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Focus on Regulation

Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – May 19, 2020

Your guide to the latest Hill developments, news narratives, and media headlines provided by the Hogan Lovells Government Relations and Public Affairs team.

In Washington:

  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will be launching a messaging campaign on “the cost of Republican inaction during the COVID-19 crisis.”  Schumer said President Donald Trump’s “dithering” made the health and economic crisis worse and McConnell is “compounding the problem” by not moving more quickly.  Republicans continue to argue that they don’t know enough about how the $2 trillion CARES bill, which passed in March, is working in order to pass another aid package.  Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) who is negotiating liability reforms, a key GOP priority in the next package, said it is “going to take a little bit of time to negotiate. So I don’t feel any sense of urgency.”
  • President Trump is ignoring his own administration’s medical advice and says he is taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent COVID-19 for the past week and half.  The President said he has done so after requesting the White House physician prescribe it to him.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that hydroxychloroquine should only be used for COVID-19 cases that are in the hospitals and clinical trials because the FDA says it can cause deadly side effects.  When CNN asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) her reaction to the news, Pelosi said, “As far as the president is concerned, he’s our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group. Morbidly obese, they say. … So, I think it’s not a good idea.”
  • Today Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin virtually testified before the Senate Banking Committee on the new lending programs.  The bipartisan congressional commission in charge of overseeing coronavirus relief funds released its first report yesterday provided a blueprint for where it will focus its oversight efforts.  The report shows that the Treasury Department has spent only $37.5 billion thus far of a $500 billion pool of funds Congress provided to help struggling businesses during the pandemic.  The panel pressed the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department on how they will measure the success of the new lending programs to assist businesses and municipalities which have not started yet.
  • President Trump sent a letter to the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) threatening to permanently end funding and reconsider the country’s membership in the global health body due to its coronavirus response.  The letter claimed the WHO “ignored credible reports of the virus’ and accused the organization of acting in an obsequious manner toward the People’s Republic of China, including shunting Taiwanese health assessments and caving in to pressure from Chinese President Xi Jinping.”
  • The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it has signed a $354 million four-year contract to Phlow Corporation in Richmond, Virginia, to manufacture generic medicines and pharmaceutical ingredients that are needed to treat Covid-19 but are currently made overseas, mostly in India and China.  The move addresses the administration’s concerns and ensures that coronavirus treatments be manufactured in the United States.
  • Over 260 philanthropists are asking Congress to require 86,000 private foundations and 728,000 donor-advised funds formed by affluent donors to give more to charitable causes to combat the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  According to Bloomberg, “the plan would double the mandatory amount that private foundations must donate to charities each year to 10 percent of their total assets, up from 5 percent. It would also require donor-advised funds, entities that allow tax deductions on donations without distributing the money, to give 10 percent of their assets to charity as they currently don’t have any minimum donation requirements.”
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued new guidance that would eventually allow nursing homes nationwide to re-open to visitors on a phased-in basis.  The recommendations call for all nursing home staff and residents to be tested for the coronavirus, and for state or local infections to be declining, before restrictions on visitation are relaxed or facilities reopened.  The new guidance also calls for state officials to inspect nursing homes that had previous Covid-19 cases before visitations can resume.

In the News:

  • There’s new evidence that patients who test positive for the COVID-19 after recovering do not transmit the infection, and could have the antibodies that prevent them from getting sick again.  Scientists from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 285 COVID-19 survivors who had tested positive for the coronavirus after they recovered.  The re-positive patients weren’t found to have spread any lingering infection, indicating the patients were shedding non-infectious or dead virus particles.
  • Housing starts tumbled 30.2 percent to the lowest level since early 2015, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday. Though many states considered homebuilding as essential when they enforced lockdown orders in mid-March,  disruptions to building material supply chains likely weighed on activity in the last couple of months.
  • NBA legend Magic Johnson announced Tuesday that an insurance company of which he owns a majority will fund $100 million in loans for minority- and women-owned businesses.  EquiTrust Life Insurance Co. will distribute the loans through the Federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in partnership with MBE Capital Partners, CNN reported.
  • Two top U.S. airlines – Southwest and United — said that ticket cancellations were slowing and demand was showing some signs of improvement, with Southwest Airlines recording more trip reservations than cancellations so far this month.
  • The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that unemployment will average 9.3 percent next year.  The nonpartisan agency forecasted that the unemployment rate would peak at 15.8 percent next quarter and drop to 11.5 percent at year’s end.  Unemployment would eventually dip down to 8.6 percent by the end of 2021, but the average for the year would hold at 9.3 percent.
  • Officials in at least 10 states are actively sharing the names of residents who have contracted coronavirus with law enforcement, according to an Associated Press report.  The study found that officials in at least two-thirds of all 50 states are sharing addresses of infected individuals.  In at least 10 states, the information shared with law enforcement also includes the name of the individual with the disease.