Coronavirus Policy Updates: September 11, 2020
Congress returned to Washington this week after an abbreviated August recess with a number of items to accomplish before October 1st, the start of the next fiscal year (FY). There is still an effort to complete a COVID-19 relief package, but legislation has been stalled for months with few signs of a breakthrough coming. The perceived backstop for a deal is the end of this month for two reasons. Congress needs to pass appropriations for FY 2021 and the House is set to go on recess by October 2nd, with the Senate expected to follow by October 9th. Both chambers will be out of session until after the election so the conventional wisdom is there could be a flurry of legislative activity before the election.
That said, there are reasons to be pessimistic as hyper-partisan politics creep in to this critical legislative period. In addition to these top line items, Congress is expected to prepare another extension of health care extenders, and there is ongoing work before key committees on a number of relevant issues that will shape the final months of this Congress and into 2021.
Senate fails to advance GOP “skinny” COVID-19 relief package
On Thursday, the Senate failed to advance the latest GOP COVID-19 relief package. The bill, which needed 60 votes to clear a procedural hurdle in the legislative process, failed by a vote of 52-47. All Democrats present voted against the bill with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who was the lone Republican to oppose the measure. Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was absent for the vote.
The legislation includes a number of relevant provisions for Easterseals affiliates, which we will continue to monitor closely should a bipartisan deal emerge in the coming weeks. The below represents a high-level summary of key provisions:
Paycheck Protection Program: The legislation would make available a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans with a maximum loan value of $2 million. Entities with 300 or fewer employees that have seen revenue drop at least 35 percent in a 2020 quarter relative to the same 2019 quarter will be eligible.
Enhanced Unemployment Benefits: The legislation includes $300/week in enhanced, federally-funded unemployment benefits to those eligible through December 27, 2020.
Education Funding: The legislation provides $105 billion through an Education Stabilization Fund to help elementary, secondary, and higher education schools get students back to school and provide for continued learning.
Child Cares: The legislation provides $15 billion for child care services. The bill provides $5 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant, which includes direct support for child care providers to help ensure access to child care. The bill also provides $10 billion for Back to Work Child Care Grants.
Liability Protections: The legislation includes liability protections for COVID-related personal injury claims against businesses, COVID-related medical malpractice claims, and protections under labor and employments laws for businesses.
The protections of the bill apply to hospitals healthcare workers, small and large businesses, schools, colleges and universities, religious, philanthropic, and other nonprofit institutions, and local government agencies.
Charitable Giving:The legislation expands the $300 above-the-line deduction for charitable contributions that taxpayers can claim for 2020. The bill increases the amount to $600 for individuals and $1,200 for those filing a joint tax return.
Contact Tracing: The legislation provides $16 billion for testing, contact tracing, and surveillance in states.
Vaccine Development:The legislation provides $31 billion for vaccine and therapeutic development, distribution, and grants for establishing and maintaining state stockpiles.