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Coronavirus Roundup: OMB Outlines Regulatory Review for American Rescue Plan; SBA to Open Restaurant Relief Program

There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.

The McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility released a new report on Wednesday about how the pandemic has accelerated economic inequity in regard to race, ethnicity, gender, income, educational background, geographic location, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, and immigration status. 

“Without a more inclusive recovery, existing disparities may further calcify. Leaders recognize that who participates in, and benefits from, economic growth is critical to the overall health of our economy,” JP Julien, associate partner at McKinsey & Company, told Government Executive. “Now more than ever, swift action is needed to ensure that inclusion happens alongside growth. Government leaders can play a unique role in working together with public-, private-, and social-sector leaders to remove barriers that have kept various demographic groups from fully participating in—and contributing to—an economy that benefits everyone.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The Office of Management and Budget issued a new memo to agencies on Monday authorizing expedited review for regulations related to the American Rescue Plan. It also says that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs will “continue to work with the agencies to facilitate quick, informal circulation of items not typically subject to such review” due to the “interacting authorities and areas of expertise central to the federal government’s response efforts.” Lastly, the memo says that agencies should follow Biden’s executive orders on using the power of the federal government to advance racial equity and bolster scientific integrity. For more on the memo and its implications, see this post in the Yale Journal on Regulation by Bridget Dooling, research professor at The George Washington University's Regulatory Studies Center and a former OIRA analyst.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on Tuesday for those who are fully vaccinated, which says they don’t need to wear masks outside except in certain crowded settings. It includes other updated guidelines regarding quarantining, testing and masks for those fully vaccinated. 

During the briefing on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked if the White House would amend its executive order requiring masks in federal buildings and on federal lands, following the CDC’s new guidance. “The federal government will be certainly looking at the CDC as we make changes or make—implement these policies,” said Psaki. “I just have to check on the timeline of that.”

The Homeland Security Department extended the deadline for enforcement of REAL ID-compliant drivers’ licenses from October 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023 due to the pandemic. “Protecting the health, safety, and security of our communities is our top priority,” said DHS Secretary Mayorkas in a statement on Tuesday. The extension will “give states needed time to reopen their driver’s licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card.” 

The Small Business Administration announced on Tuesday that it will begin registration for the $28.6 billion restaurant revitalization fund, established in the American Rescue Plan, on Friday and the application portal will formally open on Monday, May 3. “For the first 21 days that the program is open, the SBA will prioritize funding applications from businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals,” said the agency. “All eligible applicants are encouraged to submit applications as soon as the portal opens.” 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held its first all virtual commission hearing on Wednesday morning to discuss the pandemic’s impact on workers, discrimination issues raised and possible future challenges related to the pandemic for employers and employees. A diverse group of 12 experts are scheduled to testify between two panels.

The Government Accountability Office published a blog on Tuesday about how gene sequencing can be used to track variants of COVID-19. However, challenges to using this are up-front costs, such as buying laboratory equipment and staff training, and privacy concerns, said the watchdog. 

The Environmental Protection Network, a bipartisan nonprofit group made up of Environmental Protection Agency alumni, sent EPA Administrator Michael Regan a list of recommendations on Tuesday about addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances, often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they persist in the environment. “A recent study found evidence that PFAS exposures increase the severity of the coronavirus in individuals,” and the CDC is investigating the impact, Michelle Roos, executive director of the nonprofit, noted. 

Accenture, a consulting and professional services firm, released a report earlier this month about how the pandemic and recession have “accelerated” the role of federal chief information officers. “Particularly within the federal sector, CFOs are taking on more responsibility to improve both the systems and processes within the financial management function to better serve their agency missions and goals,” the report said. “By automating their operations, becoming more sophisticated consumers of data and by empowering their workforces to expand their capabilities, CFOs have been able to lead with confidence at the faster cadence that today’s environment demands.” 

Retired Adm. John Polowczyk, who led the Trump administration's COVID-19 supply chain stabilization task force, is now a managing director at EY, focusing on supply chains, Politico reported. 

Upcoming: President Biden will give his first address to a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m.

Help us understand the situation better. Are you a federal employee, contractor or military member with information, concerns, etc. about how your agency is handling the coronavirus? Email us at newstips@govexec.com.

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