COVID19 – Federal Update 4-20-2020
Federal Update – April 20,2020
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday: 40,683
States Look at Road Map to Slowly Reopen
States will ease some COVID-19 mitigation restrictions this week, Trump said over the weekend. Look for Texas, Vermont and Montana to be first (Reuters).
The United States today has at least 759,786 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in all 50 states and a rising death toll. Rural and less populated states are just beginning to feel the intensity of COVID-19 spread. Many governors and Trump are at odds over testing enough people for coronavirus infection to safely and confidently restart economic activity (Reuters).
June 1 may be when New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — the nation’s epicenter of COVID-19 contagion — can begin to ease stay-at-home orders and reopen non-essential businesses, according to a model reported by health data organization IHME, which is backed by the University of Washington and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (NBC4NY).
The model is HERE.
- Local discord about lifting COVID-19 restrictions: While sparring between Trump and governors over reopening the country continues, a series of skirmishes emerged at the local level among governors, mayors and citizens. Weeks ago, fights broke out between state and local leaders over public health restrictions, and experts say decisions about how and when to ease restrictions do not invite consensus (The Hill).
- Higher education & admissions: The decision by governors around the U.S. to shutter schools and move students to home-based learning sent a wave of disruption through the college admissions process. The challenges vex students, parents and college admissions departments (The Hill).
CARES Act Stimulus Supplemental
Negotiating the Next Stimulus: Talks advanced between the Trump administration and Congress over the weekend on more funding to aid fight the coronavirus and its impact on the economy. Democratic leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said they’re close an agreement to top up funds for a loan program aimed at helping small businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, and to provide funds for hospitals. Mnuchin said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he’s hopeful the deal can be passed in the Senate today and the House tomorrow. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered no specific timetable but said the sides are “close.”
While the Senate has a pro forma session scheduled for today, passage of any measure then is unlikely. Leaders of both parties must check with all senators to ensure they would agree to approve something by unanimous consent, and text of legislation is usually provided first. The Senate’s next scheduled session is currently set for Thursday. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in a statement yesterday told lawmakers the chamber could meet as as soon as 10 a.m. Wednesday to consider legislation to expand a small business loan program. Apart from adding an additional $300 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, designed to help small businesses keep workers on their payrolls, Mnuchin said he also proposed $50 billion more for a separate Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, or EIDL, that provides financing and advances as grants of as much as $10,000.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Mnuchin reiterated that state and local government funding and food-stamp demands from Democrats would not be part of the package now under review. The deal will include $75 billion of the $100 billion Democrats have demanded for hospitals, and $25 billion for virus testing, Mnuchin said. Read more: Mnuchin, Democrats Close on Virus Aid Deal Nearing $500 Billion
The Washington Post: $470 billion virus relief deal takes shape, including $100 billion for hospitals, $310 billion for Paycheck Protection Program and $60 billion for separate emergency lending program for small business.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), making her first appearance since 2017 on “Fox News Sunday,” said owners of small businesses “will have more money as soon as we come to an agreement, which will be soon.”
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told his colleagues on Sunday evening that the House could meet as early as Wednesday for a recorded vote on an interim coronavirus relief measure.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Sunday that “the very things we Democrats have been fighting for are now going into the bill.”
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union”, Schumer said Democrats never sought to block funding for small businesses but rather to add help for other immediate needs during the pandemic. “So we Democrats said yes, we want to put more money in, but let’s set aside some money to make sure it goes to the rural areas, the minority areas, to the unbanked. And the $60 billion for the disaster loan was our proposal, and now the administration is going along with that.”
Congress recessed on Friday in limbo when $350 billion in appropriations for the government’s new Paycheck Protection Program, intended to bankroll private loans to small businesses during the coronavirus emergency, was tapped out in less than two weeks of frantic demand.
Lawmakers in both parties want to replenish the Small Business Administration program by adding another $250 billion. Democrats and the GOP have bickered, however, over whether to add hundreds of billions of dollars more to an “interim” bill to help hospitals, states and cities. The politically uncomfortable alternative for lawmakers in both parties has been whether to kick the immediate needs to a longer-term recovery measure that could be months away, when millions of restaurants, bars, salons and other small enterprises say they are on the brink of going under as millions of Americans remain idled at home.
