COVID response memo, 5/21/20

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COVID response memo, 5/21/20

BY THE NUMBERS

Number of Statewide Cases: 29,936 (+662)

Marion County Cases: 8,815 (+274)

Hamilton County Cases: 1,071 (+17)

Johnson County Cases: 1,049 (+20) US Cases: 1.55M

Global Cases: 5M

Number of Statewide Deaths: 1,764 (+48) Number of Marion County Deaths: 518 (+13) US Deaths: 93,606 (+1,478)

Global Deaths: 329,300 (+5,060)

Number of new Hoosiers Filing for Unemployment: 30,311 as of 5/21/20

FEDERAL 

McConnell Sets Funding Cap at $1 Trillion For Next COVID-19 Legislative Package

In a meeting with President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out the Senate majority’s funding priorities in the next COVID-19 legislative package: $1 trillion. In the meeting he set the cap at $1 trillion and said the funds needed to be tailored for short-term relief and should help get those furloughed or have lost their jobs back to work. There is concern that extending the current funding for unemployment will further discourage those who lost jobs to look for new ones and McConnell mentioned support for some type of paycheck supplement package. These parameters throw cold water on President Trump’s stated preference to work transportation and infrastructure funding in this package. The Senate Leader and White House agreed that liability reform should be included in any package. There has been a growing sense amongst Republicans to hit pause on further immediate funding to allow the already $3 trillion allocated to continue to work through the system. The feeling on the Hill is that negotiations on a new package won’t start until mid-June at the earliest and would likely pass something in July or prior to the scheduled August recess.

Trump Says No to Further Economic Shutdowns If New Wave of COVID-19 Comes 

Today when answering reporters’ questions, President Donald Trump said that he would not shut down the economy a second time. "People say that's a very distinct possibility, it's standard, and we're gonna put out the fires," Trump said, when asked if he was concerned about a second wave of the virus. "We're not going to close the country, we're going to put out the fires. There could be, whether it's an ember or a flame, we're gonna put it out. But we're not closing our country."

Congress is Reworking the Paycheck Protection Program So Businesses Have More Flexibility.

“House and Senate lawmakers are preparing new legislation that would make it easier for the government to forgive emergency loans to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic after a lobbying blitz by firms who argued they needed more assistance,” Erica Werner reports. “The bills would give companies more time to use funding under the Paycheck Protection Program, allowing them additional flexibility to rehire workers later this year rather than rush to bring people back by June. It’s unclear, though, whether a political compromise to rework the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program is near, even as many businesses argue they are on the verge of shuttering for good.”

  • The Trump administration is reducing royalty payments for oil companies drilling on federal land while simultaneously imposing retroactive rent on wind and solar generators. (Will Englund and DinoGrandoni)
  • More than a dozen senators said Delta and JetBlue could violate the intent of the Payroll Support Program if they go through with plans to cut employee hours. The airlines received more than $5 billion in bailouts in a bid to keep workers on the job through the end of September. (Lori Aratani)
  • Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, a company hired by the Trump administration to collect and manage student loan payments, provided the wrong information on the credit reports of approximately 4.8 million student loan borrowers who got a break from their monthly payment under the coronavirus stimulus legislation. The “coding error” has hurt the credit scores for some borrowers. (Politico)

2.4 Million Americans Filed Jobless Claims Last Week, Bringing Nine-Week Total To 38.6 Million

President Trump and top Republican lawmakers are mounting fresh opposition to extending enhanced unemployment benefits to the millions of Americans who are still out of work, even as the administration released new jobless figures Thursday showing 2.4 million Americans sought benefits last week. The reluctance by the White House and top GOP leaders drew sharp rebukes from congressional Democrats, who argue the coronavirus outbreak threatens to further ravage the U.S. workforce unless the government authorizes additional aid. Their clash could intensify in the next six weeks, as policymakers stare down a July deadline while the country’s labor market is expected to only worsen.

More than 38.6 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits over nine weeks, the Labor Department reported in its most recent update, illustrating the rolling devastation wrought by the pandemic. At issue is the enhanced unemployment aid Congress approved in late March, which includes an extra $600 in weekly payments to out-of-work Americans. On Tuesday, President Trump articulated his reluctance to extend those benefits during a closed-door lunch with Senate Republicans, many of whom share his concern that the expanded federal payments deter people from returning to work. The enhanced benefits expire in July. Top congressional

Republicans signaled support for paring these benefits during a meeting on Tuesday attended by Vice President Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversations. Party leaders also agreed to delay another round of coronavirus aid for three to four weeks, the person said.

