Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge speaks as she and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announce a joint effort to increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations on May 5.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge speaks as she and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announce a joint effort to increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations on May 5. Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Coronavirus Roundup: HHS and HUD Announce Vaccine Partnership; Watchdog Reports EPA CARES Act Mismanagement 

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

The Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services secretaries announced a joint partnership on Wednesday to increase vaccine access at community health centers and organizations that help vulnerable populations. “We have a nation that over the last four years has decided that they don't trust government” and now “we have cultural sensitivities; we have access [issues],” said HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge. “Our goal is to meet people where we find them, to go to places where people congregate, whether it be in public housing authorities, whether it be in community centers.” Also, “we are making sure that people have trusted voices,” so they feel confident in getting the vaccine. The secretaries made the announcement from a federally-qualified health center in Washington, D.C., that works to end family homelessness. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The White House said on Wednesday that 186,200 restaurants, bars, and other eligible businesses applied for relief through the American Rescue Plan’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund in the first two days of its launch. “While all small businesses are welcome to apply, under the law the [Small Business Administration] will prioritize funding applications from small businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals for the first 21 days of the program,” said a fact-sheet from the White House. “Following the 21 days, all eligible applications will be funded on a first-come, first-served basis.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory committee on immunization practices scheduled an emergency meeting for May 12. “This suggests that the [Food and Drug Administration's] authorization of Pfizer's #COVID19 vaccine for 12-15 year-olds will be right before then,” Jen Kates, senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, tweeted on Tuesday. “ We could have our first COVID vaccine endorsement for kids next Wednesday.” 

During virtual remarks on Tuesday to the staff at the Embassy London, the largest American embassy in Europe, Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked them for their hard work and resilience during the pandemic. “The consular team repatriated and supported thousands of Americans during the pandemic. Management, security, and [information resource management] teams worked together to keep employees as safe as possible and to make it possible for people to telework,” he stated. “Many of the issues you’re dealing with day-in, day-out, whether it’s COVID recovery, sustainable, more equitable economic growth, addressing the challenges posed by Iran, Russia, China – all of these and more are on the cutting edge of our national security policy. And I just want to tell you that I’m grateful for everything each of you does.” 

The White House will now redistribute states’ vaccine doses if they don’t order their full weekly allotments. The new policy “gives flexibility, week by week, but it's really just an indication that we're in a different phase now than we were even a couple of weeks ago, in terms of access to supply,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during the briefing on Tuesday. “And we want to ensure that we free up unused and unordered doses.” 

The Environmental Protection Agency inspector general issued a report on Tuesday saying the EPA didn’t fully follow federal laws and guidance in its management of its $7.23 million CARES Act funds, based on its review from June 2020 to December 2020. “The [Office of the Chief Financial Officer] delegated all CARES Act risk assessment and internal control development to the lower levels of the EPA without documenting how the cross-program entity-level and division-level internal controls address federal and agency requirements,” said the IG. However, the office did not “have processes in place to conduct an agency wide risk assessment on supplemental appropriations,” and “did not comply with CARES Act reporting requirements.” 

On Wednesday, a federal judge vacated the CDC's eviction freeze for the pandemic that was put in place last year, The Hill reported. The ruling won’t impact freezes from state or local governments. “The decision comes as landlords have sought to remove tens of thousands of tenants who have been unable to pay rent due to financial hardship,” said the report. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts announced on Tuesday that a former pizzeria owner was charged with fraudulently obtaining over $660,000 in payment protection program loan funds and used those funds for personal purchases, such as an alpaca farm in Vermont. In the application to the Small Business Administration, the individual “allegedly inflated information about the pizzeria’s employees and payroll expenses and falsified an official tax form in an effort to qualify the business for a larger loan amount,” said the press release. Then after receiving the loan, the individual sold the pizzeria.

Upcoming: President Biden will give remarks on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan at 2 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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