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Senate Fails on First Attempt to Pass Fourth Coronavirus Economic Assistance Bill

The Senate adjourned Thursday after failing to reach an agreement on how to provide increased economic assistance to Americans suffering economically and on a health basis because of the COVID-19 crisis. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate disagreed on the focus and amount of financial assistance to provide after the White House urged Congress to provide an additional $250 billion for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), sought to pass the White House request as a standalone bill. Senate Democrats, however, sought a larger bill that delivered assistance beyond PPP, including assistance to hospitals, local governments, and minority and women owned businesses. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stated that even if Senate Republicans were able to pass a bill that only provided increased PPP assistance, the House would not consider the legislation without a justification for why the funding level was requested and how it would be allocated to small businesses. Congressional leaders in both chambers agree that a fourth assistance package is needed, but are not unified on the breadth and extent of the package. However, it is considered highly probable that a final agreement will be achieved in the coming week.

Congress Working to Provide Additional Federal Assistance for Local Government to Respond to COVID-19

The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), will provide $150 billion in direct assistance to states, units of local government, territories, and tribal areas to cover expenditures incurred by the public health crisis from COVID-19. The CRF however is limited to states and to local governments with populations of over 500,000.

The National League of Cities (NLC) and National Association of Counties (NACO) have voiced concern that the 500,000 population threshold imposes a hardship for communities under 500,000 that are encountering economic hardships. These groups have requested that Congress remedy this situation in the next Coronavirus economic assistance package.

A bipartisan group of Senators have transmitted a letter to Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, requesting guidance on the implementation of the CRF. The Treasury has indicated that it will issue guidance next week, but is unlikely to address the availability of assistance beyond cities and counties that exceed the threshold for the distribution of CRF funds.

In an effort to address the population criterion concern and ensure funding for smaller populated communities, Representative Joe Neguse (D-CO) introduced H.R. 6467, the Coronavirus Community Relief Act. H.R. 6476 would provide $250 billion in stabilization funds to units of government with a population of less than 500,000. The bill would allow funds to be used to cover lost revenue due to COVID-19. H.R. 6467 currently has 75 co-sponsors.

Congressional Members Send Dear Colleagues to Address Emergency Paid Leave Tax Credits Eligibility

This week Representatives TJ Cox (D-CA) and Brad Schneider (D-IL) authored Dear Colleague letters urging House and Senate leadership to address an issue concerning the Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s emergency paid family, medical, and sick leave tax credits.

Under the Families First Coronavirus Act, the private sector was provided these emergency tax credits to help lessen the financial strain on businesses whose employees utilize emergency paid leave during the COVID-19 crisis. However, the Act prohibited public employers from eligibility for the tax credits, despite public employees being eligible to access the same emergency paid leave provisions.

Both Dear Colleague letters enjoy bipartisan support and are urging congressional leaders to remedy this disparity and provide tax credits to state and local governments. It is hoped that the pending fourth economic relief package.

Congressional Democrats Outline Priorities for Next COVID-19 Response Package

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement this week outlining Congressional Democrat priorities for a fourth coronavirus relief measure.

A key priority of the bicameral proposal is to provide an additional $150 billion in aid to state, tribal and local governments to address necessary expenditures incurred due to COVID-19. Of the $150 billion, $53.55 billion would be distributed directly to localities based on the Community Development Block Grant formula, which would be administered by the U.S. Treasury within 15 days of the bill’s enactment.

Additional priorities include:

  • $250 billion in assistance to small businesses, with $125 billion channeled through community-based financial institutions.
  • $100 billion for hospitals, community health centers and health systems.
  • A 15% increase to the maximum SNAP benefit to help put food on the table.

Federal Agency COVID-19 Updates for the Week

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Under the congressional COVID-19 funding packages, FEMA received $45 billion to assist states and local governments respond to COVID-19 needs. In order to receive funding, or to be reimbursed for COVID-19 related activities, FEMA requires a Request for Public Assistance to be completed. Under the CARES Act, a community must submit an application for future reimbursements within thirty days of when a state was declared a national emergency. FEMA Form 90-49 can be accessed below.

FEMA Form 90-49

FEMA Update on COVID-19 Response for the Week of April 10 – Provides summary of FEMA’s and the larger federal government’s COVID-19 response activities to date.

Department of Treasury

Update on Treasury’s Coronavirus Relief Fund – The Treasury plans to launch its online portal for the Coronavirus Relief Fund for states and local governments to request financial assistance on April 11. Funding assistance will be sent to states by April 24. Guidance on eligible funding uses to be released prior to April 24.

Update on the Paycheck Protection Program – The Treasury will send out the first round of direct payments to individuals, whom the department has banking information for, on April 15. For individuals whom the Treasury does not have banking information for, the department will create a portal on its website for people to provide their banking information in order to receive their direct payment.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Updated Guidance for Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Workforce – Interim guidance for critical infrastructure systems to follow in the event of suspected potential exposure to COVID-19 in the systems’ workforce.

Slideshow Detailing Protocol for Potential COVID-19 Exposure Within Critical Workforce – Informational slideshow for how to manage a potential exposure to COVID-19 if you are an essential worker or employer of an essential workforce.

Informational Guide For How to Determine Malicious Cyber Activity During COVID-19 – Joint guide developed by DHS, CISA, and the United Kingdom Cyber Security Centre detailing forms of malicious cyber activity and recommendations for how to protect IT systems.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

USDA Assistance Update for Rural Residents, Businesses, and Communities – Review of loan programs offered by USDA to assist rural communities and businesses during COVID-19 crisis.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Emergency Loan Guide – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued this guide to help small businesses and nonprofits understand what to expect and how to prepare to file for a loan.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

USEPA Sends Final Rule Limiting State Authority Under Clean Water Act – On April 7, USEPA sent its final rule limiting a state’s authority under the Clean Water Act’s Section 401 to the White House for review. The rule would allow agencies to move forward with infrastructure projects despite State objections.

Stakeholder COVID-19 Updates for the Week of April 10

The American Hospital Association

Resources to Help Rural Hospitals and Health Systems Navigate COVID-19 – Informational material for how rural hospitals can seek assistance with COVID-19 activities.