Politico reported the White House resisted more federal funding for cities and states in the interim measure this week, in part because administration officials are concerned that a lifeline from Uncle Sam would be a disincentive to governors to lift COVID-19 restrictions sooner rather than later.
Look Ahead to Coronavirus Relief bill #4
Toomey, Shalala Tapped for Oversight Commission: Pelosi on Friday announced the appointment of Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) to serve on the Congressional Oversight Commission intended to police about $500 billion in coronavirus rescue loans made to industries, including airlines. Earlier in the day, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) was named by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to the five-member panel. The two lawmakers join Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.), who was chosen by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Friday, and the selection by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) of Bharat Ramamurti, a former aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Pelosi and McConnell have yet to announce the commission’s fifth and final member, who will serve as its chairman and be selected by them jointly. Pelosi said Thursday she’s been exchanging names with McConnell. Read more from Billy House.
Senators Propose $500 Billion State Aid: Separately, a Republican and a Democrat in the Senate are proposing a $500 billion fund for state and local governments in the next comprehensive rescue package from Congress, to aid parts of the country reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. As Democratic leaders and the Trump administration negotiate an interim injection of aid for small businesses, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) are looking to establish the fund to help the states hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The money would be split into three tranches and distributed according to formulas that reflect population, infection rates and revenue loss. Governors and mayors nationwide have been pleading for the federal government to provide additional aid as tax revenues plummet and demands for resources skyrocket. Over 22 million people have been thrown out of work and businesses have closed or curtailed operations, with many losing their employer-sponsored health insurance. At the same time, health infrastructure has been stretched in many areas. Read more from Daniel Flatley.
E-cigarettes will stay on the market amid the pandemic over Democratic concerns that vaping can exacerbate the illness. The House Oversight Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee said on Friday that the FDA told committee leaders it’s still considering the evidence to decide whether vaping is a risk factor for Covid-19. Earlier this month, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse warned that people with lung damage due to vaping have a higher risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms and d eath. Read more from Jacquie Lee.
National Stockpile: Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced a bill Friday they say would make sure that the U.S. has “a properly stocked and maintained Strategic National Stockpile” to combat future health crises. The pandemic “has shed light on the life threatening inadequacies of our current strategic national stockpile,” they said Friday in a statement. The bill would require HHS Secretary Alex Azar to submit to lawmakers information on “the minimum level of supplies, such as personal protective equipment, in the SNS to adequately respond to a pandemic,” among other requirements, the statement says.
Fetal Tissue and COVID-19 Research House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in a letter Friday to HHS Secretary Azar urged the administration “to immediately reverse its fetal tissue restrictions for any current or future federally supported COVID-19-related research,” according to a statement. “Scientific research involving fetal tissue has previously helped lead to major medical breakthroughs,” they said. Read the letter here
Research Efforts, Testing and Treatments
Pence to Talk Testing Shortage with States: Vice President Mike Pence will discuss today shortcomings in U.S. testing for coronavirus infections with governors today, President Donald Trump said yesterday. Trump said his administration will share information with the governors ahead of the call, about testing capacity in their states that might not yet be utilized. Pence will “review what more they could do, and do together, to develop locally tailored testing strategies,” Trump said at a White House press conference. Governors of both parties have complained they can’t begin the White House’s three-phase plan to reopen the U.S. economy without far more widespread testing for the virus. Several governors criticized Trump earlier Sunday for trying to cast the shortfall in testing as a problem for states to resolve. Read more from Mario Parker.
Gap in Testing for Re-Opening: A gap is widening over how much testing is enough—and many public health experts fear the current level could cost lives and set back efforts to re-open after weeks of social distancing efforts to stop the virus. The Trump administration says the U.S. is conducting 150,000 tests per day, the bulk of which are performed by commercial labs and some by state health labs. Trump has argued that is enough for a phased re-opening, and on Saturday, he praised states that have begun to do so. But experts say that number is low, obscuring the extent of the virus’s spread and leaving newly reopened states vulnerable to a new wave of infections. One estimate by Howard Forman, director of the Yale School of Public Health’s health-care management program, claims the U.S. would need the capacity of a million tests a day to be confident the outbreak is contained—which is roughly what the country now does in a week. “The question is, can you stay open?” asked Harvard Global Health Institute Director Ashish Jha. He said the U.S. must be able to do at least 500,000 tests a day by May 1. At current levels of testing, he said, “it’s nearly impossible for me to see how we do this.” Read more from Emma Court.
