Washington Snapshot: Congress Considers Third COVID-19 Bill
In This Week's Edition of Snapshot...
Council Web Page on Government Action on COVID-19
Congress is considering a third COVID-19 legislative package that could top $1 trillion and include direct payments to families and businesses. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin took a stimulus proposal to Senate Republicans earlier in the week for what is being called the “phase three proposal” and included $50 billion to aid the hard-hit airline industry, $150 billion for other distressed sectors of the economy, two rounds of direct payments of $250 billion each on April 6 and May 18, and the creation of a small business interruption loan program.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday introduced the Senate Republicans’ stimulus package, proposing direct cash payments to many Americans as part of a larger plan also designed to help struggling businesses and health-care professionals. The ‘”Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’’ (CARES Act), includes a modest, temporary universal charitable deduction. Non-itemizing taxpayers would be able to deduct up to $300 in 2020. It also includes temporary suspension of AGI limitations for 2020.
The bill also would provide direct cash payments of up to $3,400 for married couples who earn up to $150,000 and have two children; defer payroll taxes paid by employers; provide loans secured by company assets for airlines and other hard-hit industries; boost payments to hospitals; and more.
The proposal needs the support of Senate Democrats. The Senate is working to draft the bill over the weekend and get it passed by Congress in the coming days.
Earlier in the week, the Treasury Department issued guidance saying that taxpayers can delay paying some federal income taxes for 90 days but still were to submit their forms to the Internal Revenue Service -- or officially request an extension -- by April 15. However, today Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced on Twitter that Tax Day will officially be delayed 90 days with a new filing date of July 15.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
ICE announced on March 18 it would only target individuals who present public safety risks or who have criminal records, and will not carry out enforcement actions near hospitals, doctors' offices or other health care facilities, "except in the most extraordinary of circumstances."
The U.S. Census Bureau continues to carefully monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities. They are adjusting some operations as outlined below with two key principles in mind: protecting the health and safety of our staff and the public and fulfilling our statutory requirement to deliver the 2020 Census counts to the President on schedule. The Bureau released a statement last Saturday on operational modifications.
However, the Bureau announced Wednesday it had suspended field operations for the rest of the month due to the spread of the coronavirus. The move puts increased emphasis on households to respond online, over the phone or by mail in the current phase of the census, which is trying to count more than 300 million people across the country over the next few months.
Small Business Administration
The SBA will offer small businesses impacted by Coronavirus (COVID-19) up to $2 million in Economic Injury Disaster Loan Assistance (EIDL). Under the EIDL program, the SBA makes loans available to small businesses and private non-profit organizations in designated areas of a state or territory to help alleviate economic injury caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance last week to all Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) Organizations (POs) to protect the health and safety of Americans in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. PACE is a Medicare and Medicaid program that helps people meet their healthcare needs in the community instead of going to a nursing home or other care facility. CMS is putting out COVID-19 guidance to all types of healthcare providers and facilities. PACE is the latest area of focus because these organizations serve older adults who often have serious chronic medical conditions and therefore are at higher risk of serious illness from the virus.
The CMS also announced on March 18 that all elective surgeries, non-essential medical, surgical, and dental procedures be delayed during the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
All local Social Security offices closed to the public for in-person service on Tuesday, March 17.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced today that Mexico and the U.S. have agreed to close the southern U.S. border to non-essential travel. The Canadian border was also closed on March 18 temporarily to non-essential travel. View the State Department’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The Department of Energy has an important role to play in the COVID-19 response. Secretary Dan Brouillette has tasked Dr. Chris Fall, head of the Office of Science, with coordinating efforts across the Department and its 17 National Labs, where scientists are hard at work performing critical research to help us better understand the virus and limit its spread. In a recent podcast episode of “Direct Current”, Dr. Fall discussed the agency’s response to COVID-19.
HUD and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have directed mortgage servicers to halt all new foreclosure actions and suspend those already in progress.
The HUD order applies to single-family homeowners who are unable to pay their Federal Housing Administration-backed mortgages. It also applies to loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which covers about half of the country’s mortgages or about 28 million borrowers.
Today, Secretary Betsy DeVos has instructed federal lenders to allow borrowers to suspend their student loans and loan payments without penalty for at least the next 60 days. President Trump has indicated that the time period could be extended depending on the state of the pandemic.
This section of Snapshot is a general scope of information and actions of the federal government in response to COVID-19. Always consult the Center for Disease Control for ongoing guidance regarding the response to the coronavirus.
VIRUS TESTING AND ACCESSIBILITY
The FDA issued emergency approval for new commercial coronavirus tests to significantly expand testing across the country.
The Administration is working with the private sector to open up drive-through testing sites.
The Administration is working with the private sector to develop a website that Americans can turn to determine whether they need a test and, if so, where to get it.
HHS is providing funding to help accelerate the development of rapid diagnostic tests for the coronavirus.
The Administration is working to provide states with flexibility to approve coronavirus testing laboratories.
Admiral Brett Giroir, the Assistant Secretary for Health and head of the Public Health Service, has been appointed to coordinate coronavirus testing efforts.
HELPING IMPACTED BUSINESSES
The Small Business Administration has announced disaster loans which provide impacted businesses with up to $2 million.
The Energy Department will purchase large quantities of crude oil for the strategic reserve.
SUPPORTING FAMILIES AND WORKING AMERICANS
Legislation passed that will provide tax credits for eligible businesses that provide paid leave for Americans affected by the virus.
The Administration took action to provide more flexibility in unemployment insurance programs for workers impacted by the coronavirus.
The Education Department is waiving interest on student loans held by the federal government.
The Treasury Department will defer tax payments due on April 15 for certain impacted individuals and businesses.
The website – www.coronavirus.gov – keeps the public informed about the outbreak.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force is holding nearly daily press conferences to provide the American people with the latest information.
The Task Force has recommended mitigation strategies to heavily impacted communities, like those in New York, Washington, and California.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced guidance to protect vulnerable elderly Americans and limit medically unnecessary visits to nursing homes.
Find the Guidelines for the Coronavirus for America: Fifteen Days to Slow the Spread is on the White House website
SUPPORTING HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS
In January, the Administration declared the coronavirus to be a public health emergency.
The President signed a memorandum directing his Administration to make general-use face masks available to healthcare workers, making millions of general-use respirators available.
The President took action to give HHS authority to waive rules and regulations so that healthcare providers have maximum flexibility to respond to this outbreak.
CMS is giving flexibility to Medicare Advantage and Part D plans to waive cost-sharing for coronavirus tests and treatment.
CMS created new billing codes for coronavirus tests.
Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.
The National Council of Nonprofits, along with a coalition of 30 national nonprofits, including the Council on Foundations, penned a letter calling for nonprofits to be included in any COVID-19 relief or stimulus package. It stressed that nonprofits be included in any tax or other relief targeted for small businesses as well as support for funds to pay for increased costs and demand for services in response to the pandemic.