House Passes $484 Billion Relief Package

Today, the House of Representatives passed a $484 billion economic relief package in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (H.R. 266). The bill passed by a vote of 388-5 with one vote “present.”

House members traveled back to Washington for today's vote, meeting this afternoon to approve the Phase 3.5 package, as well as a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis designed to provide oversight of the Administration's distribution of the funds appropriated by Congress in the various relief bills.

While the House also contemplated using today's vote to permit proxy voting during the pandemic, those plans were ultimately scrapped. For now, the chamber plans to vote in small groups to reduce infection risks, directing members to go to the floor in 10-minute blocks, in groups, in alphabetical order.

The Phase 3.5 measure first passed the Senate by voice vote on Monday after congressional negotiators reached a deal with the Administration. The package provides an additional $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), as well as an additional $10 billion for the Emergency Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) Grants. The measure also includes $75 billion for health care providers and $25 billion to expand testing capacity.

While this legislation did not include additional assistance for state and local governments, both Democrats and President Trump have indicated their desire to include this funding in the Phase 4 relief package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Wednesday expressed concerns about providing additional funds for state and local governments, indicating that any further assistance should be “thoroughly evaluated.”

As public officials at all levels of government continue to escalate their responses to the pandemic, the latest actions and developments may be found below. Akin Gump will continue to provide regular policy developments related to COVID-19.

Treasury Issues Guidance for Companies with Significant Market Capital

Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury unveiled guidance addressing companies with significant market capital in its new FAQ document, indicating that prior to submitting a PPP application, all borrowers should carefully review the required certification that “[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.” Borrowers are required to make this certification in good faith, taking into account their ability to access other sources of liquidity to support their operations. The guidance particularly notes that public companies “with substantial market value and access to capital markets” will likely not be able to fulfill this requirement and should be prepared to present the basis of their certification to the Small Business Administration (SBA).

More States Take First Steps to Reopen; Others Announce Extensions of Emergency Measures  

A number of states have announced initials steps to reopen their economies in response to the three-phase guidelines issued by the Administration last week: 

  • Alabama: Gov. Kay Ivey held a press conference on April 23 and stated that the state's stay at home order would remain in effect at least through April 30.
  • Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced on April 22 that certain nonessential out-patient procedures may resume April 27. Decisions for other businesses, beginning with restaurants, would be announced on April 29.
  • Colorado: Gov. Jared Polis announced on April 22 that retailers will have the option to reopen with curbside pickup beginning April 27, and by May 1 will be able to host a limited number of in-store customers. Eligible businesses to reopen include hair salons, dental offices, tattoo shops and child care facilities.
  • Kentucky: Gov. Andy Beshear announced on April 22 that phase 1 of the Kentucky reopening will include drive-thru testing for two weeks in Louisville and Lexington. Phase 1 will focus on gradual reopening of health care services, including reopening for diagnostic radiology and non-urgent, emergent in-person office and ambulatory visits.
  • Maine: Gov. Janet Mills outlined on April 23 the early guidelines to reopen Maine's economy and stated the governor's office will be working with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to develop criteria to reopen the state. No date was announced for when businesses could reopen and the “Stay Healthy At Home Order” remains in effect through April 30.
  • Montana: Gov. Steve Bullock announced on April 22 the gradual and phased reopening of the state beginning on April 26 for individuals and April 27 for businesses. Main Street and retail businesses can become operational on or after April 27 if they can adhere to requirements to limit capacity and maintain strict physical distancing. Places of worship can become operational on April 26 in a manner consistent with social distancing between people who are not members of the same household. Restaurants, bars, breweries and distilleries can begin providing some in-establishment services beginning May 4.
  • New Mexico: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on April 22 that the state would extend the emergency public health order through May 15.
  • North Carolina: Gov. Roy Cooper extended North Carolina's stay-at-home order through May 8. He also announced a gradual three-step phase to begin reopening the state, but stated the phases could be up to six weeks between each other until certain guidelines are met.
  • Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt announced on April 22 that beginning April 24, personal care businesses such as hair salons, barber shops, pet grooming services and nail salons will begin to reopen. On May 1, businesses including restaurants, churches, gyms and movie theaters will begin to reopen.
  • Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown announced on April 23 that non-urgent medical procedures would be allowed beginning May 1.
  • Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf announced on April 22 the commonwealth's plan for reopening beginning May 8. The plan includes reopening regions in three phases that will be assigned based on conditions in a county, counties or region.
  • Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott has indicated that the state will soon reopen “massive” amounts of businesses.

