Coronavirus Roundup: The COVID-19 National Emergency Ends
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s a list of this week’s news updates and stories you may have missed.
The president signed a Republican-backed resolution on Monday to end the COVID-19 national emergency about a month before scheduled.
“Since Congress moved to undo the national emergency earlier than intended, we've been working with agencies to address the impacts of ending the declaration early,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a gaggle on Tuesday. She underscored that the COVID-19 public health emergency, which allows for different authorities and flexibilities, is still intact and will end on May 11, as planned.
Some examples of the impact of ending the national emergency are that the Housing and Urban Development Department’s COVID-19 mortgage forbearance program will be ending and the Veteran Affairs Department’s flexibilities for in-person home visits to help caregivers will end, said Jean-Pierre.
National emergency declarations “permit the president to invoke standby authorities,” and during the pandemic these authorities have involved the Defense Production Act; activation of ready reserve units and members; activation of Coast Guard retirees; extension of deadlines for importers; and waivers and modifications for certain student loans, as outlined by the Congressional Research Service. “Congress also enacted legislation authorizing numerous actions with durations tied to the COVID-19 [emergency] declaration, including provisions related to banking and finance, the federal budget, criminal justice, defense, defense procurement, income security, intellectual property, small businesses, transportation and veterans’ affairs,” CRS said. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
A Health and Human Services Department spokesperson said that the ending of the national emergency doesn’t impact HHS operations. Any waivers to help Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP participants access care that were authorized “for the pandemic will remain in place until the end of the federal [public health emergency] for COVID-19,” the spokesperson said.
The Biden administration is launching an over $5 billion plan to accelerate the development of new coronavirus vaccines and treatments, The Washington Post reported. “The planned launch comes after Biden health officials had funding requests for the program repeatedly rebuffed by Congress, with Republicans insisting the administration had funds left over from prior coronavirus aid packages,” said the report. “A pot of money was finally created after the White House directed HHS to free up $5 billion for the initiative. The agency shifted funds intended for coronavirus testing and other priorities, potentially teeing up new questions from Republicans about why those funds were available.”
The heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and HHS Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response will testify before a House committee on April 19 for a budget and oversight hearing.
A former TSA officer was sentenced to six months in prison for theft of public money, which included pandemic relief, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida announced on Wednesday. “The theft of any amount of taxpayer funds is inexcusable, especially when the public trust is violated by a government employee,” U.S. Attorney Jason Coody said. “With our law enforcement partners, we remain committed to investigating and prosecuting those who engage in acts of COVID-related fraud.”
The Office of Personnel Management is hosting a series of free in-person and virtual training sessions on “thriving in a hybrid environment.” The first session is on April 19 and the last one is on June 28. This comes as the Biden administration has asked agencies to scale back telework.
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