Coronavirus Roundup: Senator Asks FEMA to Allow Schools to Use Disaster Funds for Reopening; Agencies Prepare for Large Scale Vaccine Production
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
Senate Republicans released their $1 trillion coronavirus relief package on Monday evening, which is $2 trillion less than the House Democrats’ version introduced and passed in May. Lawmakers and the White House are working to reach a compromise before August recess. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., previously said she would delay her chamber’s recess if necessary. Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed.
On Monday, Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to do more to help schools safely reopen in the fall. He asked that the agency allow schools to use disaster relief funds under the Stafford Act to acquire personal protective equipment, public health training and necessary classroom adaptations. Additionally, Peters said FEMA should work with the Education and Treasury departments to issue guidance on how schools can receive reimbursements for those expenses.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, asked the Government Accountability Office to look into how much the federal government contributed to and spent on the development of remdesivir, the only drug approved so far to treat the coronavirus, Politico reported on Tuesday. Gilead Sciences, an American biotechnology company, developed the drug. In an interview, “Stabenow also said that to combat the continued remedesivir supply challenges in hotspots nationwide, Gilead should either license the drug to generic suppliers in the U.S., or the Trump administration should use the Defense Production Act to mandate more supplies,” said the report. Government Executive reported in May on how lawmakers pressed the administration for data about how it was distributing the drug after an initial chaotic rollout.
The Defense and the Health and Human Services departments are preparing for large-scale manufacturing of a coronavirus vaccine. They “set up a phased [other transaction authority] contract to test manufacturing capabilities at scale to ensure the industry is ready to meet demand as new treatments are approved,” NextGov reported on Monday. Those types of contracts are typically used for research and prototypes because they are largely exempt from federal procurement laws and regulations.
Information technology and cybersecurity staff at the Defense Department will learn about the challenges and success of telework during the pandemic during the department’s second annual “Chief Information Officer Global Virtual Town Hall” on August 12. "In addition to discussing the accomplishments and milestones of the [coronavirus telework] task force's mission to date, the town hall meeting will also discuss telework as a whole and its future in the DoD," said Dana Deasy, Defense CIO.
As the number of coronavirus cases among military service members surpasses that of civilians, the military is looking to innovate and reform its medical practices. This mirrors how it has applied lessons of war and combat in the past, Federal News Network reported on Monday evening.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency inspector general released a report on Monday about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s compliance with CARES Act requirements for mortgages forbearance. Despite “fulsome information” on the websites the agencies and the enterprises manage, “recent surveys by Fannie Mae show that some homeowners are not aware of their forbearance rights and options under the CARES Act and implementing guidance,” said the report. Also “neither enterprise has collected data sufficient to permit an assessment of whether servicers are complying with the CARES Act and implementing guidance.”
As of July 23, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s initiative to stop pandemic-related fraud has resulted in 53 criminal arrests, seizure of over $7 million in illegal proceeds, 42 disruptions of illegal activity and 911 seizures of prohibited or counterfeit goods, the Homeland Security Department said in its weekly update on Monday.
Small Business Majority Founder and CEO John Arensmeyer said the Senate Republicans’ coronavirus relief package unveiled on Monday evening is a “starting point” for small businesses. He said the requirements to qualify for the second round of loans are “too burdensome” and the government will need to do more “to ensure this next round of [loans] does not favor the well-connected over true small businesses again” and “women- and minority-owned businesses are not shut out of additional funding.”
A 13-year Environmental Protection Agency employee and member of the American Federation of Government Employees published an op-ed in Salon last week criticizing the agency’s return to office plans because they “will put Black and brown people at greater risk.” She wrote that, “if EPA is committed to racial justice and eliminating white supremacy in our offices, we must maintain telework through the end of this pandemic and put safety first, plain and simple.”
On Monday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., wrote to EPA Administrator Scott Wheeler to ask about the agency’s strategies for reopening and urged him to use scientific data in making decisions on bringing employees back. “I ask that you consider the consequences associated with reopening the offices, including the use of public transit for employees, as well as the ability to effectively social distance and implement extensive cleaning protocols in EPA offices,” he said.
Upcoming: President Trump will hold a news conference at 5 p.m.
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about current and future cybersecurity initiatives at the Pentagon.
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