Cuomo Sees New York on ‘Other Side’: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said yesterday that New York appears to be “on the other side” of the coronavirus crisis as he announced another drop in daily deaths and highlighted other positive trends. “If this trend holds, we are past the high point,” Cuomo told reporters. “Whether or not the descent continues depends on what we do. But right now we are on a descent.” The daily death count of 507—in the nation’s epicenter of the Covid-19 epidemic—was the lowest since April 6, after New York weathered almost two weeks of fatalities numbering between 606 and 799, the peak from April 9. On Saturday, Cuomo reported 540 new fatalities. In a notably upbeat briefing, Cuomo showed the curve of total hospitalizations on a steady downward trend. He said that intubations onto ventilators also continue to drop. Total new hospitalizations from Covid-19 fell dramatically, to 1,384 on Sunday from 1,915 on Saturday. Read more from Ian Fisher.
Antibody Treatments May Be Best Hope Against Virus Until Vaccine: The novel coronavirus is devious, persistent, and, according to some scientists, not even alive. But, as the world has had to learn, this tiny bundle of genetic material is a highly efficient invader. Each particle is armored with roughly 100 protrusions, or spikes, perfectly evolved to latch onto an enzyme on the surfaces of throat and lung cells, then slip into them and replicate millions and millions of times. Neutralizing those spikes may be the best way to prevent the virus from harming its host. And among the most promising approaches to doing that is finding the right antibodies. Read more from Robert Langreth and Susan Berfield.
Nursing Homes Must Report Cases, Hospitals Can Ease Services Back: Nursing homes will be required to report confirmed cases of Covid-19 to families, residents, and the CDC, according to a new directive issued yesterday by the CMS. These data aren’t currently collected by the CDC, the CMS, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Nursing homes have been ground zero for COVID-19,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a release. Read more from Fawn Johnson. Also at a White House press conference yesterday, Verma announced new guidelines outlining how hospitals can gradually resume elective surgeries and other in-person services as social distancing measures ease. In a statement, CMS said this transition should be done in coordination with local and state public health officials and while ensuring there is enough personal protective equipment and staff available.
NIH Launches Public-Private Vaccine Force: More than a dozen drugmakers including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Sanofi are coordinating their Covid-19 response with the National Institutes of Health to push out new treatments and vaccines. The public-private partnership plans to develop a global framework for prioritizing vaccine and drug candidates, streamlining clinical trials, coordinating regulatory processes across different nations, and using assets available among all collaborators to respond rapidly to both the current and future pandemics. The NIH announced the “Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines” partnership on Friday. Jeannie Baumann and Jacquie Lee have more.
Gilead Virus Treatment Has Early Results: A report on drug company Gilead Sciences’ coronavirus treatment showed that a group of patients being treated in Chicago were “seeing rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms.” The report posted last week, from medical news publication Stat, cited a video made by a researcher at the University of Chicago who’s helping conduct a trial of Gilead’s remdesivir. The researcher, infectious disease professor Kathleen Mullane, said that most patients had been discharged from the hospital and o nly two had died, according to Stat. Gilead’s drug is one of the most-watched therapies being studied for treatment of Covid-19 patients. Read more from Drew Armstrong.
ACA Insurers to Owe $2.7 Billion: Health insurers will refund at estimated $2.7 billion to 7.9 million Obamacare consumers this fall to pay back overcharges in recent years, nearly double the 2019 record of $1.3 billion in refunds. Refunds, or rebates, to people who purchased health coverage through the Affordable Care Act individual marketplaces will average $420 per customer, according to a report released Friday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. More than 4.7 million people in that market are expected to receive the refunds, it said. The refunds result from the Affordable Care Act’s medical loss ratio provision, which requires insurers to spend at least 80% of their premium income (85% for large group plans) on claims and quality improvements over the previous three years. Insurers that do not meet that requirement must refund the difference as rebates. Read more from Sara Hansard.
