Washington, D.C.—President Donald Trump announced “unprecedented” action to address the coronavirus crisis that included a 30-day suspension of all travel from Europe to the United States and an economic package to provide relief to American businesses and workers impacted by the outbreak.
In a televised address from the White House, Trump said the travel suspension will begin at midnight on Friday, March 13.
“These prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval,” the president said.
“Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.”
Trump said Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings will be given exemptions.
Actions to help U.S. workers and businesses included deferred tax payments to certain individuals and businesses and low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration.
Trump also called on Congress to provide Americans with immediate payroll tax relief.
“Hopefully they will consider this very strongly,” the president said.
Trump also announced he soon will be taking emergency action to provide financial relief to workers who are ill, quarantined or caring for others due to the coronavirus.
“I will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend this relief,” he said.
In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded by saying Trump should “focus on fighting the spread of the coronavirus itself.”
“Alarmingly, the president did not say how the administration will address the lack of coronavirus testing kits throughout the United States,” the two congressional leaders said.
They called on lawmakers to support the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which includes “free coronavirus testing, paid emergency leave for workers, food security assistance, help to states overburended by Medicaid costs and strengthened Unemployment Insurance.”
Pelosi said that measure will move quickly in the House and then go on to the Senate.
Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, grabbed the attention of key Senate appropriators by calling for an expansion of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program to help restore nonfederal dams and levees by leveraging long-term loans and taking some of the burden off taxpayers.
“We also have a lot of levees that have been damaged on the Missouri (River). These are nonfederal levees that the poor towns don’t have enough money to be able to rebuild the levees,” Semonite told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.
“I think there’s a lot of merit in that.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the panel’s ranking member, wasted no time in embracing the general’s comments.
“I think that’s just great. I’ll send you flowers tomorrow. That’s wonderful. How do you suggest we proceed?” said Feinstein, who had raised the issue to ask for help on nonfederal dams in her state.
Semonite conceded the effort could become confusing, comparing it to the challenges faced on the private-public partnership (P3) process.
When pressed further by Feinstein, the general agreed to follow up on the matter in the two months he has left before leaving his post at the Corps.
“I’ll make something happen on this,” Semonite said.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) quickly expressed interest in working with Feinstein and Semonite on the effort, which also drew the attention of Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James also asked if he could be involved and attend any meetings on the matter.
James and Semonite were appearing before the panel to discuss the administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal for the Corps, and Alexander and Feinstein took turns telling the two men how inadequate the proposed budget was.
One day earlier, they heard similar comments when they appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies.
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), that subcommittee’s ranking member, expressed concern over the entire budget process that he said allows a handful of people at the Office of Management and Budget to override the judgment of hundreds of people who have been hired by the Corps specifically for their expertise.
“This is not a good situation. I believe Congress needs to do something about it,” Simpson said.
He also expressed concern the Corps’ 2020 work plan is not in compliance with the direction provided by Congress.
Marine Highway Grants
The Maritime Administration (MarAd) announced availability of $9.4 million in grants for America’s Marine Highway Program (AMHP), which is officially known as the Short Sea Transportation Program.
Applications must be received by MarAd by 5 p.m. April 10.
“Please be aware that you must complete the Grants.gov registration process before submitting your application, and that the registration process usually takes two to four weeks to complete,” MarAd stated in the Federal Register.
“Applicants are strongly encouraged to make submissions in advance of the deadline.”
In addition to announcing the funding, the notice also establishes selection criteria and application requirements for the program, which is to make grants available to previously designated Marine Highway Projects that support the development and expansion of documented vessels, or port and landside infrastructure.
For additional information, contact Fred Jones at 202-366-1123.
TWIC Reader Rule Delay
The Coast Guard announced a three-year delay for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) reader rule at facilities that handle certain dangerous cargoes while allowing the rule to move forward for large passenger vessel facilities and one specific large passenger vessel.
According to the announcement, the delay impacts three categories of facilities: those that handle certain dangerous cargoes in bulk, but do not transfer these cargoes to or from a vessel; those that handle certain dangerous cargoes in bulk, and do transfer these cargoes to or from a vessel; and those carrying certain dangerous cargoes in bulk, but do not, during that vessel-to-facility interface, transfer these bulk cargoes to or from those vessels.
Specifically, this rule will delay the implementation of the final rule entitled, ‘‘Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) – Reader Requirements’’ for 370 of the 525 affected Risk Group A facilities by three years, while the remaining 155 facilities (which are all facilities that receive large passenger vessels), as well as one vessel, will have to implement the final rule requirements within 30 days after the effective date of this rule.
This final rule takes effect May 8.
For additional information, contact Lt. Cmdr. Kevin McDonald at 202-372-1120.
Maritime Workforce Training
The Maritime Administration (MarAd) announced its new program designating eligible and qualified training entities as Centers of Excellence for Domestic Maritime Workforce Training and Education (CoE) and requested comments on that program.
Authorized by a 2018 law, CoE designations will serve to assist the maritime industry in obtaining and maintaining the highest quality workforce.
MarAd also announced its voluntary program to identify and recommend qualified training providers for CoE designation, and the policy is set to become effective once the Office of Management and Budget approves a current information collection control number.
For additional information, contact Nuns Jain at 757-322-5801.