COVID-19 Oversight

Subcommittee on Security

COVID-19 Legislative Action:

CARES Act:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law on March 27, 2020.  This legislation provided relief to various sectors and agencies directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. 

  • Coast Guard Information Technology (IT) Funding. The Coast Guard received $141 million improve their IT systems and infrastructure as required immediately in response to the COVID-19 crisis. 
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) funding.  TSA received $100 million in funding for janitorial operations and other costs related to maintaining operations during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • REAL ID Implementation Extension.  In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the deadline for REAL ID implementation was extended to October 1, 2021.  

COVID-19 Oversight Letters:

REAL ID Implementation after COVID-19.  On April 20, 2020, Chairman Wicker sent a letter to aviation, security, and travel sector stakeholders to inquire about challenges in meeting the new October 1, 2021, REAL ID implementation deadline and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on implementing the REAL ID Act.  Below are responses from stakeholders.

  • Response from American Association of Airport Executives
  • Response from American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
  • Response from National Governors Association
  • Response from US Travel Association
  • Letter from National Council of State Legislatures

TSA Budget and Response to COVID-19.  On May 11, 2020, Chairman Wicker a letter to transportation and travel sector stakeholders requesting feedback regarding President Donald Trump’s budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, the CARES Act, and other legislation impacting TSA operations and programs in light of the COVID-19 crisis.  Below are responses from stakeholders. 

  • Response from Airlines for America
  • Response from Airports Council International North America
  • Response from American Association of Airport Executives
  • Response from Security Manufacturers Coalition
  • Response from Surface Transportation Security Advisory Committee
  • Response from US Travel Association

Subcommittee on Aviation and Space

COVID-19 Legislative Action:

CARES Act:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law on March 27, 2020.  This legislation provided relief to various sectors and industries directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. 

  • Department of Treasury Exchange Stabilization Fund.  The CARES Act provided $500 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and other investments to passenger and cargo air carriers, aviation maintenance and repair operators, ticket agents, and businesses important to maintaining national security, among others.  Lending facilities established under this fund provide necessary liquidity to aviation stakeholders and the economy as a whole.
  • Payroll Support Program.  Chairman Wicker led the development of the Payroll Support Program (PSP) established by the CARES Act, which provided payroll assistance to the airline industry to be used exclusively on employee wages, salaries, and benefits.  According to the Department of the Treasury, this popular program has distributed over $25 billion in funds to air carriers and contractors to ensure economic stability for thousands of employees.
  • Airline Industry Tax Holiday.  The CARES Act also provided a tax holiday for airline passengers and the industry through the end of the calendar year.
  • Airport Economic Relief.  The CARES Act included $10 billion in funds awarded as economic relief to all commercial service and reliever airports, as well as some publicly-owned general aviation airports.
  • Airport Improvement Project (AIP) Federal Share Adjustment.  Airport projects funded by AIP and supplementary discretionary grants in fiscal year 2019 received a 100 percent federal share due to the CARES Act, instead of the typical requirement for recipients to contribute a matching percentage of project costs.
  • Continuity of Pay for NASA Contractors.  The CARES Act ensured that National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) contractors receive pay while they are unable to be physically present and working at NASA facilities closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This provision protected employees from being furloughed and ensured that ongoing NASA projects could be maintained.

COVID-19 Hearings:

“The State of the Aviation Industry: Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.”  
On May 6, 2020, the Committee convened a full committee hearing for key aviation stakeholders to update members on the current status of the aviation industry and address issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Witnesses discussed operational challenges related to the pandemic and policy proposals to ensure stability in the industry.

COVID-19 Oversight Letters:

CARES Act Implementation for the Air Transportation Industry.  On May 11, 2020, Chairman Wicker and Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman Mike Crapo sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin requesting information on the implementation of CARES Act assistance for the air transportation industry.

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Space Industry.  On May 4, 2020, Chairman Wicker sent letters to stakeholders in the space industry soliciting firsthand insights and experiences in responding to and learning from COVID-19.  Below are responses from stakeholders.

  • Response from Aerospace Industries Association (AIA)
  • Response from Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF)
  • Response from Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (CDSE)
  • Response from Universities Space Research Association (USRA)

Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety

COVID-19 Legislative Action:

CARES Act:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law on March 27, 2020.  This legislation provided relief to various sectors and industries directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. 

  • Highway Safety Waiver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was authorized to waive or postpone certain highway safety grant program requirements in response to the COVID-19.  On April 9, 2020, NHTSA issued a notice pursuant to the CARES Act. 
  • Amtrak Relief.  In addition to the broader financial relief programs, the CARES Act provided approximately $1 billion from general funds to Amtrak to respond to COVID-19.  Of this, $492 million was for the Northeast Corridor and $526 million was for the National Network.
  • Broader Relief.  Among other programs, the CARES Act established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to provide funds to help pay for payroll costs.  According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, as of April 16, 2020, PPP has provided about $10.6 billion in loans to the transportation and warehousing industry sector, representing 3.1 percent of the total amount of loans provided under PPP.  

COVID-19 Related Introduced Legislation:  

  • S. 3729, the Motor Carrier Safety Grant Relief Act of 2020.  Introduced by Senators, Wicker, Cantwell, Fisher, Duckworth, and Thune, this legislation would provide states additional time and flexibility to use and redistribute FMCSA grant awards, which states rely on to support key commercial motor vehicle programs. S.3729 was reported favorably out of Committee on May 20, 2020. 
  • S. 3728, the Critical Infrastructure Employees Protection Act.  Introduced by Senators Wicker, Cantwell, Sullivan, and Young, this legislation would direct the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to adopt the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) definition of critical infrastructure employee in carrying out COVID-19 response efforts. S. 3728 also would direct DOT to coordinate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support efforts of state and local agencies to provide for priority testing and priority access to PPE for critical infrastructure employees.