Health System, Shaken by Coronavirus, Withstands It: America’s beleaguered health system has remained afloat throughout the coronavirus attack, if only through raw ingenuity. As Covid-19 started spreading across the U.S., health officials made grim projections of hundreds of thousands of deaths if residents didn’t shelter in place. Hospital executives predicted frightening forecasts: mass shortages of intensive-care beds, dwindling personal protective equipment and a dearth of ventilators.
The worst didn’t come to pass. Today, almost every state is avoiding ICU bed shortages, according to the consulting firm Advisory Board. On April 1, projections had painted a bleak picture of unquenchable demand. On April 13, the outlook was “much more optimistic,” a company presentation said, adding: “challenges ahead, but progress across the board.” Read more from Olivia Carville and Dina Bass.
Covid-19 Exposes VA Hospitals’ Holes: The Department of Veterans Affairs is supposed to provide a safety net for the U.S. medical system in times of crisis. Yet its hospitals have treated just 135 civilians afflicted with Covid-19, according to numbers released this week, even as coronavirus infections have pushed tens of thousands of Americans into the nation’s hospitals.
The limited response stems in part from efforts to rein in the VA’s medical services after a series of political battles over whether to privatize elements of the nation’s largest hospital network. In the early months of his term, Trump assigned an unconventional group to oversee the VA—his son-in-law, senior adviser Jared Kushner, and three political advisers who socialized at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Their involvement caused so much bureaucratic distress that the VA ended up with an assortment o f vacancies in high-level management positions. Read more from David Kocieniewski, Neil Weinberg and Josh Eidelson.
Trump Says China May Be ‘Knowingly Responsible’ for Virus: Trump raised the prospect that China deliberately caused the Covid-19 outbreak that’s killed over 40,000 Americans and said there should be consequences if the country is found to be “knowingly responsible.” Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said yesterday the first country exposed to a pandemic has a “moral obligation” to be transparent in its response. “Let’s see what happens with their investigation. But we’re doing investigations also,” Trump said at a Wh ite House news conference on Saturday. “If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, then there should be consequences.” Read more from Mario Parker.
- A top Wuhan laboratory official denied any role in spreading the new coronavirus, in the most high profile response from a facility at the center of months of speculation about how the previously unknown animal disease made the leap to humans. Yuan Zhiming, director of the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, hit back at those promoting theories that the virus had escaped from the facility and caused the outbreak in the central Chinese city. “There is absolutely no way that the virus originated from our institute,” Yuan said in an interview Saturday with the state-run China Global Television Network. Read more.
G-20 Health Ministers See ‘Systemic Weakness’: Health ministers from the Group of 20 leading economies said the Covid-19 pandemic “has highlighted systemic weaknesses” in health readiness around the world. The officials commented in a communique issued from Riyadh after a teleconference hosted by Saudi Arabia. The ministers “addressed the need to improve the effectiveness of global health systems by sharing knowledge and closing the gap in response capabilities and readiness,” they said in the document. Read more from Janice Kew.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it will provide guidance this week to hospitals and clinics about how to resume elective surgeries;
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which licenses all U.S. nursing homes and has seen thousands of deaths reported at long-term care facilities since January, announced on Sunday it will require all nursing homes to inform patients and families if there are confirmed COVID-19 cases inside their facilities and require nursing homes to report known cases to the CDC. Not all states wanted to be transparent about such key data;
- Trump said if Iran needs help to battle the coronavirus, including financial assistance or ventilators, “Yeah, we would certainly be willing to help.” Iran has rejected the notion it needs or would accept help from the United States (The Hill);
- “We’ll be specifically providing governors and state health officials with information about all of the lab capability that exists in their state,” Vice President Pence announced on Sunday, following weeks in which Trump and Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, asserted that governors are in the dark about all the private and public laboratories in their states that can process coronavirus tests
Delta Route Cuts: Delta won approval to stop flying to destinations on some dates this summer as the Covid-19 outbreak devastates its business, Courtney Rozen reports. The Department of Transportation on Saturday said it was granting parts of the airline’s request to waive the rules in coronavirus stimulus legislation that require a minimum level of service for carriers that accept financial assistance. Its requests were approved for specific dates to three Alaska airports, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts, and Cody, Wyo. The department deferred a decision on the reduction of service to two airports in the Virgin Islands and denied requests relating to West Yellowstone, Mont., and Cedar City, Utah. The department also allowed Alaska Airlines to stop some flights to Hawaii, but it must continue flights to Idaho if the group Fly Sun Valley keeps paying for it. Hawaiian Airlines’ request for a reprieve from flying to places such as Boston, New York, and Las Vegas was approved as well.
