This afternoon, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced the House would vote on H.R. 6021, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, regardless of whether Congressional Republicans support the bill.
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin negotiated the bill with the Speaker, but it remains to be seen whether the Secretary or President will intervene to get Congressional Republicans to support the bill.
The provisions of the bill are as follows:
- Free Testing
- 14 days of paid sick leave
- Three months of paid family leave
- Expanded unemployment benefits
- Food assistance
- Additional Medicaid Funds
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is opposed to this bill and believes it is a political messaging bill instead of providing economic relief. Thus, as of now, the Senate will not pass the House bill.
We are waiting to see if the Senate drafts legislation or what steps Leader McConnell will take.
White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing
Late this afternoon, President Trump held a press conference to announce he is declaring a national emergency which triggers the Stafford Act.
The Stafford Act authorizes federal assistance to state local governments and territories for natural disasters. The Emergency declaration unlocks $50 billion in additional funding for state and local governments and territories. The Stafford Act is unique in that it is one of several laws in the President’s emergency powers.
The President also:
- Ordered States to set up Emergency Centers immediately.
- Ordered Hospitals to execute emergency preparedness plans immediately.
- Granted Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Azar new authorities to waive existing laws and requirements that limit a hospital’s ability to respond to the crisis, including waiving length of stay and hospital stay requirements.
- Announced new testing capabilities, including drive-thru tests in parking lots (such as Wal-Mart, Target, etc.). These new testing sites will allow patients to be swabbed without leaving their car and get lab results in 24-36 hours after they fill out an online screening questionnaire.
- Waived interest on all federal student loans.
- Ordered Secretary of Energy to purchase a large quantity of oil for storage in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
- Announced CMS will issue guidance directing nursing homes to prohibit visitors except in life-ending situations.
- Announced FDA has approved new tests by Roche, Lab Corp, and Quest.
The White House will release a paper in two hours announcing additional measures.
When asked about the House bill, President Trump said negotiations are ongoing, but the House is “not giving enough”.
CEOs from Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, Roche, Lab Corp, Quest, and others joined President Trump at the press conference.
Following today’s press conferences, Speaker Pelosi announced a deal with President Trump and Secretary Mnuchin on the bill. They talked right after his speech, and she has spoken to Mnuchin 13 times today. No word from Senator McConnell yet on whether he will support the bill.
Finally, keep in mind that the additional measures outlined above are in addition to the $8.3 billion funding bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump last week.