Congress, States Struggle to Deal with Coronavirus

Senate lawmakers cancelled a planned recess and will instead remain at work in Washington, D.C., this week, where they will take up a bill passed by the House of Representatives last week that seeks to provide immediate economic relief from the effects of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. 

The House voted overwhelmingly, 363-40, to approve the measure, for which President Donald Trump had signaled support. The Wall Street Journal reported: “The new measure would still provide two weeks of sick leave to a wide swath of workers affected by the pandemic, including those who are in quarantine, caring for family members with Covid-19, and those who have children whose schools or day-care centers have closed.” The bill would also make free testing for the coronavirus available.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said lawmakers will soon “get to work on a third emergency response package that will take further effective action that protects the health, economic security and well-being of the American people.”

Lawmakers passed and President Trump signed an $8.3 billion aid measure on March 6. The president also declared a national state of emergency last week because of the virus. That action will make billions of dollars available for states and local governments to use to fight the disease.

Meanwhile, states expect that the outbreak will to lead to an economic slowdown that greatly reduces tax revenues. “It’s going to have implications. The question is, how much, how deep, how long?” Eric Kim, senior director of public finance with Fitch Ratings, told Roll Call. “It is an incredibly fluid situation. Things are developing really quickly and happening really quickly.” 

Elsewhere, Canada’s Parliament will be suspended for the next five weeks, as that country takes steps to deal with the spread of the virus. Before the recess, the country’s Senate passed a bill to implement the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), a NAIOP legislative priority. The U.S. and Mexico have already ratified USMCA, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said it will take effect June 1.