FAA Denies Union Call for Safety Rules: The FAA won’t mandate that airlines inform staff when crew members they’ve worked with have contracted Covid-19, but is encouraging them to take voluntary steps to lower the risks, Alan Levin reports. Chief Steve Dickson, responding to appeals from the largest pilots’ union in North America, said in a letter released Friday that the agency takes seriously allegations that airlines aren’t adhering to health guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “While the FAA remains steadfast in its focus on safety of flight, we are not a public health agency,” Dickson said in the letter to the Air Line Pilots Association, which was dated April 14. “We must look to other U.S. government agencies for guidance on public and occupational health.”
Senators Demand Consumer Refunds: Airlines in the U.S. that have halted flights are holding more than $10 billion in customer money while offering credits for future travel instead of cash refunds, Democratic Sens. Edward Markey (Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) said in a press release. The lawmakers chided carriers for inconsistent policies on which customers can receive refunds and the length of time they can claim lost airfares, and for “obfuscating” the rules to minimize how much they must pay. Airlines should be repaying people to help the struggling economy, they said. The airlines’ responses to that earlier letter make it clear they believe they have no choice as a result of the dire economic situation. The letters were provided by the lawmakers. Alan Levin has more on the industry response.
U.S. Daily Air Traffic Tumbles to Less Than 96K: Daily passenger numbers in the U.S. averaged 95,531 last week, compared with 2.39 million a year earlier, according to the Transportation Security Administration. A table covers last week’s average daily passenger numbers, compared to last year.
Big Three U.S. Airlines May Cut More Than 100,000 Jobs Come Fall: U.S. airlines face a bleak future of depressed traffic and volatile revenue well into 2021, as the global economy transitions from the acute damage of a public health catastrophe into a potentially long recession. Already a bumpy ride for the “Big Three” carriers, the journey promises to get worse this fall when billions of dollars in government assistance comes to an end. Several carriers, including Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc., have begun openly contemplating how the y will shrink operations, while American Airlines Group Inc. is moving to shed more of its older planes. By one analyst’s count, as many as 105,000 jobs could be lost industrywide. Read more from Justin Bachman and Mary Schlangenstein.
Southwest at Risk of First Furloughs: Southwest warned its unions that the carrier might order the first furloughs in its 49-year history if travel demand doesn’t rebound by October and labor doesn’t cooperate on further cost cuts, Mary Schlangenstein reports.
Fresh Blow for Boeing as China Leasing Firm Scraps Max Order: China Development Bank Financial Leasing canceled an order for 29 Boeing 737 Max planes, worth at least $2.9 billion based on list prices, joining a growing list of customers scaling back plans for buying the grounded jet. The move cuts the company’s outstanding Max order to 70, it said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange Monday. The 737 Max 10s still on order will be converted to smaller Max 8 aircraft, while the delivery of 20 jets will be deferred to between 2024 and 2026, the company said. Read more from Kyunghee Park.
Auto Sales Added as Essential Workers
The U.S. deemed vehicle sales an essential service in revised federal guidelines Friday, potentially easing the path for auto retailers to restore more normal business operations, David Welch and Ryan Beene report. “Workers critical to the manufacturing, distribution, sales, rental, leasing, repair and maintenance of vehicles and other transportation equipment” are essential, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said. Electric-vehicle charging stations and supply chains that enable auto operations to help essential workers travel also are included. The updated guidelines are a win for dealers that lobbied the White House after initial guidelines the agency released in mid March listed vehicle and supply manufacturing, maintenance and repair facilities as essential but didn’t reference vehicle sales or leasing operations. The agency added car rental and leasing employees on March 28.
