COVID-19: Federal Update (6/24)

Quick Takes

— SENATE DEMS POISED TO BLOCK GOP POLICING BILL. Democrats have indicated that they will filibuster the measure over policy and process concerns.

— MNUCHIN SAYS STIMULUS MAY PASS CONGRESS IN JULY TO BOOST ECONOMY. The Trump administration has privately discussed a $1 trillion measure as a way to stimulate jobs growth after the Covid-19 pandemic.

— SENATORS OFFER BILL TO EXPAND CHARITABLE GIVING TAX BREAK. The bill seeks to encourage donations to nonprofits amid the coronavirus pandemic.

— HHS LAUNCHES PROGRAM AIMED AT FIGHTING COVID-19 IN MINORITY, RURAL COMMUNITIES. The program will deliver COVID-19 information to minority and rural communities in an effort to combat the pandemic in these areas.

  — RETIREMENT ACCOUNT RELIEF IN THE CARES ACT. In addition to offering support to numerous businsesses, the CARES Act offers support for retirement accounts. Read more here.

 Capitol Hill Update

— SENATE DEMS POISED TO BLOCK GOP POLICING BILL. The Senate will convene today as GOP Senators try to move the Republicans’ police reform legislation, but it appears that the effort will not get off the ground due to Democratic opposition. The upper chamber is set to take a procedural vote to advance the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act today, but Democratic Senators have indicated that they will filibuster the measure over policy and process concerns. As a result, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is expected to file a motion that will allow him to call the legislation back up at a later date, and move onto consideration of the Senate’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (text; summary; tables). For more on the state of play with respect to the Congressional police reform efforts, click here to read TRP’s comprehensive analysis. 

Washington Insider: What We’re Reading

Bloomberg: Mnuchin Says Stimulus May Pass Congress in July to Boost Economy ($)

The Trump administration is discussing another stimulus package with lawmakers that could be passed in July, the latest effort to revive the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. President Donald Trump has said he’s considering sending another round of economic stimulus payments in a rescue package that he expects will be released “over the next couple of weeks.” The Trump administration has privately discussed a $1 trillion measure as a way to stimulate jobs growth after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Hill: Senators Offer Bill to Expand Charitable Giving Tax Break

A bipartisan group of senators this week introduced a bill to expand a tax break for charitable giving in an effort to encourage donations to nonprofits amid the coronavirus pandemic. The $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief law that President Trump signed on March 27 created a charitable contribution deduction for 2020 of up to $300 for taxpayers who don’t itemize their deductions. The senators’ bill would build upon that, allowing those who don’t itemize to get a charitable contribution deduction of up to one-third of the standard deduction for the 2019 and 2020 tax years. That means that the maximum deduction amounts would be just over $4,000 for individuals and just over $8,000 for married couples.

The Hill: Mnuchin Leaves Door Open to Further Extending Tax Deadline

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday said that his department does not currently plan to further extend the tax-filing deadline but that it’s an issue he’s pondering. As businesses started to close in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Treasury and the IRS postponed the deadlines for individuals to file their 2019 tax returns and pay their 2019 taxes from April 15 to July 15. Treasury and the IRS also extended a host of other tax due dates to July.

Roll Call: Tech Industry, Lawmakers Criticize Trump’s Immigration Order

  President Trump said Monday that he would support another round of stimulus checks to help the economy bounce back after the coronavirus pandemic. The president confirmed he was open to a second stimulus check in an interview with Scripps local TV news. When asked about whether he was going to give Americans another round of payments, he said, “Yeah, we are. We are.”