Senate Unanimously Passes Bill to Strengthen Requirements of Chinese Companies Listed on U.S. Exchanges

The Senate unanimously passed S.945, the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, on Wednesday. The legislation addresses investor protection concerns surrounding Chinese companies and the listing of such companies on American stock exchanges. Under current law, Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges are not audited by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB). All other companies publicly listed on U.S. Exchanges are required to submit to an audit from PCAOB. Specifically, the legislation would require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to prohibit trading for any company that has not faced a PCAOB inspection for three consecutive years. The legislation would also require companies to disclose whether they are owned or controlled by a governmental entity. The bill will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. Upon passage of the Senate bill, Rep. Brad Sherman (D- CA) issued a press release saying he had introduced companion legislation in the House. The two bills are identical.  The House has yet to schedule the legislation for floor time.

AstraZeneca Says it has the Capacity to Produce One Billion Doses of Potential COVID-19 Vaccine

AstraZeneca says it is working to produce one billion doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed in conjunction with Oxford University. The company says it has already agreed to a deal with the university to distribute 400 million doses and has total manufacturing capacity for one billion doses. The company is poised to begin the first round of deliveries in September 2020. AstraZeneca will receive more than $1 billion in funding from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for the development, production, and delivery of the vaccine.

WHO is Short More Than $1 Billion in COVID-19 Fight

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it needs at least $1.3 billion in additional funding to fight the coronavirus. The announcement comes on the heels of the Trump Administration’s threat to cut off funding for the organization it claims is biased towards China. The WHO has raised $400 million to date but anticipates it will need $1.7 billion to fight the virus through the end of the year. About 80 percent of the organization’s funding comes from voluntary donations, with the rest paid by member countries.

Apple, Google Develop Technology for COVID-19 Detection

Apple and Google have developed technology to assist governments in tracking the spread of COVID-19. Both companies have designed apps that will notify users if they have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus. The protocol for the apps was developed collaboratively by both companies and will use Bluetooth signals from mobile devices to identify potential exposure. The technology is designed to assist governments in contact tracing efforts.

An app user who has tested positive for the virus can elect to share his or her diagnoses with public health officials through the app, which will then notify users who are or were nearby the positively confirmed individual. The efforts may remain limited in effectiveness, as individual users have to agree to share their diagnoses for others to receive a notification. Despite these safeguards, state and federal lawmakers are likely to review data privacy concerns apps such as this one raise. Both the House and Senate have introduced legislation designed to protect individuals’ privacy in the context of contact tracing. So far, North Dakota, Alabama, and South Carolina, and 22 countries have requested and received access to the technology.

HHS Issues Reminder to Providers on Need to Act by June 3 for Additional Relief Fund Payment

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a reminder Wednesday to eligible providers that they have until June 3, 2020 to accept the Terms and Conditions and submit revenue information in order to receive an additional payment from the $50 billion Provider Relief Fund General Distribution. Providers that received a General Distribution payment prior to 5:00 pm on April 24 are required to provide HHS with an accounting of their annual revenues via tax forms or financial statements. These providers must also agree to the Terms and Conditions in order to keep the funds. Submitting tax forms or financial statements will also serve as the application for additional funding for providers that have not yet received a General Distribution payment. Applications by such providers must also be received by June 3 to receive additional funding.

Fed Issues Principles on Small-Dollar Loans

On Wednesday, the federal banking regulators issued a joint statement outlining principles for offering responsible small-dollar loans in an effort to meet consumers’ short term credit needs. In the statement, the Federal Reserve, FDIC, OCC, and NCUA indicated they recognize the important role of small-dollar lending in the current marketplace as many businesses and individuals experience cash flow imbalances, unexpected expenses, and reductions in income. In response, the regulators have issued the “Interagency Lending Principles for Offering Responsible Small-Dollar Loans” to serve as a guide to encourage financial institutions to offer responsible small-dollar loans to consumers and small businesses. The joint press release as well as a link to the lending principles is here.

All 50 States Now Have Plans for Reopening

All 50 states now have plans for reopening businesses in a phased approach that will allow employees to return to work in a safe manner designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Several states are considering a soft reopening approach as cases of the virus has risen or remained level over the past two weeks in 24 states.