Miami Transit Workers Sue for PPE: The union representing Miami-Dade bus drivers and train operators wants a judge to order the county to provide masks and hand sanitizer to keep them safe during the coronavirus pandemic. The area’s Transport Workers Union of America chapter filed a complaint Friday against the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works. The complaint claims that in some cases, the department has only given drivers a single disinfectant wipe per shift, and limited hand sanitizer bottle refills to once per week. The area union represents about 2,800 transit employees, according to the complaint. A spokesperson for the department said the system does not comment on pending litigation.
FAA Proposes 737 Max Repairs: The FAA publishes a proposed airworthiness directive in today’s Federal Register to fix a faulty spring-loaded device used to open doors that allow access to engines on Boeing’s grounded 737 Max. The agency estimated it would cost U.S. airlines at least $2.2 million to replace the part on 160 aircraft. Today’s notice allows 45 days for companies and other stakeholders to comment on the agency’s proposed action, Alan Levin reports.
FCC Poised to Approve Ligado Plan: Three of five members of the Federal Communications Commission have voted for a plan by Ligado that would open more airwaves for fast 5G networks, said an agency official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter hasn’t been made public. The tally won’t be final until all five members have voted in the agency’s closed-door procedure; in theory votes could change although that is a rare occurrence. In a joint statement released on Friday night, the Defense and Transportation Departments said that they as well as ordinary Americans relay on GPS every day, and “our departments—and almost a dozen other federal agencies—are strongly opposed to the Ligado proposal and have asked for its denial.” House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Pete DeFazio (D-Ore.), and other lawmakers said in a statement that approval of the plan “would result in unacceptable interference with GPS signals, according to numerous government studies—including information sent only last week to the FCC from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.” Read more from Todd Shields.
U.S., Canada, Mexico Keep Up Virus-Related Border Controls: Canada and the U.S. will extend for 30 days the restrictions that closed their shared border to most travelers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. Separately, the White House said President Donald Trump spoke with his Mexican counterpart about the need for continued border restrictions on the southern U.S. frontier. Canada and the U.S. agreed to close the border to non-essential travelers in March. Saturday’s agreement extends the measures to May 20. It has the same terms as before and allows essential goods and services to move between countries, Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa. Read more from Shelly Hagan. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is continuing construction on the southern U.S. border wall. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), along with fellow Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee members, sent a letter Friday asking Homeland Security acting Secretary Chad Wolf to justify the move during the Covid-19 pandemic. The senators also pressed Wolf for the department’s Border Security Improvement Plan that was due to Congress eight months ago. A total of $15.2 billion of American taxpayer dollars, including $10.2 billion raided from the U.S. military, is being used to build the wall without that comprehensive plan, according to the letter.
U.S. Defers Some Tariffs During Virus: The U.S. will allow importers and manufacturers to defer payments on many imported goods for 90 days, a move aimed at freeing up cash for pandemic-hit businesses that’s limited in scope to avoid stemming ongoing punitive measures that are a centerpiece of Trump’s trade strategy. “This will protect American jobs and help these businesses get through this time,” Mnuchin said in a statement. The deferral doesn’t apply to anti-dumping or countervailing duties, or so-called Section 201, Section 232 or Section 301 duties. As such, it won’t ease Trump’s duties on China, steel and aluminum, or enforcement actions he took against Airbus. Read more from Jenny Leonard and Derek Wallbank.
Shake Shack to Return PPP Loan After Uproar: Shake Shack, the U.S.-based burger chain, will return its entire $10 million loan from the U.S. government, the company’s leaders said in a statement. The announcement follows widespread criticism over who got access to the funds aimed at saving small businesses before they were depleted. More than a dozen publicly traded companies with revenue topping $100 million received funds before the program ran dry, according to a Bloomberg review of regulatory filings.
“Shake Shack was fortunate last Friday to be able to access the additional capital we needed to ensure our long term stability through an equity transaction in the public markets,” said CEO Randy Garutti and Danny Meyer, the founder and chairman of Shake Shack and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group. Read more from Derek Wallbank.
