COVID-19 Washington Update: March 17, 2020
March 17, 2020
For the last few weeks, Kelley Drye’s Government Relations and Public Policy team has been tracking COVID-19-related developments out of Congress, the White House and related federal agencies. In an effort to keep our clients updated, we will be posting this daily COVID-19 Washington Update, which will include the most recent developments from around the federal government. This is a snapshot of where things stand now, but the situation remains incredibly fluid.

Congress
  • The House – having passed a revised second response package (more below) – is in recess, but will be called back with 24 hours’ notice when votes are necessary on additional packages
  • The Senate remains in session, working on passing the second response package as well as a third (or, alternatively, one bill covering both)
  • Most committees have cancelled hearings and business meetings for the remainder of the month
  • Future schedules remain uncertain, but an extended Congressional recess is possible after the response packages being developed are enacted
 
Legislative Packages
 
  1. Coronavirus Supplemental
 
  • Signed into law on March 6 (PL 116-123)
  • Text available here; House Appropriations Committee summary here
  • Highlights: $8.3 billion package funding vaccine development, support for state and local governments, assistance for affected small businesses, and waiver of certain Medicare telehealth restrictions during the coronavirus emergency
 
  1. Families First Coronavirus Response Act
 
  • Passed by House on March 14; “technical corrections” adopted by House on March 16; pending before Senate
  • Senate could pass the measures as soon as today
  • Text available here; House Appropriations Committee summary here; House summary of paid leave provisions available here
  • Highlights: Provisions instituting free coronavirus testing, establishing paid leave, enhancing Unemployment Insurance, expanding food security initiatives, and increasing federal Medicaid funding
  • Please see Kelley Drye advisory here and Wall Street Journal article on technical corrections package here
 
  1. Economic Stimulus
 
  • Negotiations between Congress and the administration are ongoing, but all indications point to a substantial (likely in excess of $1 trillion) economic package; expect Congress to move quickly in the coming days
  • Under consideration:
    • Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said today they are considering payments to small businesses; loan guarantees to certain industries (e.g., airlines, hospitality); and direct “business interruption payments” to low- and middle-income Americans immediately (i.e., in the next few weeks)
    • Senate Democratic Leader Schumer (D-NY) is also developing a package in the range of $750 billion, with – among other things – additional emergency aid for hospitals, funding for small businesses, “worker first” provisions for industry rescue packages, and investments in a variety of safety net programs (e.g., childcare, housing, Unemployment Insurance, SNAP) and infrastructure; see his memo here
    • See House Speaker Pelosi’s (D-CA) statement on the need to expand emergency leave provisions here
    • The administration continues to express support for a payroll tax holiday through the end of the year
    • Federal investments in large scale public works infrastructure projects are possible to help jumpstart the economy
    • Tariff relief has also been raised by some Members
    • Continued interest in addressing supply chain vulnerabilities, particularly as they relate to healthcare
 
Administration Activities of Note
 
White House Schedule (March 17, 2020)
 
  • Coronavirus Task Force press briefing – 10:30AM ET
  • Call with restaurant executives – 9:30AM ET
  • Meeting with tourism industry executives – 2:00PM ET
  • Call with supply retailers and wholesalers – 3:30PM ET
 
Treasury Department
   
Small Business Administration
   
Health and Human Services
   
Department of Transportation
   
Department of Energy
   
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention