Mar 19, 2020
Emerging Technologies Washington Update - Coronavirus Update
The McGuireWoods Consulting Emerging Technologies team hopes that this week’s newsletter finds you and your family well during these unusual and difficult times. The COVID-19/coronavirus outbreak presents unprecedented challenges to companies worldwide. Throughout the week, the team has been providing updates and analysis of government responses to the outbreak, both at the federal and state levels. We have linked to some of those resources, which are continuously being updated, below. If there is anything the team can do to assist you, please let us know.
Yesterday, the Senate voted 90-8 to pass H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (MWC summary available here; detailed summary of paid leave provisions available here). The President signed it into law later in the day. The legislation is the result of a deal struck last Friday between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin that passed the House 363-40 just after midnight on March 14. Before sending the bill to the Senate, the House passed a technical corrections package that was incorporated into the underlying legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) cancelled a planned recess this week so the chamber could take up the bill.
Efforts are now underway to draft and enact another economic stimulus package. Leader McConnell has established several task groups within the Republican conference focused on financial and other assistance for small businesses, individual Americans, industry (particularly airlines), and healthcare. Senate Republican leadership maintains that it hopes to vote on that package next week and McConnell has said the Senate will stay in session until is passes another bill.
The President is seeking an economic stimulus package in the neighborhood of $1 trillion. A Department of Treasury proposal focuses on relief for airlines and other severely impacted industries, guaranteeing money market mutual funds, direct payments to taxpayers, and small business interruption loans. Separately, the administration is seeking a second FY20 emergency supplemental appropriations bill, requesting an additional $48.5 billion to address the outbreak (detailed breakdown of request by department/agency available here). Congress passed an initial supplemental package, the $8.5 billion Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, earlier this month.
The President and federal agencies have also taken a number of other measures, including, but not limited to:
- Yesterday, the President signed an Executive Order on Prioritizing and Allocating Health and Medical Resources to Respond to the spread of COVID-19, enabling the Secretary of Health and Human Services to, among other things, control the distribution of critical resources in the civilian market.
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) took steps to expand access to telehealth services, including expanding Medicare coverage and waiving potential HIPAA penalties.
- The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) extended the deadline to pay 2019 taxes and estimated tax payments for tax year 2020 that are due on April 15 until July 15. The filing deadline remains April 15.
- President Trump said yesterday that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will suspend home foreclosures and evictions through the end of April.
- The Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) waived certain hours of service regulations for commercial drivers transporting emergency supplies.
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai issued a Keep Americans Connected Pledge under which telephone and broadband providers agree that for the next 60 days they will: (1) not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of inability to pay bills due to disruptions caused by the pandemic; (2) waive any late fees incurred as a result of economic circumstances related to the pandemic; and (3) open Wi-Fi hotspots to any American in need. More than 185 providers have signed the pledge.
- In addition, the FCC adopted an Order to fully fund all eligible Rural Health Care Program services with an additional $42.19 million in funding and waived the low-income Lifeline program’s recertification and reverification requirements for participating low-income consumers for 60 days.
The Senate is expected to vote in the coming days on another round of economic stimulus legislation. After yesterday’s Senate vote, Speaker Pelosi said the House will move swiftly on the next bill, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told lawmakers today “the House will not return to session until we are in a position to vote on the third piece of emergency legislation to respond to the economic impact of this crisis.” Hoyer’s announcement followed news yesterday that two House members have tested positive for coronavirus.