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Focus on Regulation

Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – June 10, 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:

  • White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said Tuesday the odds of a “Phase Four” stimulus package “are very, very high,” even if data on output and jobs continue to surpass expectations.  He emphasized that the White House “would definitely support” another round of aid to shore up the economy as U.S. businesses begin to reopen.  At a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said he is opposed to the extension of $600 a week in unemployment benefits that workers are receiving as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, an option lawmakers are debating as they negotiate the next stimulus bill.  Scalia added, “we’ll be in a very different place in July where the opportunity for people to return to work will be far greater.”  Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said “it seems to me that these rosy expectations that everybody will be able to go back to work are just not going to be realized by August 1.” 
  • According to Politico, Senate Democrats are preparing to roll out new legislation today that would allow struggling small businesses to obtain another loan from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The bill is being spearheaded by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Chris Coons (D-DE). “It’s become clear that many employers in vital sectors need more federal aid through the Paycheck Protection Program,” Coons said in a statement. “Only by aggressively targeting aid can we save our small businesses, the jobs they provide, and the Main Streets that make our communities proud.”
  • It’s been more than a month since the White House halted its daily coronavirus task force briefings. Top officials like infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci have largely disappeared from national television, the Covid-19 task force has scaled back its once-daily internal meetings and only meets twice per week.  But the White House’s apparent eagerness to change the subject comes as new coronavirus clusters centered around meatpacking plants, prisons, and other facilities drive spikes in disparate states like Utah and Arkansas. Yesterday in an online forum, Fauci called the coronavirus pandemic his “worst nightmare” and warned that the deadly outbreak is far from over.  He added the infection won’t “burn itself out with mere public health measures. We’re going to need a vaccine for the entire world, billions and billions of doses.”
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the updated recommendations for the safe resumption of non-emergency health care services. The agency also included a separate set of safety tips for patients recommending that those who are undergoing a procedure or operation, including giving birth, need to be tested for the coronavirus 24 hours before the procedure or should self-quarantine for 14 days ahead of time.
  • Federal Reserve policymakers voted today to keep interest rates near zero for this year and next to help the U.S. economy recover from its coronavirus-induced recession. The baseline interest rate range of 0 to 0.25 percent was set on March 15. The central bank says nearly all the Fed’s policymakers foresee no rate hike through 2022.  The Fed says it will keep buying bonds to maintain low borrowing rates and support the U.S. economy in the midst of a recession.  The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), released this statement alongside its first quarterly forecasts since December, including a dot plot of its rate projections. Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought released a memo urging agencies to take steps to ease regulatory requirements and help the U.S. economy as it recovers from the pandemic.
  • Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said that the state will allow schools to slowly resume in-person classes this summer and in the fall.  But school districts also will have discretion on how to implement Northam’s plans and may decide their schools will have additional restrictions, depending on local public health conditions.

In the News:

  • Currently, 19 states are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, including Arizona and Arkansas which have reported some of the most dramatic spikes in new cases. In Texas, North and South Carolina, California, Oregon, Mississippi, and Utah, there is an increasing number of patients under supervised care since the holiday weekend because of coronavirus infections. 
  • So far, more than 2 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 112,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 
  • Starbucks says it expects a loss of as much as $3.2 billion in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic in the third quarter.  Shares of the company fell more than 3 percent in early trading Wednesday. 
  • Flying between continents is unlikely to be possible for commercial passengers until the end of this year, according to the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which represents 290 airlines and 82 percent of global air traffic. Alexandre de Juniac told CNBC “Four weeks ago, the sector was in a complete disaster, with a very pessimistic outlook and a very pessimistic vision of the future.”  However, de Juniac says some optimism had trickled back into the industry recently, particularly in Europe and the U.S., as countries and states began to reopen their economies.
  • The Republican National Committee (RNC) will likely move at least part of its August convention to Jacksonville, Florida, after failing to reach an agreement with its initial host, Charlotte, North Carolina over COVID-19 safety precautions, the Washington Post reports citing three GOP officials. The convention’s lower-profile meetings would still occur in Charlotte, but the main event, President Trump’s nomination acceptance speech, would be moved to a place where officials said they were willing to host a large gathering despite the virus.
  • Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), forecasts a 6% global economic slump from the coronavirus pandemic. The report forecasted that the global economy could contract 7.6% in 2020 if there is a second wave of COVID-19 infections saying the pandemic has triggered the most severe peace-time recession in nearly a century.
  • The head of the International Monetary Fund called on private creditors to join the Group of 20 in providing debt relief for the world’s poorest nations, saying that the alternative to suspension and restructuring its defaults.