COVID-19 Hearings:

The State of Transportation and Critical Infrastructure: Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic. On June 3, 2020, the Committee convened a full committee hearing to examine the impact of COVID-19 on surface transportation and the supply chain. Witnesses discussed how the surface transportation stakeholders have responded to the pandemic and how they have continued to provide critical services during the COVID-19 outbreak.

COVID-19 Oversight Letters:

Freight Movement and Supply Chain Fluidity During COVID-19.  On May 4, 2020, Chairman Wicker sent a letter to the surface transportation sector soliciting firsthand insights and experiences in responding to and learning from COVID-19.  Below are responses from stakeholders.

Auto Innovation to Respond to COVID-19.  On May 12, 2020, Chairman Wicker and House Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Walden sent a letter to the automotive sector commending their use of using innovative technologies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The letter requested stakeholders’ plans to assist in recovering from the pandemic, including ways that new innovations are being used in response.  Below are responses from stakeholders. 

  • Response from Alliance for Automotive Innovation
  • Response from Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association
  • Response from National Automobile Dealers Association
  • Response from Consumer Technology Association
  • Response from U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center

Passenger Transportation COVID-19 Impacts and Recovery. On May 20, 2020, Chairman Wicker sent a letter to Amtrak, bus drivers, Uber drivers, and other vital transportation services to consider the impacts of COVID-19 on the passenger transportation network.  The letter requested various stakeholders’ expectations for recovery, protections implemented for employees and the public, and the effects of the CARES Act.  Below are the responses from stakeholders:

  • Response from the Transportation Alliance
  • Response from Amtrak
  • Response from United Motorcoach Association
  • Response from American Bus Association
  • Response from American Car Rental Association
  • Response from Chamber Technology Engagement Center

Amtrak Long Distance Routes.  On June 25, 2020, Chairman Wicker, Senator Moran, Senator Gardner, Senator Capito, and Senator Johnson sent a letter to Amtrak requesting more information on its changes to frequencies on long-distance routes.

Subcommittee on Science, Oceans, Fisheries, and Weather

COVID-19 Legislative Action:

CARES Act:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law on March 27, 2020.  This legislation provided relief to various sectors and industries directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. 

  • Cost share waiver. The CARES Act included a cost share waiver for the Manufacturing Extension Program.  The cost share waiver will allow the program to continue its critical support of small and medium-sized manufacturers.

COVID-19 Related Introduced Legislation:   

  • S. 3704, the Advanced Technological Manufacturing Act. Introduced by Senator Wicker and Senator Cantwell, this legislation would promote a post-pandemic economic recovery by developing a workforce prepared to fill roles in advanced technological sectors.

COVID-19 Oversight Letters:

  •  Critical weather observations during COVID-19.  On April 24, 2020, Chairman Wicker sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the potential gaps in critical observations during COVID-19 due to NOAA’s stand down of its ship and aircraft fleet.  The letter requested NOAA to provide its plans on how it will provide critical observations, such as its hurricane reconnaissance flights, during COVID-19.  It also requests NOAA to explore whether observations from unmanned maritime systems could help supplement gaps in data.
  • Hazardous Weather Communication during COVID-19. On May 11, 2020, Chairman Wicker sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the added difficulty of issuing hazardous weather watches and warnings during COVID-19.  The letter requested NOAA work with federal, state, and local agencies in order to provide clear, consistent, and actionable information during times of severe weather.

Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet

COVID-19 Legislative Action:

CARES Act:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law on March 27, 2020.  This legislation provided relief to various sectors and industries directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. 

  • Federal Communications Commission’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program. The FCC was provided $200 million to help health care providers offer connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The Program provides immediate support to eligible health care providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by fully funding their telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to provide critical connected care services until the program’s funds have been expended or the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.
  • Department of Education Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. The Department of Education was provided $13 billion in grants that elementary and secondary schools can use for purposes that include remote learning. Funding can be used to purchase educational technology, including hardware, software, and connectivity.
  • Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. The CARES Act made approximately $3 billion available in emergency block grants to governors to meet the needs of students, which includes funds to support remote learning techniques and technologies.  

COVID-19 Hearings:

The State of Broadband Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. On May 13, 2020, the Committee convened a hearing that examined the ongoing initiatives led by the Federal Communications Commission to maintain and expand high-speed and reliable broadband connections to all Americans during this national public health emergency. The hearing also examined the impact of funds provided through the CARES Act to support broadband initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels, and legislative proposals focused on addressing the digital divide during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

 

Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection

COVID-19 Hearings:

Enlisting Big Data in the Fight Against Coronavirus. On April 9, 2020, the committee and witnesses submitted written statements, questions, and answers to examine recent uses of aggregate and anonymized consumer data to identify potential hotspots of coronavirus transmission and to help accelerate the development of treatments. The committee also examined how consumers’ privacy rights are being protected and what the U.S. government plans to do with COVID-related data collected at the end of this national emergency. 

COVID-19 Related Introduced Legislation:

S. 3663, the COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act of 2020.  Introduced by Senators Wicker, Thune, Moran, Blackburn, and Fischer, this legislation would establish data privacy and security protections for all consumers that is used by technology companies and others to track the spread, signs, or symptoms of COVID-19; measure compliance with social distancing guidelines or other requirements related to COVID-19 that are imposed on individuals under Federal, State, or local government order; or conduct contact tracing.