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March 12, 2020Client Alert

Michael Best Strategies Coronavirus Alert – Latest Federal Updates on COVID-19

Alert Roadmap

  1. Congress Shuts Down Access Until April 1; Senate Cancels Recess
  2. President Bans EU Travelers; Offers Tax and Business Boosts to Those Affected
  3. Important COVID-19 Links and Updates

Congress Shuts Down Access Until April 1st; Senate Cancels Recess

The Sergeants at Arms of the U.S. House and Senate released a joint statement significantly limiting public access to the Capitol, as well as all House and Senate Office Buildings.

Numerous Members of Congress have taken individual actions to respond to and minimize the risks that the coronavirus pandemic is bringing to the regular business of the federal government. Aside from the number of elected officials currently self-quarantining, an increasing number of offices have preemptively closed and instructed staffers to work from home.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced today that the Senate will delay its recess scheduled for next week to continue work on an economic relief package dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. “Notwithstanding the scheduled state work period, the Senate will be in session next week,” the GOP leader tweeted. “I am glad talks are ongoing between the Administration and Speaker Pelosi. I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong.”

On the House side, leadership has not made an announcement about that chamber’s schedule. The lower chamber is scheduled to be on recess as well next week, but with events changing so quickly and the coronavirus pandemic taking over the news, changes might be inevitable. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is racing to clinch a deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the sweeping aid package.

President Bans EU Travelers; Offers Tax and Business Boosts to Those Affected

Presidential Proclamation on Foreign National Entry: President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Proclamation, which suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States. These countries, known as the Schengen Area, include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. This does not apply to legal permanent residents, (generally) immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.  

  • President Trump is issuing a proclamation under section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to restrict travel to the United States from foreign nationals who have recently been in certain European countries.
  • Section 212(f) of the INA only applies to the movement of human beings, not goods or cargo.
  • The restriction applies to foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen Area, 26 countries in Europe with open borders agreements, in the last 14 days. 
  • Those who are exempt from these restrictions, such as American citizens, will be directed to a limited number of airports where screening can take place.
  • There is extensive travel back and forth between Europe that heightens the risk here in the United States. 

Statement from DHS Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf: “Protecting the American people from threats to their safety is the most important job of the President of the United States. The actions President Trump is taking to deny entry to foreign nationals who have been in affected areas will keep Americans safe and save American lives. I applaud the president for making this tough but necessary decision. While these new travel restrictions will be disruptive to some travelers, this decisive action is needed to protect the American public from further exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus.In January and February, the Administration issued similar travel restrictions on individuals who had been in China and Iran. That action proved to be effective in slowing the spread of the virus to the U.S., while public health officials prepared. In the next 48 hours, in the interest of public health, I intend to issue a supplemental Notice of Arrivals Restriction requiring U.S. passengers that have been in the Schengen Area to travel through select airports where the U.S. Government has implemented enhanced screening procedures.”

Economic Assistance for Impacted Businesses and Individuals:

  • The President is announcing an economic assistance package to help support businesses and workers who have been harmed by this outbreak. 
  • President Trump has instructed the Small Business Administration (SBA) to exercise available authority to provide loans to businesses affected by the coronavirus.
  • These loans will help overcome disruptions caused by the coronavirus. 
  • The President is calling on Congress to increase funding for this program by an additional $50 billion.
  • The President will be instructing the Department of the Treasury to defer tax payments for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted by the coronavirus.  
  • This action will provide more than $200 billion of additional liquidity to the economy.
  • President Trump is calling on Congress to immediately pass payroll tax relief. 
  • The President announced that he will soon be taking emergency action to provide financial relief for workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others due to the coronavirus.
  • The President also called on Congress to take action to extend this relief for workers.

Important COVID-19 Links and Updates

For background and the most up-to-date information, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus Disease 2019 website: HERE

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