Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, March 10 2021

Your guide to the latest Hill developments, news narratives, and media headlines from Hogan Lovells Government Relations and Public Affairs practice.

In Washington:

  • The House on Wednesday passed a sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package in a 220-211 vote. No Republican lawmakers backed the legislation. Just one Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (ME), opposed it. The White House expects Biden to sign the measure on Friday. The president, in a statement, called the bill a “historic piece of legislation that addresses a major crisis and lifts up millions of Americans.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) called it “a laundry list of left-wing priorities that predate the pandemic and do not meet the needs of the American families.”
  • The COVID-19 relief package contains many provisions beyond the well-known $1,400 direct payments, unemployment benefits extension, and vaccine distribution funding measures. Below are some key provisions. The bill:
  • Expands the child tax credit in 2021 from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under 6 years old and to $3,000 for older children. Income phase-outs apply.
  • Expands in 2021 the earned income tax credit (EITC) eligibility and credit amount for workers without children and allows taxpayers to use their 2019 income for purposes of the credit instead of their 2021 income.
  • Provides $15 billion to the child care and development block grant program. It also expands in 2021 the tax credits for child and dependent care and for employer-provided dependent care assistance.
  • Provides $86 billion for union pensions. The money will cover multi-employer pension funds, some of which are set to be insolvent.
  • Contains $30 billion for local subway and bus systems, $8 billion for airports, $1.5 billion for furloughed Amtrak workers, and $3 billion for wages at aerospace companies.
  • Provides $27.4 billion in emergency rental assistance and $10 billion aiming to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
  • Broadens eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program and adds $15 billion in emergency grants. It also sets aside more than $28 billion in funding for restaurants.
  • Increases ObamaCare subsidies through 2022 to make them more generous and makes Obamacare tax credits available for middle-class families for the first time.
  • Allows states to expand Medicaid to people earning up to 138 percent of poverty, with the federal government paying 90 percent of the costs of doing so. Newly expanding states would also receive a two-year 5 percent bump for traditional Medicaid programs.
  • A Politico-Morning Consult poll released Wednesday found that 75 percent of voters support key parts of the coronavirus relief package the House sent to the president’s desk on Wednesday. The poll asked respondents specifically about $1,400 in direct payments, $350 billion in state and local government aid, funding to support K-12 and higher education reopening, and unemployment benefits. The poll surveyed registered voters. Ninety percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independents, and 59 percent of Republicans favored the provisions.
  • President Biden will announce plans on Wednesday to direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to secure 100 million more doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, a White House official confirmed. The goal would reportedly be to have enough supply to inoculate children, and to possibly administer booster doses or reformulate the vaccine for coronavirus variants. The officials told the newspaper that they expected the Johnson & Johnson doses to be delivered in the second half of this year.
  • The Senate HELP Committee will vote on March 17 on advancing the nominations of Vivek Murthy to serve as Surgeon General and Rachel Levine to serve as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services who will play key roles in President Joe Biden’s pandemic response.
  • Today, the Biden administration revised its guidelines to allow indoor nursing home visits, regardless of whether guests or residents have been vaccinated in particular cases. The new recommendations are the first revision to the federal government’s nursing home guidance since September. Approximately three million vaccine doses have been administered in nursing homes, the administration said.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci is urging a “prudent” spring break as the travel-heavy event looms. “[It’s] totally understandable that people want to do that,” the National Institutes of Health official said on CNN Wednesday morning, adding “[w]e want people to have a good time on spring break, but don't put your guard down completely,” he continued. “Just be prudent a bit longer.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently advises Americans not to travel.

In the News:

  • American Airlines cancelled employee furloughs on Wednesday as the House passed the COVID-19 relief package that provided payroll support for the industry. In a memo to employees, CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom said the notices 13,000 employees received last month warning about furloughs are “happily canceled — you can tear them up!” Airlines got a $15 billion boost and an extension of the Payroll Support Program, which was a key provision in last spring’s CARES Act that was set to expire April 1. 
  • Facing a likely recall election spurred by his anti-pandemic measures, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) touted his record in Tuesday’s State of the State address. Speaking before an empty Dodger Stadium that serves as a mass vaccination site, Newsom noted that California’s coronavirus death rate beats the national average. “We will not be distracted from getting shots in arms and our economy booming again,” he said. “That was not a State of the State speech, that was a campaign stump speech for his political revival,” said Randy Economy, a recall effort spokesman. Recall supporters said Sunday they have enough signatures to force a recall vote. 
  • Eli Lilly announced Wednesday that its antibody drug to combat the coronavirus cut the risk of hospitalization and death from the illness by 87 percent. In a new study of 769 high-risk COVID-19 patients, the company said four people in the placebo group died from the coronavirus. No one died who took the antibody treatment, which combines bamlanivimab and etesevimabits. 
  • The U.K. variant of COVID-19 is 30 to 100 percent deadlier than other coronavirus strains, according to a study in the British Medical Journal published Wednesday. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 3,283 cases of the U.K. strain nationwide in the U.S. vaccine makers, including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, say their vaccines are effective against the U.K. variant.
  • Puerto Rico school officials recorded low attendance amid limited school reopenings Wednesday as fears surrounding the pandemic persist. The Associated Press reported that 95 of the U.S. territory’s 858 public schools were allowed to reopen Wednesday.

Authored by Ivan Zapien

Ivan Zapien
Washington, D.C.
Shelley Castle
Legislative Specialist
Washington, D.C.


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