COVID-19 Washington Update: March 18, 2020
March 18, 2020
Today's federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic included intiatives from Congress, the White House and various federal agencies.  Below is a synopsis of today's actions.

Congress
This afternoon, the Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act by a vote of 90-8
  • The Senate did not make any further changes to the House-passed bill, meaning it will be sent to President Trump for his signature
  • The bill (including “technical corrections”) previously passed by the House will institute free coronavirus testing, establish paid leave policies, enhance Unemployment Insurance, expand food security initiatives, and increase federal Medicaid funding
  • A House Appropriations Committee summary is here and a backgrounder on the new paid leave provisions is here
  • Congressional passage of this second coronavirus response measures follows an initial $8.3 billion package enacted earlier this month (see yesterday’s update for more information)
Meanwhile, Congress and the administration continue negotiations to develop a third response package to inject approximately $1 trillion in the economy as businesses and individuals cope with the economic effects
  • Focus remains on: direct financial assistance to American families and workers; support for distressed sectors and small businesses; additional funding and support for healthcare providers
  • The Treasury Department has proposed: $200 billion for distressed sectors (including $50 billion for airlines); two rounds of direct payments to individual taxpayers (first to begin April 6, second to begin May 18), fixed and tiered based on income level and family size and likely administered by the IRS; and $300 billion for the creation of a small business interruption loan program
    • See Treasury Department proposal here (Washington Post)
  • Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has established task forces (e.g., on airlines and small business aid) to negotiate with the administration; he would like to move quickly and has said the Senate will remain in session until the package is passed
  • As a reminder, see Senate Democrats’ March 17 stimulus proposal here
  • House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) / House leadership are seeking input from committee chairs on what to include in a third package
    • Speaker Pelosi has pledged to push for expanded paid leave provisions
    • Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to further expand paid leave (to be fully paid for by the federal government)
    • On the Senate floor this morning, Senate Majority Whip Thune (R-SD) said Republicans are working to ensure worker benefits requirements are accompanied by sufficient support for employers
Other resources of note
  • The House Small Business Committee today released an update on federal efforts to aid small businesses, including an FAQ on SBA loans
  • House Ways and Means Committee Republicans today released an FAQ on the Congressional response
  • Business group letters
    • International Council of Shopping Centers letter to policymakers regarding business interruption coverage
    • Business Roundtable letter with policy recommendations
    • National Restaurant Association letter with policy recommendations
 
President’s Public Schedule Today
  • 10:00AM The President participated in a phone call with airline executives on COVID-19 response
  • 10:45AM The President participated in the Business Roundtable Quarterly Meeting teleconference
  • 1:30PM The President participated in a phone call with physicians on COVID-19 response
  • 3:30PM The President participated in a briefing with nurses on COVID-19 response
  • 11:30AM Members of the Coronavirus Task Force held a press briefing
 
White House / Agency Activity
White House
  • On Wednesday morning, President Trump announced that the United States and Canada agreed to temporarily suspend non-essential travel between the two countries; he said trade will not be affected
  • On Tuesday, the White House ordered the federal government to maximize the use of teleworking and minimize face-to-face interactions
  • Also Tuesday, the White House Office of Management and Budget requested approximately $48 billion for government agencies as they work to address the pandemic
Defense Production Act Executive Order Health and Human Services
  • During today’s Task Force briefing, officials announced that HHS will allow medical professionals to practice across state lines to facilitate care; additionally, guidance is expected recommending providers limit all nonessential elective medical and surgical procedures, including dental procedures
Treasury / IRS Food and Drug Administration Housing and Urban Development Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
  • Expanded Emergency Declaration Under 49 CFR § 390.23 No. 2020-002, This Declaration addresses National emergency conditions that create a need for immediate transportation of essential supplies, equipment and persons, and provides necessary relief from the FMCSR for motor carriers and drivers engaged in the transport of essential supplies, equipment and persons, March 18, 2020
United States Trade Representative Federal Communications Commission U.S. Embassy in Mexico Department of Education U.S. Department of Agriculture  
State Activity
  • Kelley Drye has posted a webpage with links for all U.S. State and Territorial Health Department COVID-19 Resource Sites