Congress Passes and White House Signs Bill Avoiding Government Shutdown
Congress and the White House avoided a potential government shutdown this week, passing and enacting a Continuing Resolution (CR) (H.R. 8337) through December 11. A CR was necessary since the House and Senate were unable to pass fiscal year 2021 spending bills ahead of October 1, when the new fiscal year began. House and Senate appropriators now have approximately two months to hammer out a deal and pass fiscal year 2021 spending bills after Members return from the October recess on November 16. If the House and Senate are unable to finalize spending bills ahead of the December 11 deadline, Congress would likely pass a second CR through February or March of next year, a year-long CR that maintains funding at fiscal year 2020 levels through September of next year, or an omnibus spending bill.
COVID Relief Deal Remains Elusive
Following the collapse of pandemic assistance negotiations between House Democrats and the White House, the House passed The HEROES Act last week by a vote of 214-207. The pared-back $2.2 trillion HEROES Act would provide another round of $1,200 stimulus assistance to taxpayers, restoration of the $600 supplemental unemployment benefit through January 2021, $436 billion in assistance for state, local, and tribal governments, and $75 billion for COVID-19 testing, tracing, and isolation measures. The bill also provides $1.5 billion to support grants to assist water and wastewater utilities to offset ratepayer revenue losses from the pandemic. To be eligible to receive grants, water and wastewater agencies would need to conduct outreach activities to ensure households are aware of assistance, charge such households not more than the amount of services offset by the received assistance, and notify a household of such assistance within 45 days of providing such assistance. A state would be required to enter into a written agreement with the utility to assist in identifying eligible households to carry out the provisions of assistance. As a condition to accept the assistance, the continuation of services would be required to be maintained during the period of the health emergency. This would include no fees for late-payments of bills applicable to the period of the emergency.
While relief talks again reached an impasse, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) held out hope that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will return to the table to continue negotiations in light of the news of growing infections across the nation and in the White House and the growing number of layoffs and furloughs.