White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing Highlights

On Thursday, April 23, the White House Coronavirus Task Force conducted a briefing from the White House Press Briefing Room. Highlights of the discussion included:

  • President Donald Trump began the press briefing by thanking Harvard University and other education institutions for their decision to return the stimulus funds they were initially allocated under the CARES Act.
  • Vice President Mike Pence noted that several large metropolitan areas have passed their peaks on the curve, emphasizing that the country has made “meaningful progress” to slow the spread of the virus. He expressed optimism for Americans to begin living normally by the summertime. He also noted that 4.93 million tests have been performed and that 35,000 National Guard personnel have been deployed around the country to assist with COVID-19 response efforts.
  • Vice President Pence mentioned that 13 states have formally announced plans to reopen their economies. He assured that the Administration would continue to provide the necessary guidance for state and local governments to manage their reopening processes safely and effectively.
  • Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Science and Technology William Bryan offered findings from a study conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, concluding that COVID-19 dies quickest in direct sunlight. He also stated that commonly available disinfectants, including bleach and isopropyl alcohol, have the ability to eliminate the virus.
  • In response to questions on testing, President Trump asserted that the United States has performed more testing than the rest of the world combined, noting that several countries have inquired about Abbott's ID NOW test, which produces results in minutes. When asked about the House's passage of the $484 billion relief package to help small businesses and hospitals earlier today, President Trump stated that he will sign the relief bill “probably tonight.”
  • On vaccines, President Trump did not offer a specific timeline, but he indicated that Johnson & Johnson has made significant progress and he commended the Food and Drug Administration for assisting with vaccine development efforts.
  • When asked about his disagreement with Georgia's Gov. Brian Kemp (R) over the decision to reopen several businesses around the state, including spas and beauty parlors, President Trump signaled that he was not happy with the measure. He argued that Gov. Kemp's decision was not an act of defiance to the Administration's guidelines, and he noted that the Coronavirus Taskforce would closely monitor health in Georgia.

Wednesday, April 22 highlights:

  • President Trump stated that the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to decline nationwide, and recent hotspots appear to be stabilizing.
  • Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, clarified remarks he made to the Washington Post, stating that while the fall and winter seasons may be more “complicated” because influenza and the novel coronavirus will be circulating at the same time, the situation will not necessarily be “worse” than what the country is seeing now.
  • The President encouraged governors to follow the Administration's guidelines as they seek to reopen sectors of the economy, warning that moving too fast could cause the virus to rebound. President Trump added that he disagreed “strongly” with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's decision to reopen salons, tattoo parlors, spas and barbershops.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also asked governors and mayors to follow the Administration's “careful, measured” reopening guidelines.
  • Dr. Fauci stated that while he is “convinced” that there will be cases of COVID-19 around in the fall, the country will be much better prepared to contain outbreaks of the virus.
  • The President urged the House to vote quickly on the Senate-passed Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which includes funding to further expand testing capacity. Some of these funds will support the establishment of new testing sites focused on underserved and minority communities.
  • More than 1,600 locations have signed up to administer convalescent plasma treatments to patients.
  • President Trump stated that his new Executive Order suspending immigration into the United States will ensure that unemployed Americans are “first in line” for jobs and will preserve health care resources for American patients.
  • Vice President Mike Pence stated that the United States is ahead of schedule with respect to ventilator production, thanks to efforts by private companies such as GE Healthcare.
  • The Veterans Affairs system has addressed its capacity issues, and is deploying teams to assist nursing homes in several states.
  • President Trump stated that he had “never heard” of Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority who claims he was transferred to a new post at the National Institutes of Health for questioning the Administration's efforts to expand the use of hydroxychloroquine as a potential COVID-19 treatment.
  • In response to a question, Dr. Fauci said he has no concerns about expressing his opinions publicly.
  • While there are reports that some pets have tested positive for COVID-19, Dr. Fauci said there is little evidence that the disease is being passed from pets to humans.
  • The Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels will soon be performing air shows over American cities as a tribute to frontline health care workers.

Relevant Links

Akin Gump Alerts and Other Resources

Akin Gump COVID-19 Resource Center

COVID-19 U.S. State and Local Response Map

50 State Survey – Coronavirus-Related “Stay at Home” Orders

Immigration: President Trump Signs Proclamation Suspending Entry of Certain Immigrants


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

  • Tweet at 11:18 AM, April 22, 2020 ( Link)
    • “Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Health Resources and Services Administration awarded nearly $165 million to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in rural communities. Read more here.
  • Tweet at 2:48 PM, April 22, 2020 ( Link)
    • “Read the statements from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and CMS on the interoperability flexibilities amid COVID-19 public health emergency here.
  • Tweet at 3:03 PM, April 22, 2020 ( Link)
    • “News: HHS announces additional allocations of CARES Act provider relief fund. Read more here.”
  • Tweet at 11:21 AM, April 23, 2020 ( Link)
    • “News: HHS, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, has awarded nearly $5 million to poison control centers across the U.S. to help them respond to increased calls due to the COVID19 pandemic. ( Press Release)

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC):

  • Tweet at 10:19 AM, April 22, 2020 ( Link)
    • “FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have published a final rule for technical corrections and clarification to the previously issued interim rule on Current Expected Credit Losses Methodology for Allowances ( Press Release)

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma:

  • Tweet at 11:59 AM, April 22, 2020 ( Link)
    • “CMS and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) released a new toolkit to help healthcare decision makers maximize workforce flexibilities when confronting COVID19- including a full suite of available resources to maximize responsiveness based on state & local needs. ( Press Release)
  • Tweet at 12:06 PM, April 23, 2020 ( Link)
    • “Today CMS released a Medicaid and CHIP telehealth toolkit to help states identify and address barriers to telehealth coverage during the COVID19 pandemic. Learn more here.

Originally published 24 April, 2020

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