COVID-19 Federal Updates: March 16 -18
Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Everything you and your business need to know about federal coronavirus response efforts for March 16 - 18, 2020.
March 18, 2020.
President Trump held his daily press conference at the White House at 11:30 a.m. EST today. The President announced additional measures the Administration was taking to combat the spread of COVID-19. Press conferences from the White House can be viewed here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/
President Trump announced that his Administration has invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 that "authorizes the president to strengthen capacity and supply in extraordinary circumstances" in response to reported shortages in medical supplies. It will allow the federal government to enlist the help of American Industry to address shortages in ventilators, PPE (personal protective equipment), and other medical supplies. In addition, Department of Defense shared that it would be working to deploy medical supplies to healthcare professionals across the country.
CMS Chief Seema Verma says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is issuing new guidelines to stop non-essential & dental surgery in order to preserve equipment & shift medical professionals to responding on front lines amid the pandemic.
The President announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April.
The U.S. and Canada agree to temporarily close their shared border to "non-essential" travel. President Trump made the announcement as the two nations work to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Trade is said to not be affected, but details are forthcoming.
The President indicated he would have the authority to close the U.S.-Mexico border, but was not doing so yet. An announcement could come soon as to the specific provision invoked to grant such an authority.
As far as the $1 trillion stimulus package discussed yesterday, the President said negotiations are continuing with members of the U.S. Senate. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the $1 trillion economic stimulus plan would provide sweeping support for the economy. President Trump indicated that there would be an effort to helped impacted industries, especially airlines and loans to small businesses. In addition, there was mention of direct payments to Americans pending the result of continued negotiations.
The U.S. Senate is still working on HR 6201, the COVID-19 stimulus package #2 passed by the House. The latest intelligence suggests the Senate will vote on at least three amendments to the House-passed package today. A vote was delayed late last evening due to discussion over the inclusion of possible amendments.
March 17, 2020
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends limiting gatherings to 50 people. Separately, The White House recommends limiting gatherings to 10 people. While Ohio has revised the previously issued mass gatherings order (100 people) to be in compliance with the CDC’s guidelines, the state is aligned with the White House, and strongly recommends gatherings to not exceed 10 people.
President Trump held a press conference on March 17 at 11:30 a.m. EST and made several announcements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Press conferences from the White House can be viewed here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/
The announcements included:
Reiteration of guidelines to stay home for the next two weeks
Increase in FDA testing capacity, including the announcement that states had the authority to use in-state created tests.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said the agency is temporarily expanding telehealth services for Medicare patients in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. CMS is also relaxing HIPAA privacy requirements to let doctors use personal phones for telehealth purposes.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday that the Trump administration was considering offsetting the economic burden of the coronavirus pandemic by providing money directly to Americans and could make a decision within the next two weeks. Several Senators have shown an interest in the concept including Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and John Cornyn (R-TX).
The Administration is also planning to allow Americans to defer tax payments up to $1 million for 90 days.
In general, the White House is asking Congress for $850 billion in additional aid.
While President Trump was encouraged that the Senate might pass the COVID-19 stimulus package, it is possible that the Senate adds some of the additional stimulus measures that would require the House return to Washington to pass the legislation before sending it to the President's desk.
March 16, 2020
OSHA is the federal agency responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, which aims to ensure that employers provide a safe working environment to their employees. OSHA has provided guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 and it is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to comply with safety and health standards and regulations promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. In addition, the Act’s General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. For OSHA’s guidance, click here.
The President announced guidelines that call on Americans to avoid social gatherings involving groups of 10 or more.
President Trump declared a national state of emergency, freeing up federal funds and other resources to help coordinate a response to the coronavirus outbreak. To read the proclamation, click here.