Trump Announces $19 Billion for Farmers: Trump announced a $19 billion bailout package for farmers hurt financially by the coronavirus. The aid includes $16 billion in direct payments to farmers to boost their incomes, along with $3 billion in government purchases of meat, dairy products and other foods, the president said Friday at a White House briefing. The Agriculture Department will receive another $14 billion in July for further assistance. “This will help our farmers and our ranchers, and it’s money well deserved,” Trump said. Read more from Mike Dorning.
Trump Escalates Culture War: Trump is fighting back against the public health and economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic in the same way he’s navigated other political perils—by stoking the nation’s partisan divide. But the scale of the crisis the U.S. is facing—over 40,000 people dead and tens of millions out of work—is bigger than anything Trump has faced. Even some Republican strategists doubt his standard campaign playbook will work in November.
With the “rally around the flag effect” waning and his poll numbers down, the president abandoned a pretense of bipartisanship on Friday by tweeting his supporters should “liberate” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia—three states with Democratic governors and strict stay-at-home orders. Protests in Michigan, whose governor, Gretchen Whitmer, is a possible running mate for Democrat Joe Biden, have been organized by a Trump campaign surrogate. Read more from Jordan Fabian and Tyler Pager.
Trump complained on Twitter Saturday about the attitude of Senate Democrats on a call with Pence about the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. “Nothing that anyone could have said, including ‘it’s over,’ could have made them happy, or even a little bit satisfied,” Trump said. “They were RUDE and NASTY.” Ros Krasny has more.
Biden Digital Game Outmatched by Trump: Trump’s campaign boasts it needed just 24 hours to switch into virtual mode after coronavirus lockdowns ended his signature, high-energy rallies. For Biden, who thrives on the personal connection of retail politics, the transition is taking much longer. Trump’s operation dominates the digital space in no small part thanks to the presidential bully pulpit and his massive Twitter presence. But Biden, a month after the pandemic forced him off the trail, has yet to beef up his digital team and is still working to expand his outreach to quarantined voters. Unlike rivals Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who relied on innovative technology to reach supporters during the Democratic primary season, Biden ran a traditional campaign leveraging his name recognition, political contacts and skills in retail politics. As of last week, Biden hired no new staff with expertise in digital politics, the campaign said, instead relying on existing aides. Read more from Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou and Bill Allison.
Today on the Hill
- 11:00 am – In-House Pool Call Time
- 1:00 pm – Trump has lunch with the Vice President
- 5:00 pm – Members of the Coronavirus Task Force hold a press briefing
- On recess and not scheduled to return before May 4th
- On recess and not scheduled to return before May 4th
Legislation Introduced Friday, April 17th
- H.R.6515— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To suspend obligations of residential renters and mortgagors to make payments during the COVID-19 emergency, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6516— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize the acceptance of gifts for the Strategic National Stockpile, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6517— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize the transfer to any Federal department or agency, on a reimbursable basis, any drugs, vaccines and other biological products, medical devices, and other supplies in the Strategic National Stockpile, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6518— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a program of risk corridors for health insurance issuers offering health insurance coverage in the individual or small group market for certain plan years.
- H.R.6519— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title 28, United States Code, to provide a civil action against a foreign state for deliberate concealment or distortion of information with respect to an international public health emergency, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6520— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To provide additional criteria to deny admission to the United States for certain persons affiliated with the United Nations, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6521— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services from taking certain actions with respect to Medicaid supplemental payments reporting requirements, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6522— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Small Business Act to include certain business and labor organizations in the paycheck protection program, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6523— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To ensure that an individual who has purchased an airline ticket through an air carrier or a third-party is reimbursed during the covered emergency period.
- H.R.6524— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To provide justice for victims of State misrepresentation to the World Health Organization, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6525— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To provide the necessary Federal financial and logistical support so States can reopen their economies once periods of isolation have sufficiently reduced coronavirus infection and transmission rates, and with adequate testing and other safeguards to ensure infection rates do not exceed medical resources, and virus transmission rates are maintained below 1 and thereby steadily reduce the number of infected, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6526— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To establish a STEM corps to enhance the STEM and computer science workforce of the Department of Defense and the defense industry, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6527— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986 to require an emergency notification meeting in the event of the release of an extremely hazardous substance from a facility, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6528— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title 38, United States Code, to modify the limitation on pay for certain high-level employees and officers of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- H.R.6529— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify the opportunity zone tax incentives.
