COVID-19 Federal Response Update – Tuesday, April 28, 2020

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By Capitol Associates, Inc. 

  • The House of Representatives is no longer returning to Washington, D.C. on May 4th. Yesterday, both the House and Senate announced they would return on that date. House Democratic Leadership received pushback from Members of both parties who felt that date is too soon. They are still concerned about the risks of travelling and being in close quarters with their colleagues. The Senate still intends to convene on May 4th.
  • Although Congress is on an extended recess, work is still occurring behind the scenes on additional economic and healthcare relief legislation. The most recent bill that passed was tailored towards increasing funding to programs from the CARES Act. The next legislative package could be more wide-ranging in the ways it provides relief.
    • Congressional leaders from both Chambers and both parties are positioning themselves through public statements ahead of Congress’ return to the Capitol. Democrats wanted more funding for state and local governments in the last bill but that funding was not included. State and local government funding will be a top Democratic priority in the next round of legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed his desire for liability protections for business owners and healthcare providers in the next bill.
  • The Federal Reserve is expanding its program to purchase municipal bonds smaller municipalities. The Fed originally said it would purchase bonds from cities with at least 1 million resident and counties with at least 2 million residents. The Fed lowered those thresholds to cities of at least 250,000 residents and counties of at least 500,000 residents.
  • Vice President Mike Pence visited the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to learn about COVID-19 testing innovations.
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar published an Op Ed that highlights HHS’ efforts to help states respond to the public health emergency.
  • The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), the independent watchdog group tasked with overseeing the trillions in funding awarded by the CARES Act and other relief legislation, officially launched its website. The CARES Act required the creation of this independent Committee which is comprised of the Inspectors General of about a dozen federal agencies.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the government will audit any Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) award greater than $2 million.
  • Since the Small Business Administration (SBA) re-opened the PPP application process yesterday, the SBA has processed $52 billion worth of new PPP loans.
  • President Trump will invoke the Defense Production Act to require meat packing plants to remain open despite many plants struggling to control COVID-19 infections among its workers. The federal government will also provide these plants with additional resources and protective gear.
  • The Republican Study Committee (RSC), the policy development arm of Republicans in Congress, released policy recommendations for how to help the healthcare system respond to the public health emergency.

 

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