Washington Snapshot: White House Officials Expected to Release Ideas Aimed at Helping the Recovery in Distressed Areas
In This Week's Edition of Snapshot...
- On May 18, the Congressional oversight panel created by the $2 trillion CARES Act, H.R. 748 (116), outlined in its first report how it will oversee billions in emergency lending for struggling businesses and municipalities during the pandemic. The panel posed questions to the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve about the metrics of those lending programs. Current members of the panel are Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA.); Bharat Ramamurti, a former aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL.) and Rep. French Hill (R-AR.)
- PolitcoPro reports there may be a possible point of bipartisan agreement in Congress over the next massive coronavirus response package. There appears to be common ground on the possible expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), recently enacted in the CARES Act. The ERTC encourages businesses of all sizes to retain their employees so workers continue to receive income and employer-sponsored health insurance without having to seek unemployment benefits. The ERTC also ensures workers and businesses are better-positioned to resume normal operations once the COVID-19 economic crisis ends. Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), John Katko (R-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Chris Pappas (D-NH) introduced bipartisan legislation on May 8 to enhance the ERTC and are pushing their proposal to be included in the next relief package.
- The House is expected to vote on a bipartisan fix to the Paycheck Protection Program next week amid growing concern over its implementation. Being considered is a way to ease restrictions on how businesses use Paycheck Protection Program loans, which can be forgiven if employers agree to maintain their payroll and avert layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic.
- The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has updated its economic projections through 2021 to account for the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. CBO’s latest estimates update the preliminary projections that the agency made in April. Some of those forecasts include expectations that additional pandemic-related legislation will be enacted, whereas CBO’s projections incorporate the assumption that current laws generally remain unchanged and that no significant additional emergency funding is provided.
White House officials are expected to soon release a set of ideas aimed at helping the recovery in distressed areas, which would likely include ideas for improving the Opportunity Zones (OZ) program. According to Politico, the Administration views the OZ program as one of the few policy tools available that did not exist during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. However, it is not clear what the Administration can do on its own or whether any White House proposals would require congressional approval. Some members of Congress have asked Treasury and the IRS for certain modifications to help the OZ program work more smoothly during the pandemic, including loosening a host of deadlines and penalties.
Department of Agriculture
On May 19, USDA announced the details of the Direct Assistance to Farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program that will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to this direct support for these food producers, USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program is partnering with regional and local distributors that have been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat and deliver boxes to Americans in need. Approved regional contractors for this distribution can be found on the USDA website .
Department of Commerce
On May 18, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the availability of $88 million in fishery disaster funding to Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, where a catastrophic regional fishery disaster occurred due to extreme freshwater flooding in 2019 associated with the unprecedented opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway. Funds can be used to address impacts to commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, charter businesses, subsistence users, processors, shore-side infrastructure, and the fishing ecosystem and environment. Activities that can be considered for funding include infrastructure projects and habitat restoration.
The Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced on May 18 draft procedures for the upcoming $16 billion Phase I Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction (Auction 904). With financial support from the auction, service providers will expand broadband service to millions of unserved homes and businesses in rural areas. At the Commission’s June 9 open meeting, the FCC will vote on finalizing these draft procedures. Auction 904 is the first phase of the Commission’s $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund initiative, modeled on the Commission’s successful Connect America Fund Phase II auction in 2018. Bidding in Auction 904 is scheduled to begin on October 29, 2020.
The Federal Reserve
Federal Reserve Banks are hosting webinars next week on lessons and strategies related to the inequities that have become apparent during the coronavirus pandemic:
- Too Important to Fail: Minority-Owned Businesses Navigating COVID-19 and Beyond
Wednesday, May 27, 11:15am-12:00pm ET | Register Here
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York will host its second Fed and Main Street dialogue, focused on COVID-19’s impact on small businesses, how critical these firms are to the national recovery, and new ideas for supporting these firms. The discussion will address how the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted pre-existing financial and economic disparities faced by low-income communities, particularly communities of color. This event is open to members of the public. Space is limited.
- Reinventing Our Communities: Planning for Equity in Recovery – Lessons We’re Learning from COVID-19
Thursday, May 28, 3:00pm–4:15pm ET |Register Here
This webinar is hosted by the Federal Reserve’s Connecting Communities initiative and will share local solutions to foster equity in recovery and ways to address ingrained barriers to economic opportunity, especially for low- and moderate-income people and communities of color. Experts will present ideas for policies and practices needed to rebuild local economies and create stronger households and communities in the wake of COVID-19.
Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Statistics
BLS is seeking comments on the addition of COVID-19 Items to the Current Population Survey (CPS). The survey is being revised to temporarily add five questions to the Current Population Survey (CPS) to collect data on the effects of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the attempts to constrain the spread of the virus. The questions will ask about responses to COVID-19 during the previous four weeks - specifically, whether respondents teleworked due to COVID-19, were unable to work because an employer closed or lost business and were paid for hours not worked. In addition, respondents will be asked whether any household members needed non-coronavirus-related medical care in the previous four weeks but did not get it because of the pandemic. Comments are due by July 17.
Department of Homeland Security
Federal Emergency Management Agency
FEMA has released an Exercise Starter Kit to help organizations plan for resuming operations during COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The kit includes a fact sheet, sample slides, and a facilitator guide with suggested discussion questions that can be tailored for an organization’s specific needs. The Exercise Starter Kit has been a collaborative effort by FEMA’s National Exercise Division and National Continuity Programs in support of the COVID-19 Task Force on Continuity of Operations and Essential Services.
Other guidance documents available are the White House’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again and a FEMA fact sheet on Planning Considerations for Organizations in Reconstituting Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
FEMA also issued COVID-19 Pandemic Operational guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season that provides guidance to State, Local, Tribal & Territorial officials to prepare for response and recovery operations and encourages personal preparedness measures amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration released the PPP loan forgiveness application on May 15.
Department of Veterans Affairs
Each VA national cemetery will conduct a brief wreath laying ceremony, accompanied by a moment of silence and the playing of Taps. In keeping with CDC guidelines to limit large gatherings, the ceremonies will not be open to the public but the public can participate in these ceremonies virtually.
A measure to tax the wealthiest residents and the biggest businesses in Portland, Oregon, to raise $2.5 billion over a decade to address homelessness was approved in Tuesday’s primary election. Nearly 60% of voters in the three counties that make up the greater Portland region approved the tax.
Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.
States Reconsider Charitable Giving Incentives
Some states, recognizing the impact of the pandemic on the ability of foundations and charitable nonprofits to serve their communities, are starting to review their giving incentives policies. The New Jersey Senate unanimously passed a bill last week that would allow taxpayers to take a state income tax deduction of up to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for married couples for contributions to qualified New Jersey charities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center for Non-Profits in New Jersey explains that the bill would provide “a much-needed lifeline to help charities to fill growing demands for services and to weather the emergency. Importantly, all taxpayers, regardless of federal itemizer status, could benefit from their generosity to New Jersey charities during this crisis.” A bill in North Carolina would create a new state tax credit for taxpayers who grow crops and allow them to be harvested for donation to 501(c)(3) nonprofits during or within 180 after the time of a disaster. The tax credit would be for 50 percent of the market value of the gleaned crops and could not exceed $15,000.