- H.R.6530— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require the President to report to Congress on certain authorities used under the Defense Production Act of 1950 and the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6531— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize the use of the Strategic National Stockpile to enhance medical supply chain elasticity and establish and maintain domestic reserves of critical medical supplies, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6532— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a special enrollment period during the COVID-19 emergency period and to carry out outreach and educational activities, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6533— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To authorize the Secretary of Defense to share with State and local health authorities the practices of, and lessons learned by, the military health system for the prevention of infant and maternal mortality.
- H.R.6534— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To include reasonable costs for high-speed Internet service in the utility allowances for families residing in public housing, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6535— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To deem an urban Indian organization and employees thereof to be a part of the Public Health Service for the purposes of certain claims for personal injury, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6536— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to enhance direct certification under the school lunch program.
- H.R.6537— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require the release of most aliens detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during a national emergency related to a communicable disease.
- H.R.6538— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To provide for a temporary increase in Federal financial participation under the Medicaid program for telehealth services, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6539— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to increase Federal support to State Medicaid programs during economic downturns, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6540— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Defense Production Act of 1950 to include the Secretary of Agriculture as a member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6541— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for maintaining adequate supplies in Strategic National Stockpile, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6542— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title 44, United States Code, to require the President make and preserve records, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6543— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the CARES Act to amend the membership of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.
- H.R.6544— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To establish a moratorium on collection efforts made by certain lenders against borrowers affected by coronavirus.
- H.R.6545— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide an age rating adjustment to the applicable percentage used to determine the credit for coverage under qualified health plans.
- H.R.6546— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to jointly report to Congress on certain efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6547— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To modify terms related to the economic injury disaster loan program of the Small Business Administration for applicants affected by COVID-19, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6548— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To establish the Commission on the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States.
- H.R.6549— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To prevent the acceleration of the due date of business loans during the COVID-19 national emergency, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6550— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the Federal Credit Union Act to provide an exception from the member business loan cap for loans made to aid in the recovery from the COVID-19 emergency.
- H.R.6551— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend the CARES Act to ensure that the temporary relief from CECL standards does not terminate in the middle of a company’s fiscal year.
- H.R.6552— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To prohibit water shutoffs during the COVID-19 emergency period, provide drinking and waste water assistance to households, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6553— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To direct the Secretary of the Treasury to establish the Boost Communities Program to provide monthly payments to America’s consumers during the COVID-19 emergency to recover from the emergency, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6554— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To increase the exempt amount applicable for the retirement earnings test for months in 2020, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6555— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To amend title 31, United States Code, to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue certain circulating coins in recognition of the United States semiquincentennial, and for other purposes.
- H.R.6556— 116th Congress (2019-2020)To require certain civil penalties to be transferred to a fund through which amounts are made available for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program at the National Institutes of Health, and for other purposes.
- H.Con.Res.97— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Establishing the Joint Select Committee on the Events and Activities Surrounding China’s Handling of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
- H.Res.926— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Recognizing the designation of the week of April 11 through April 17, 2020, as “Black Maternal Health Week” to bring national attention to the United States maternal health crisis in the Black community and the importance of reducing maternal mortality and morbidity among Black women and birthing persons.
- H.Res.927— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Recognizing the heroism of our Nation’s essential employees, including drivers, tradesmen, convenience store workers, manufacturers, airport workers, restaurant employees, farmers, energy employees, public utility workers, and others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- H.Res.928— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Expressing support for designating the month of April 2020 as “Second Chance Month”.
- H.Res.929— 116th Congress (2019-2020)Recognizing the enduring cultural and historical significance of emancipation in the Nation’s capital on the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act, which established the “first freed” on April 16, 1862, and celebrating attaining the requisite number of cosponsors for passage of the D.C. statehood bill in the House of Representatives.