COVID-19 Federal Responses: Wednesday, May 20

May 21, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published detailed guidelines for how to reopen businesses and schools. (See Appendix F for specific advice for various types of businesses and establishments.)

Congress is preparing to introduce bipartisan legislation to grant some additional flexibilities to recipients of Paycheck Protection Program funding. The new flexibilities include giving recipients more time to spend the money and rehire workers.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is reminding providers to attest to the terms and conditions for funding they received from the Provider Relief Fund General Allocation within 45 days of payment. Not attesting or returning the payment within 45 days of receipt will be viewed as acceptance of the funds and associated terms/conditions.

HHS also announced that providers have until June 3 to submit revenue information to be considered for additional funding.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified at a Senate Banking Committee hearing to provide a quarterly update to Congress on the CARES Act economic assistance programs.

  • Secretary Mnuchin assured the committee that the department will distribute the entire $500 billion in funding assistance it received. Some committee members have said the department is not distributing the funding fast enough.
  • Chairman Mnuchin also expressed his concern about the effects a prolonged shutdown will have on the economy.
  • Chairman Powell said the Federal Reserve will maintain an interest rate at or below zero for as long as it takes for the economy to recover. He expressed his belief that Congress may need to take more action, but he declined to be specific.
  • Chairman Powell said the Main Street Lending Program will begin lending money as early as June.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued an updated economic projection for the rest of 2020 and all of 2021.

  • According to the projection, 2020 Q2 gross domestic product (GDP) will decline by an annualized rate of 37.7% but will begin improving in Q3.
  • The CBO believes that the labor market will begin to stabilize after the third quarter of this year. The CBO expects GDP growth will decline by 5.6% in 2020 but increase by 4.2% in 2021.
  • The CBO estimates that the unemployment rate will average at 11.5% in 2020 and improve to 9.3% in 2021.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced how it will begin distributing $225 million to rural health clinics (RHC) for testing. The funding was provided by the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will conduct a study to research the effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women and newborns. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is partnering with a company called Aetion to study COVID-19.

The U.S. – Canadian border will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least June 21st.

Apple and Google launched their contact tracing interface.  

NOTE: Information coming out of the Capital is beginning to slow. Starting the week of May 18, we will begin providing federal updates for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – unless there is breaking news.