NJCA continues to conduct outreach to key members in the House and Senate to advocate on behalf of Job Corps priorities for the COVID-19 Phase 4 relief package.
Before the August recess, Secretary Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Speaker Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) met regularly for several weeks to negotiate the next relief deal. However, little progress was made and members of Congress left for recess with negotiations at a standstill. Major holdups included the total price tag, as well as the $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit, federal funding for state and local governments, and liability protections.
Last week, Senate Republicans unveiled and voted on a “skinny” relief package, which failed to achieve 60 votes for advancement following a roll call vote of 52-47. This smaller package included a scaled-back $300 expanded unemployment benefit, loan forgiveness for the Postal Service, liability protections, the second round of PPP loans, national stockpile improvements, funding for education and childcare support, and funding for testing, contact tracing, and vaccine development and distribution. Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer quickly opposed the measure following its release.
As a result, pessimism over Congressional passage of a relief package before the November election is steadily growing. Secretary Mnuchin, who has been at the center of negotiations, recently said that the focus is now on preventing a government shutdown at the end of this month. Nevertheless, the possibility that Speaker Pelosi and the Administration can come to an agreement on a relief package before the election remains, however remote it may be.
FY2021 Appropriations Update
With the end of the fiscal year quickly approaching (September 30, 2020), House and Senate leaders are on a path to soon enact a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government past the November election. The path for a clean CR was set last week when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) came to an informal agreement to pursue a short-term measure to avert a government shutdown on its own, rather than coupling it with a new COVID-19 relief package. While it remains to be seen what the duration of the CR will be, and what else it may carry (surface transportation and flood insurance authorizations expire on September 30, as well) the prevailing thought is that it will fund the government into December. There remains some chatter that Democrats may prefer a longer extension of funding, however, several Republicans including Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) have publicly voiced support for a short-term bill through December. The current hope is that a CR will pass by September 25, 2020.
As a reminder, in July the House completed consideration of 10 out of 12 spending bills in the form of two “minibuses” (H.R. 7608 and H.R. 7617), with the Legislative Branch and Homeland Security bills ultimately being pulled for a variety of political factors. In the Senate, appropriators have yet to conduct any Committee markups for FY 2021. It is rumored that Chairman Shelby may release drafts of Senate appropriations measures sometime this fall to act as the chamber’s bargaining position for negotiations on a longer-term funding measure that may be considered in the lame-duck period following the November election.