COVID-19: What We’re Hearing

— ‘CARES 2.0’ STATE OF PLAY. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated that Congress will likely need to pass another round of COVID-19 relief legislation, Republicans are pushing for a more narrowly-targeted relief package following better-than-expected jobs numbers for the month of May, and the White House would prefer to wait and see the June labor numbers before negotiating with Congress in earnest. Conversely, Congressional Democrats are remaining steadfast on their push for another robust stimulus package. As the public health emergency continues to unfold, lawmakers are mulling over several policy options for the next round of legislation, including:

  • Liability. Leader McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) are working on legislation that would limit the liabilities of health care workers, business owners, and employees from lawsuits pertaining to the COVID-19 outbreak. Leader McConnell emphasized that any future COVID-19 relief efforts must include these protections in order for the Senate to consider additional relief legislation.
  • House Democratic leadership appears open to negotiating a deal on liability protections. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) emphasized that these protections must not undermine the health and rights of workers, but indicated that the issue is open for further discussion and negotiation.
  • Unemployment Reform. Senate Republicans are spearheading efforts on reforming the enhanced unemployment benefits so that generous payments approved in the CARES Act don’t become an obstacle to rehiring workers.
  • A key option on the table includes enhancing a tax credit that would give employers a tax break for keeping workers on the payroll.
  • State and Local Governments. Funding for state and local governments is a key pillar of the Democrats’ next stimulus bill. While there is bipartisan agreement that more needs to be done to help stymie economic hardships for these entities, allocating additional funding has become a divisive issue within the Republican conference.
  • It appears likely that some Senate Republicans — particularly those who are up for re-election — would coalesce behind a bipartisan proposal that would provide additional funding and flexibility to address needs at the state and local level.
  • PPP. Following Congressional passage of the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, Lawmakers are eyeing further reforms to the PPP.
  • Prior to Senate passage of H.R. 7010, Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Mike Lee (R-UT) — who had expressed concerns and opposition to the House-passed bill secured a letter from key Small Business Committee members in both chambers clarifying that the intent of the legislation is not to reauthorize the program through the end of the year without additional reforms.
  • Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) have also indicated they are working on a technical change to the legislation that would ensure businesses can have their loans forgiven in some form regardless of whether they reach the 60 percent threshold.
  • Additionally, there has been a bipartisan push in Congress to expand PPP eligibility to 501(c)6 organizations and other currently ineligible nonprofits in the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation. 
  • Surprise Billing. Reports out of the Trump administration suggest that the White House will push for action on surprise medical bills ahead of the next round of relief legislation.
  • During the CARES Act negotiations, Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) were actively trying to tack their surprise billing legislation onto the package. 
  • Budget Reform. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers penned a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) calling for provisions that address the federal debt and trust funds for Medicare and Social Security to be included in the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation.

APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend the Congressional schedule, lawmakers are adjusting their expectations for consideration of fiscal year (FY) 2021 spending bills.

  • House. Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) officially announced the House Appropriations Subcommittee markup schedule for the week of Jul. 6.
  • Jul. 6: State & Foreign Operations, Agriculture, Military Construction-VA
  • Jul. 7: Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, Legislative Branch, Energy-Water, Labor-HHS-Education
  • Jul. 8: Commerce-Science-Justice, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, Financial Services and General Government, Defense.
  • Senate. Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) is delaying the forthcoming markups ahead of the July 4 recess amid partisan disagreements over COVID-19 relief and police reform amendments that Democrats want to offer. 

When the Appropriations Committee begins its markup process, appropriators will look to skip subcommittee markups for seven out of the FY 2021 spending bills, going straight to full committee markups instead. Senators on the panel are also expected to vote on the 302(b) funding allocations for each of the 12 bills ahead of the forthcoming markups.

COVID-19 Legislative & Regulatory Trackers

NEW TODAY…

— HHS LAUNCHES PROGRAM AIMED AT FIGHTING COVID-19 IN MINORITY, RURAL COMMUNITIES. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new three-year, $40 million program with the Morehouse School of Medicine to deliver COVID-19 information to minority and rural communities in an effort to combat the pandemic in these areas.

— CFPB ISSUES INTERIM FINAL RULE ON LOSS MITIGATION OPTIONS FOR HOMEOWNERS. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued an interim final rule that will allow borrowers who have experienced financial hardships due to COVID-19 to delay payments even if they have only a limited amount of information on the homeowner.