STATE

Governor Holcomb Signs New Executive Order

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an executive order Thursday to move Indiana into Stage 3 of his pandemic reopening plan, which begins Friday, but the governor removed movie theaters and playgrounds from the schedule. Movie theaters are now projected to open along with other entertainment facilities and venues during stage 4 on June 14, the state said. Playgrounds are to be determined. Stage 3, which is being activated two days earlier than previously scheduled, applies to the entire state, except for Marion, Lake and Cass counties, which will be allowed to start Stage 3 on June 1 if local authorities approve of that move.

Here are the major things that are now allowed:

–   Social gatherings of up to 100 people;

–   Gyms, YMCAs and fitness facilities to open, with restrictions;

–   Community pools and campgrounds to open;

–   Recreational sports practices to begin under guidelines, except for contact sports;

–   Basketball and tennis courts and soccer and baseball fields to open;

–   Restaurant dining rooms to remain at 50% capacity;

–   Retail stores and shopping malls to open at 75% capacity;

Remote work is still encouraged whenever possible in Stage 3. Bars, nightclubs and entertainment and sports venues are to remain closed. Casinos also must stay closed. Individuals are strongly encouraged—but not required—to wear a face mask when in public or around other people. Hoosiers who can work from home are encouraged to continue to do so.

Another 2.4M File Unemployment Claims, Including 30,311 in Indiana

More than 2.4 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week in the latest wave of layoffs from the viral outbreak that triggered widespread business shutdowns two months ago and sent the economy into a deep recession. Roughly 38.6 million people have now filed for jobless aid nationally since the coronavirus forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces, the Labor Department said Thursday. In Indiana, 30,311 people filed initial unemployment claims in the week ended May 16. That’s up slightly from an adjusted number of 29,668 the previous week. Prior to the pandemic, the state was typically seeing fewer than 3,000 claims per week. A total of 278,192 people were receiving unemployment benefits in Indiana as of May 9, the Labor Department said. An additional 2.2 million people nationally sought aid under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for self-employed, contractor and gig workers, who are now eligible for jobless aid for the first time. These figures aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations, so the government doesn’t include them in the overall number of applications. Indiana reported no new recipients for the PUA program after reporting that 68,835 people began receiving the assistance in the week ended May 9. PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals not eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits. Those include the self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers and workers for certain religious entities.

The continuing stream of heavy job cuts reflects an economy that is sinking into the worst recession since the Great Depression. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated this week that the economy is shrinking at a 38% annual rate in the April-June quarter. That would be by far the worst quarterly contraction on record. Nearly half of Americans say that either their incomes have declined or they live with another adult who has lost pay through a job loss or reduced hours, the Census Bureau said in survey data released Wednesday More than one-fifth of Americans said they had little or no confidence in their ability to pay the next month’s rent or mortgage on time, the survey found.

LOCAL

Carmel to Reopen Portion of Trail, Midtown Plaza

The city of Carmel plans to reopen a portion of its downtown trail and resume activities in an adjacent public plaza at noon Friday, two months after those areas were closed to avoid overcrowding during the pandemic. Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard barred the public from using the Monon Greenway from Gradle Drive to Main Street and closed the Midtown Plaza on March 26 to stop people from congregating and potentially spreading COVID-19. Those amenities will reopen Friday with new sanitation stations, socially distanced seating and reduced shared-activity space. Life music performances and public movie viewings will resume in the area next week.

City officials might again close those areas to the public under certain conditions, including if more than 70% of area hospital beds become occupied and unavailable for a surge of new cases.. The city is placing signs along the Monon Greenway and Midtown Plaza to encourage visitors to wear face masks. Additional measures include extra space between seating fixtures and the continued closure of shared amenities, like pool tables and ping-pong tables. Programming at those spaces will also look slightly different. Monday Movies at Midtown Plaza will feature four different showtimes for movies to prevent one mass gathering. Tuesday’s live music features two shows and requires concertgoers to engage in social distancing.

IMPORTANT LINKS

Links to all executive orders may be found here: https://www.in.gov/gov/2384.htm

Link to the Stay-At-Home Order FAQ may be found here: https://www.in.gov/gov/3232.htm

More information may be found at the ISDH website at in.gov/coronavirus/ and the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

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