Post-Election Pandemic Relief Could Be Part of Government Funding Bill in December
Current negotiations on a pandemic relief bill remain at a standstill until the results of next week’s elections, which will impact the contours of a potential deal in a “lame-duck” Congress that must also pass funding legislation by Dec. 11 to avoid a partial government shutdown.
- The key players in the relief negotiations– House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – both expressed frustration this week about the deadlock over policy differences for a COVID-19 stimulus deal.
- Pelosi detailed seven policy issues where significant disagreements remain in an Oct. 29 letter to Mnuchin – including funding for state and local governments; OSHA and worker liability protections; and unemployment insurance and tax credits for working families. Mnuchin responded with his own letter yesterday, saying the state of negotiations described by Pelosi were inaccurate. (BGov, Oct. 30)
- Pelosi also told the Wall Street Journal this week, “What [Mr. Mnuchin] and I have agreed upon—on how we would go forward—is not necessarily what the Republican Senate will vote on. That is up to the president to convince them that the agreement we have with him is one that will be honored by them.” (WSJ, Oct 28)
Post-Election Lame-Duck Session
President Trump yesterday said, “Once we get past the election, we’re going to get it (pandemic stimulus). It may be bipartisan, it may not have to be... Right after the election, we’ll get it one way or the other.” (Jon Taffer podcast, Oct. 29)
- Trump also said his administration expects negotiations to continue, saying, “After the election we’ll get the best stimulus package you’ve ever seen …” (The Hill, Oct. 27 and CQ, Oct. 29)
- The cost of a potential package is another major impediment in the negotiations, with the Trump administration considering a ceiling of $1.9 trillion and the Democrats holding at $2.4 trillion. ( Roundtable Weekly, Oct. 23)
- Senate Whip John Thune (R-SD), who is number 2 in the chamber’s leadership, said on Oct. 25 that if Democrats win on Nov. 3, a smaller stimulus bill could be pursued in the lame-duck session, followed by another package in the new year. (BGov, Oct 27)
- House Ways and Means Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) added this week he was open to finalizing a “smart Covid package” during the upcoming lame-duck session, commenting he aims to provide certainty for more than 30 tax extenders scheduled to expire at the end of 2020. “We’ve already reached out and are having discussions with (House Ways and Means) Chairman Neal and Democratic leaders on how we might resolve some of those temporary health and tax provisions,” Brady said. (BGov, Oct. 30)
With government funding set to expire on Dec. 11 and many temporary financial safety net programs expiring on Dec. 31, lawmakers could merge some COVID-19 aid measures into a sweeping multi-trillion-dollar omnibus bill to avoid a partial shutdown. (Marketwatch, Oct 21, Washington Post, Oct. 23 and RollCall, Oct. 28)
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Broad Business Coalition to Seek National Program Aimed at Limiting Future Impact of Major Economic Interruptions, Including Pandemics
The economic damage from future business interruption events – such as pandemics and other national emergencies – needs to be limited and managed with a new national business continuity insurance program, according to a broad business coalition launched this week that represents more than two dozen industries and over 50 million workers.
- The Business Continuity Coalition (BCC), which includes The Real Estate Roundtable, announced on Oct. 28 that it aims to develop a public/private business continuity insurance program with policymakers and other stakeholders. Such a program would enable employers, in the event of a government-ordered shutdown, to keep payrolls and supply chains intact; help limit job losses and furloughs; reduce stress on the financial system; and speed economic recovery when government-imposed limitations on operations are lifted. (BCC launch news release)
- The BCC membership is comprised of organizations from the hospitality, restaurant, entertainment, gaming, communications, and broadcasting industries, as well as the apartment, healthcare, industrial, office, and retail real estate sectors. (See full list of BCC members)
- Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer commented, “The need for a future national program that supports readily available business continuity insurance is clearly needed as the American business community, including commercial real estate, continues to adapt to the economic damage brought on by the pandemic.”
- He added, “Businesses are making the health of workers and customers their top priority as they face interruptions, closures and attempts at reopening. The Business Continuity Coalition will work with lawmakers in applying lessons learned from present challenges toward future solutions so that the nation can collectively bridge any future economic interruption gap with the support of a congressionally-approved national program.”
Nov. 19 Hearing on Pandemic Insurance
DeBoer on Sept. 25 discussed prospects for developing and enacting a federal pandemic risk-business continuity insurance program with Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), above, in a remote interview. (Video of the discussion)
- “We’ve seen business interruption insurance not being willing to cover any pandemics. I think you’re going to start to see lenders … requiring some type of pandemic coverage in their loan covenants in the coming years” Stivers said.
- He added, "I think we need to make sure that if this ever happens again and the government shuts down the economy, [Congress] holds people harmless and businesses harmless in the future.” (Video of the discussion)
- Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), who also serves on the subcommittee, said, “Congress needs to be proactive in helping businesses protect themselves from economic losses as a result of pandemics, which, as we’ve seen, can be devastating to businesses of all sizes.” (BCC)
- The subcommittee played a key role in last year’s seven-year extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA).
- According to the BCC, there are a number of successful models that can provide guidance in structuring a business continuity insurance program. Among them are TRIA, originally enacted following the 9/11 attacks and the War Damage Corporation developed during World War II. (BCC news release, Oct. 28)
BCC Steering committee members include the American Resort Development Association, Building Owners and Managers Association, Fox Corporation, Independent Film & Television Alliance, International Council of Shopping Centers, Motion Picture Association, NAIOP – Commercial Real Estate Development Association, Nareit, National Association of Realtors, National Restaurant Association, Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Real Estate Roundtable, and ViacomCBS.
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