesses can’t afford to give workers a raise as they face the coronavirus-related economic crisis. Virginia, California, Illinois, Michigan and Massachusetts are among the states where small-business advocates and groups representing restaurants, hotels and other industries are urging delays in wage increases agreed to before the outbreak, and its related business shutdowns, began. They’ve had some success, even in states governed by Democrats, showing how fundamentally altered political thinking has become, and how rapidly, as a result of the pandemic-driven downturn. Delaying wage increases, even temporarily, would be a pullback in a long, intensive campaign by progressives to force companies to pay the lowest-compensated workers more. Read more from Jeffrey Taylor.

Court Won’t Halt Trump Public Charge Rule: The U.S. Supreme Court let Trump’s administration keep using a tough test to screen out green card applicants who might become dependent on government benefits, refusing to halt the policy because of the Covid-19 outbreak. With no published dissents, the justices rejected a request from a New York-led group of state and local governments that said emergency Supreme Court intervention was needed to ensure immigrants weren’t deterred from using publicly funded health-care programs and other benefi ts. The court also rejected a similar motion filed by Cook County, Ill.. The court left open the possibility that a request could be filed with a federal district court. Read more from Greg Stohr.

Kim Mystery Grows on Reports of Train: Speculation about Kim Jong Un’s health intensified over the weekend after tantalizing, yet unverified, reports about a visit by a Chinese medical team and movements of the North Korean leader’s armored train. A prominent South Korea adviser, though, rejected ideas that Kim was ailing or dead. China sent a team including doctors and senior diplomats to advise its neighbor and longtime ally, Reuters reported on Saturday, citing three people familiar with the matter.   Meanwhile, a train resembling one long used by North Korean rulers was parked last week near a coastal leadership compound in Wonsan, according to an analysis of satellite imagery released Sunday by the website 38 North. Read more from Kanga Kong and Ros Krasny.  Of all the family members who could eventually take the reins from Kim, his sister seems like the obvious choice. Kim Yo Jong, in her early 30s, has been by her brother’s side at summits with presidents Trump and Xi Jinping, sat behind Vice President Mike Pence while representing North Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympics and became the first immediate member of the ruling family to visit Seoul. Read more from Jon Herskovitz and Kong.

Cotton Says Ban Chinese From STEM: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) lit up social media yesterday by suggesting Chinese students shouldn’t be allowed to study science and technology at U.S. universities, and should instead focus on Shakespeare. Cotton deemed it a “scandal” that China’s “brightest minds” study in the U.S. only to return home “to compete for our jobs, to take our business, and ultimately to steal our property.” He told Fox News that the U.S. needs “to take a very hard look at the visas that we give the Chinese nationals to come to the United States to study.” Read more from Ros Krasny.

U.S. Has Gunships Ready to Deliver on Iran Warning: Even before Trump’s vow to “shoot down” Iranian speedboats if they harass American ships in international waters, the U.S. Navy was bolstering its ability to call in AC-130 gunships and Apache attack helicopters to defend its presence in the Persian Gulf. A practice run for the new tactics on April 15 drew 11 gunboats from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that crossed the bows and sterns of American vessels at close range. And that prompted Trump’s tweet on April 22 saying he’d “instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.” Read more from Tony Capaccio.

Yemen Separatists Declare Self-Rule: Yemen separatists have declared self-rule in the country’s south, dealing a major blow to Saudi Arabia’s efforts to end a devastating civil war it fueled in the neighboring nation. A November power-sharing deal between the Saudi-backed administration of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and the secessionist Southern Transitional Council supported by the United Arab Emirates had been meant to reconcile onetime allies fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control much of the country. Read more from Mohammed Hatem.



