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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Update

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05/14/2020

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Key Updates:

  • House Democrats still intend to vote on the $3 trillion relief bill it introduced yesterday, the HEROES Act, as soon as Friday. The bill is expected to pass with only Democratic support. The Senate will not take up the bill for consideration.
    • There is bipartisan interest in another large relief bill. Many Republican Senators have stated their priorities for the next bill.
    • A bipartisan, compromised bill probably is not expected to be ready until at least June.
  • The House is considering a plan to allow Members to vote by proxy during the public health emergency. This would be a major departure from the current House rules that require a Member to be present to vote. The plan would begin with proxy voting for Committee business before allowing proxy voting for votes on the House Floor. If approved, the plan could allow the House to accomplish more business while practicing social distancing. Many Members have raised concerns about the risks of traveling back and forth between their districts and the Capitol combined with working in close quarters in committee rooms and the House Floor.
  • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell believes additional relief legislation is needed to help the economy recover.
  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Treasury Department issued new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) guidance that softens the requirement for larger recipients to return the PPP funding the received. The Administration faced criticism for awarding millions of PPP funding to large chains. The Administration issued new guidance ahead of the second round of PPP distributions that said large companies should return what they received. This new guidance softens the Administration’s stance. The SBA will focus its audits on awards of $2 million or more.  
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is allowing employers to make mid-year changes to their employer health plans, high deductible health plans and flex spending account policies. Employers are not required to make these changes but they now have the ability to make them if they so choose. Employers can allow employees who declined the employer’s health plan to enroll in the plan. Employers can also allow employees to make changes to their employer plans such as changing from an individual to a family plan. 
  • The House Small Business Committee held a Virtual Forum with lenders to discuss the PPP. A recording of the forum is available on the Committee’s website.
  • CMS published a new “toolkit” of best practices for nursing homes. The document is intended to serve as a catalogue of resources dedicated to addressing the specific challenges facing nursing homes as they combat COVID-19.