Negotiations continue on next COVID-19 bill

August 27, 2020

In a sign of continued interest in exploring a path towards a COVID deal, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows visited the Capitol on Saturday, reportedly to meet with members to build support for a “skinny bill.”  Meadows also attempted to have an impromptu meeting with Speaker Pelosi. However, she was unavailable and later reiterated to the press that Democrats would be ready to talk when the White House is willing to increase its topline funding level.

A leaked version of an updated draft by Senate Republicans and circulated last week reflects Leader McConnell’s desire to unify his conference around a set of policy priorities. The draft includes $10 billion for covered loans through community financial institutions, small insured depository institutions, credit unions, and the farm credit system institutions. The bill also authorizes a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program loans with changes to eligibility requirements favorable to farmers.

While the bill does include funding for loans, support for agriculture was largely excluded. With 14 million acres devastated after a derecho tore through the Midwest and low prices in the South, farmers need that support more than ever. The bill mostly fails to recognize the serious damage experienced by farmers, and stakeholders hope the formal draft includes more support for agriculture.

As the end of the fiscal year nears, leaders will need to come to an agreement in early September on the next COVID-19 bill and then later in the month pass a continuing resolution (CR) before the fiscal year 2020 funding runs out on September 30. Another option is to combine the CR and COVID-19 bill into one large package and pass it later in September. If a CR is not passed by September 30, the government will shut down.