Today on the Hill


White House

  • 10:30 am – In-House Pool Cal Time
  • 12:00 pm – Trump participates in a signing ceremony for HR. 266, Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act
  • 2:30 pm – Trump receives a briefing on NASA COVID-19 Response
  • 3:00 pm – Trump receives his intelligence briefing
  • 5:00 pm – Members of the Coronavirus Task Force hold a press briefing


  • The Senate will meet at 8 a.m. for a pro forma session.
  • Lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to D.C. until May 4, but negotiations and drafting of next stimulus bill can take place without most lawmakers in town


  • The House will meet for a pro forma session tomorrow at 9 a.m.
  • Lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to D.C. until May 4, but negotiations and drafting of next stimulus bill can take place without most lawmakers in town




Legislation Updates from Yesterday


  1. H.R.266— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act Sponsor: Rep. McCollum, Betty [D-MN-4] (Introduced 01/08/2019) Cosponsors: (0)Committees: House – Appropriations Latest Action: 04/24/2020 Became Public Law No: 116-139.
  2. H.R.6610— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To establish the Cabinet-level position of Director of Pandemic and Biodefense Preparedness and Response in the Executive Branch with the responsibility of developing a National Pandemic and Biodefense Preparedness and Response Strategy, to prepare for and coordinate the response to future pandemics, biological attacks, and other major health crises, including coordinating the work of multiple government agencies, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Rose, Max [D-NY-11] (Introduced 04/23/2020) Cosponsors: (3)Committees: House – Energy and Commerce; Transportation and Infrastructure; Armed Services; Foreign Affairs; Intelligence (Permanent)Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.
  3. H.R.6615— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To direct the Librarian of Congress to establish a program in the American Folklife Center to collect video and audio recordings of personal histories and testimonials of those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Bera, Ami [D-CA-7] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (0)Committees: House – House Administration Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the House Committee on House Administration.
  4. H.R.6616— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to allow States to provide coverage under the Medicaid program for vaccines and treatment for COVID-19 for uninsured individuals without the imposition of cost sharing requirements, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Cardenas, Tony [D-CA-29] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (1)Committees: House – Energy and Commerce Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
  5. H.R.6617— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To support surface and groundwater storage and supporting projects in Reclamation States, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Cox, TJ [D-CA-21] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (3)Committees: House – Natural Resources Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
  6. H.R.6618— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a database to facilitate the provision of health care services by a volunteer at a Federal or State agency during the COVID-19 public health emergency, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Crow, Jason [D-CO-6] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (1)Committees: House – Energy and Commerce Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
  7. H.R.6619— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide advance tax refunds to small businesses, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Dean, Madeleine [D-PA-4] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (1)Committees: House – Ways and Means Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
  8. H.R.6620— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To authorize grants to address substance use during COVID-19.Sponsor: Rep. Kuster, Ann M. [D-NH-2] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (1)Committees: House – Energy and Commerce Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
  9. H.R.6621— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 to authorize the Open Technology Fund of the United States Agency for Global Media, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. McCaul, Michael T. [R-TX-10] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (3)Committees: House – Foreign Affairs Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
  10. H.R.6622— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to establish a grant program for improving operational sustainability by small public water systems, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. McKinley, David B. [R-WV-1] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (1)Committees: House – Energy and Commerce Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce
  11. H.R.6623— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require all Federal agencies to translate COVID-19 materials into multiple languages, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Meng, Grace [D-NY-6] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (34)Committees: House – Oversight and Reform Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
  12. H.R.6624— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To support supply chain innovation and multilateral security, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Pallone, Frank, Jr. [D-NJ-6] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (3)Committees: House – Energy and Commerce Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
  13. H.R.6625— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To establish requirements for cruise lines to receive Federal funds and Federal assistance, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Speier, Jackie [D-CA-14] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (4)Committees: House – Transportation and Infrastructure; Ways and Means Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the…
  14. H.R.6626— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To support and expand civic engagement and political leadership of adolescent girls around the world, and other purposes .Sponsor: Rep. Trone, David J. [D-MD-6] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (1)Committees: House – Foreign Affairs Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. (All Actions)Tracker: 
  15. H.R.6627— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require the United States Trade Representative to submit a report on plans to facilitate the full implementation of agreements of the World Trade Organization, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Yoho, Ted S. [R-FL-3] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (7)Committees: House – Ways and Means Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
  16. H.Con.Res.98— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Supporting the goals and ideals of GLSEN’s 2020 Day of Silence in bringing attention to anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) name-calling, bullying, and harassment faced by individuals in schools. Sponsor: Rep. Engel, Eliot L. [D-NY-16] (Introduced 04/24/2020) Cosponsors: (85)Committees: House – Education and Labor; Judiciary Latest Action: House – 04/24/2020 Referred to the Committee on Education and Labor, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee…

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