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Apr 16, 2020

Emerging Technologies Washington Update

This week: Coronavirus response, White House directs CIOs to code federal websites to prioritize latest coronavirus information, FAA publishes proposed rule for supersonic aircraft certification.

Coronavirus Response

The Latest

The House and Senate leaders announced this week that neither chamber will return on April 20 as originally scheduled and instead plan to reconvene on May 4. As the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) ran out of funds today, the Senate remains at an impasse on the Treasury Department’s request for an additional $250 billion for the CARES Act program. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continues to call for a clean authorization, while congressional Democrats push to include more funding for the healthcare system and states and localities, among other emergency measures. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spoke on Wednesday morning ahead of a meeting between House and Senate Democratic staff and Treasury staff to discuss a potential path forward.

Even if the Senate were to reach an agreement that could pass by unanimous consent, it would almost certainly stall in the House, where Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) has pledged to seek a recorded vote on any legislation. In that case, no bill could pass without a quorum of House members present, which is unlikely to happen until the House reconvenes.

Yesterday, Senate Democrats released a Roadmap to Reopening by Ensuring a Speedy and Ubiquitous Lab Testing System (RESULTS). The plan includes six components: requiring a strategic plan to leverage a “whole of society response”; emergency funding to enable rapid scaling of testing and the full range of activities that support testing to maximize its impact; a pipeline to develop, validate, and allocate accurate, reliable tests to ensure adequate supply; structures to administer tests in every community across the country; robust public health infrastructure to respond to results and better contain COVID-19; and transparency and accountability across the testing system.

On Tuesday, the President announced the creation of 17 so-called Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups that will work with the White House to bolster the economy. The groups represent the agriculture, banking, construction/labor/workforce, defense, energy, financial services, food and beverage, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, real estate, retail, tech, telecommunications, transportation, and sports sectors. A final group of thought leaders includes former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, economist Art Laffer, and former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, among others.

Elsewhere, the President and federal agencies continue to take steps to respond to the outbreak, including, but not limited to:

  • The President signed a Presidential Memorandum on Providing Federal Support for Governors’ Use of the National Guard to Respond to COVID-19 in Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Vermont.
  • The Treasury Department published information for state, local, and tribal governments to access $150 billion in relief provided by the CARES Act. Materials must be submitted by April 17.
  • The Treasury Department published an Interim Final Rule on Additional Eligibility Criteria and Requirements for Certain Pledges of Loans for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and updated FAQs on the program. The Small Business Administration (SBA) also published a report on PPP approvals through April 13.
  • The Federal Reserve announced the PPP Liquidity Facility is operational and available to provide liquidity to eligible financial institutions.
  • Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) launched the Get My Payment app for taxpayers who filed returns in 2018 or 2019 but did not provide banking information to submit information necessary to receive Economic Impact Payments electronically.
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced $10 billion has been awarded to airports pursuant to the CARES Act and published FAQs and a presentation on the grants. DOT also published a list and map of the awards by airport.
  • The Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide.
  • The Department of Education announced the application process for states to apply for $3 billion in emergency block grant funding through the CARES Act Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it is beginning to deliver an initial $30 billion in CARES Act relief to providers.

A complete overview of both congressional and Administrative response efforts is available here and updated daily.

What’s Next

The Treasury Department, on behalf of the Administration, and congressional Democrats are continuing to discuss a path to potentially authorizing additional funds for the PPP, but it remains to be seen if or how an agreement would reach the President’s desk. In the meantime, the Administration will continue to implement the many financial assistance programs authorized by the CARES Act. When Congress does return, it is expected to take up a Phase 4 bill that will likely serve as “CARES 2,” extending and expanding upon many of the programs authorized by the third phase of coronavirus response legislation. At this time, that bill is not likely to reach the President’s desk until mid-May at the earliest now that Congress has delayed its return to Washington until May 4.

Relevant Resources

In Other News

White House Directs CIOs to Code Federal Websites to Prioritize Latest Coronavirus Information

As millions of Americans turn to the internet to search for information related to COVID-19, the White House is working with schema.org to help make federal department and agency web pages containing particular virus-related information easier to find in search results.

Schema.org, launched in 2011 by Microsoft, Google and Yahoo, is a collaborative community activity that creates and supports a set of standard schemas for structured data markup on web pages. Most recently, the company released new standard tags for web pages containing information about COVID-19 prevention measures, disease spread statistics, quarantine rules and travel guidance, as well as information about getting tested.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have requested that federal agencies code their websites with these standard tags to prioritize the latest in coronavirus information. In addition, OSTP and OMB are encouraging the private sector, state and local governments, and the academic community to do the same.

FAA Publishes Proposed Rule for Supersonic Aircraft Certification

On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding noise standards for a new generation of supersonic airplanes during landing and takeoff. The proposal would establish subsonic landing and takeoff cycle standards for supersonic airplanes with a maximum takeoff weight no greater than 150,000 pounds and a maximum operating cruise speed of Mach 1.8 (2,180 km/hr). This NPRM follows a proposed rule published by the FAA in 2019 to update the requirement for special flight authorization for flying at a speed over Mach 1 in the United States.

Supersonic commercial aircraft were first introduced in the 1970s, however, efforts to continue pursuing commercial supersonic flights were abandoned after Air France grounded its fleet of five supersonic passenger planes following a crash at Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2000. Recent proposed rulemakings reflect the many technical advancements in aviation that have occurred since then. These developments include new noise-reduction technologies such as improved engine designs and materials available for airframe manufacturing.

The FAA will accept comments on the NPRM through July 13.


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