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Focus on Regulation

Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – June 16, 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:

  • The Small Business Administration (SBA)  said it resumed accepting applications yesterday from small businesses for a disaster-aid program, known as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
  • During a phone call with governors Monday, Vice President Mike Pence urged the state leaders to take on the Trump administration’s explanation for rises in cases, that more testing has led to more positive cases.  He advised the states to “encourage people with the news that we are safely reopening the country.”  But data shows that seven-day averages in several states have increased since May 31, and at least 14 states have seen the positive cases overtake the amount of testing conducted, according to the New York Times.
  • Inspectors general are saying the administration informed them it doesn’t view the largest pieces of the CARES Act, including the $670 billion PPP and a $500 billion economic stabilization fund, as subject to the same transparency and disclosure requirements as the rest of the law.  This internal Trump administration legal position would impede their ability to monitor trillions of dollars in coronavirus relief spending unless Congress acts.  So far, it appears there’s bipartisan support shaping up to do so.
  • Global equities have rallied on growing expectations that the U.S. will deploy a new round of stimulus measures to steady the world’s biggest economy. “A report by Bloomberg that the Trump administration is preparing a $1 trillion infrastructure spending package to stimulate economic growth helped to inject an upbeat mood in the markets, said Jim Reid, strategist at Deutsche Bank. ‘The prospect of further stimulus was already known, however the size and timing was more up in the air,’ he said. “Much of the spending would be earmarked for infrastructure such as roads and bridges, but some would also be allocated to improving America’s digital network through improved rural broadband and 5G wireless infrastructure, Bloomberg reported. Still, it remains unclear how the Trump administration would fund the sprawling stimulus measures.”  Senate Republicans have said they would not consider a large-scale infrastructure package.
  • According to Politico, Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV), Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell (D-FL) have benefited directly from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).  Each of the lawmakers who received PPP loans, either directly for their business or indirectly through a spouse, says the loans were acquired through proper channels and part of a desire to help keep Americans employed.  While it is not illegal for lawmakers to apply for or accept the money, it has raised new questions about lawmakers’ potential conflicts of interest as they craft the next coronavirus rescue package.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter Monday urging the Senate to act on the HEROES Act, saying “Republican Senators are turning their backs on the American people. The virus doesn’t pause, unemployment doesn’t pause, hunger doesn’t pause and neither should we.”
  • Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) became the latest member of Congress to test positive for coronavirus.  Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) father has died from complications resulting from coronavirus.
  • Nursing homes are responsible for more than a quarter of the nation’s COVID-19 fatalities.  Medicare and Medicaid chief Seema Verma mandated that states verify that staff are following proper procedures to prevent coronavirus transmission by July 31 or risk losing federal recovery funds.
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the Banking Committee’s top Democrat, told Brian Miller the new watchdog in charge of overseeing the pandemic corporate bailout fund in a letter that they’re concerned he won’t be independent of his former employer: The White House. They said, “ultimately, your duty is to the American people, not the president.”
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Tuesday that the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to nonessential travel for at least another month. The three countries have extended their border restrictions in 30-day intervals since March 20.  Previously set to be lifted on Sunday, they will now last until at least July 21.
  • House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) wrote Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma today to reiterate his request and the CMS’s promise to release demographic claims data concerning the outcomes of COVID-19 based on race, ethnicity.  The CMS had promised the information back in April but has yet to respond.

In the News:

  • Retail sales shattered expectations in May as many coronavirus lockdowns were lifted allowing consumers to begin shopping again.  Retail sales jumped 16.8 percent higher from a month ago. Clothing and accessories stores reported the biggest gain at 188 percent while sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments, and bookstores rose 88.2 percent.
  • Stocks surged Tuesday after the news of May’s positive retail sales.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 679 points higher, or 2.6 percent.  The S&P 500 gained 2.5 percent while the Nasdaq Composite climbed 2.3 percent.
  • A widely-used steroid called dexamethasone could have an “immediate impact” on how doctors treat the most severe cases of COVID-19, potentially reducing the mortality rate of the disease, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner (FDA) Dr. Scott Gottlieb says.  In one study, the drug cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators and by a fifth for those on supplemental oxygen.
  • COVID-19 cases are spiking in states across the U.S.  According to CovidExitStrategy.org, which tracks the number of coronavirus cases and the percentage of tests that come back positive found that more than half the states are now trending poorly.  Several states including Utah, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, and Florida have reported significant jumps in cases in recent days.
  • Cobra Biologics on Tuesday said it had signed a supply agreement with AstraZeneca to manufacture its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.  The first delivery of the potential vaccine is expected in Britain in September.
  • Apple will reopen 10 of its stores in New York City this week, but many of them will be “appointment only.”  It’s the first time Apple stores in the city will be open since March when the company shuttered its locations amid the pandemic.
  • The U.S. Open tennis tournament will be held on schedule but without fans in attendance, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced, saying players and staff will be subject to testing, additional cleaning, extra locker room space, and dedicated housing and transportation.  The event will take place August 31 to September 13 in Queens.