— NEW FED EXAMINER GUIDANCE SEEKS TO PROMOTE FLEXIBILITY. The Federal Reserve issued new examiner guidance that seeks to promote consistency and flexibility in the supervision and examination of financial institutions that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS…

— CMS RELEASES COVID-19 DATA, ISSUES CALL TO ACTION ON VALUE-BASED CARE. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released new data on the COVID-19 outbreak that highlights racial and socioeconomic divides among Medicare beneficiaries who were infected. As a result of this data, the agency is calling for a renewed national commitment to value-based care.

— SBA, TREASURY REACH AGREEMENT ON PPP TRANSPARENCY. The Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury Department reached an agreement with Congress to disclose information regarding recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The names of businesses who received loans ranging from $150,000 to $10 million will be disclosed publicly by the federal government.

— SBA LAUNCHES TOOL TO CONNECT BUSINESSES WITH CDFIS AND SMALL ASSET LENDERS. SBA launched an online tool for small businesses and non-profits to be matched with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), Certified Development Companies (CDCs), Farm Credit System lenders, Microlenders, as well as traditional smaller asset size lenders in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

— CMS ANNOUNCES MEMBERSHIP OF INDEPENDENT CORONAVIRUS COMMISSION ON SAFETY AND QUALITY IN NURSING HOMES. CMS announced the membership of the Independent Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes.

  • The Commission will conduct an assessment of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in nursing homes and make recommendations on actions and best practices for immediate and future actions.

— HHS TO HOLD WEBINARS ON PROVIDER RELIEF FUND. HHS will hold two webcasts this week for providers to learn more about the application process for the $15 billion Medicaid and CHIP targeted allotment.

— IRS ISSUES GUIDANCE ON CARES TELEHEALTH AND VIRTUAL CARE FLEXIBILITIES. The IRS recently outlined flexibilities and issued guidance addressing the CARES safe harbor provision allowing high deductible health plans (HDHPs) with health savings accounts (HSAs) to cover telehealth and remote care before a patient reaches their deductible. The temporary flexibility applies to services provided on or after Jan. 1, 2020, for plan years beginning on or before Dec. 31, 2021.

— SBA, TREASURY ANNOUNCE NEW AND REVISED FORGIVENESS APPLICATION FOR PPP. The SBA and Treasury Department posted a revised Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgiveness application as mandated by the PPP Flexibility Act.

  • SBA also published a new “EZ version” of the forgiveness application that applies to borrowers that: (1) are self-employed and have no employees; or (2) did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25 percent, nor the number of hours for their employees; or (3) experienced reductions in business activity as a result of of the pandemic, and did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25 percent.

— HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION INTO COVID-19 DEATHS IN NURSING HOMES. The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis officially launched an investigation into COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. Click here to read the letter to the CMS.

— SBA REOPENS EIDL AND EIDL ADVANCE PROGRAM. The SBA announced that it has reopened the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance program portal to all eligible applicants experiencing economic impacts due to COVID-19.

— FEDERAL RESERVE TO EXPAND MAIN STREET LENDING PROGRAM TO NONPROFITS. The Federal Reserve announced it will be seeking feedback on a proposal to expand the Main Street Lending Program for nonprofit organizations.

  • The proposal would make loans available to 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations with 50 to 15,000 employees, but 501(c)(6)s and nonprofits with endowments larger than $3 billion would not be eligible under the program.

  — HHS ANNOUNCES $25 BILLION IN RELIEF FUNDING FOR MEDICAID PROVIDERS, SAFETY NET HOSPITALS. HHS announced the allocation of $25 billion from the Provider Relief Fund, including $15 billion for Medicaid and CHIP providers, as well as $10 billion for safety net hospitals. TRP’s comprehensive analysis of the COVID-19 provider relief fund can be read here.

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