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What's Ahead in Washington

Stimulus Talks Remain at a Standstill
There’s little chance of agreement on a new federal coronavirus relief plan without a compromise on the roughly $1 trillion in aid to beleaguered state and local governments that Democrats demand and the White House opposes.
Democrats have offered to cut their original stimulus proposal totaling $3.5 trillion by roughly one third, but insist on keeping help for states, cities, and other municipalities. President Donald Trump’s negotiators, in addition to rejecting the Democrats’ topline number, have offered to put in no more than $150 billion for local assistance.
Negotiations are at a standstill heading into two weeks in which the Democratic Party then the Republican Party hold their respective presidential nominating conventions.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said yesterday the Senate is in recess and will not hold votes until Sept. 8 — although senators, like members of the House, can be called back on 24 hours’ notice if a stimulus deal has been made.
“I’m still hoping we’ll have some kind of bipartisan agreement here, sometime in the coming weeks,” McConnell said as he left the Senate floor.
From Fox News

President Signs Series of Executive Orders
With stimulus talks with Congress at an impasse, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders on Saturday to provide temporary relief to Americans who are suffering from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump signed four orders that will provide an additional $400 per week in unemployment benefits, suspend payments on some student loans through the end of the year, protect renters from being evicted from their homes, and instruct employers to defer certain payroll taxes through the end of the year for Americans who earn less than $100,000 annually.
More from USA Today

The House is not in session the week of August 17, 2020
The Senate is not in session the week of August 17, 2020.

The Senate will next return for business on Sept. 8 at 3 p.m.


Not to be missed

The Political Football of College Athletics
A prominent group of Senate Democrats — including the party’s vice presidential nominee, Kamala Harris — is backing a wholesale federal overhaul of America’s college sports industry as coronavirus concerns push 2020’s football season into chaos.
The Big Ten and Pac-12, two of college football’s five wealthiest and most powerful conferences, scrapped their fall seasons this week and imperiled tens of millions of dollars for their member schools. But the SEC, ACC and Big 12 are pressing ahead with plans to kick off in late September, with support from President Donald Trump and leading Republicans.
The Democratic outline of forthcoming legislation proposes paying student-athletes through revenue-sharing agreements with athletic associations, conferences and schools that make money off college sports.
Backed by the NCAA, major conferences and Florida schools. Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) bill would allow athletes some leeway to monetize their social media followers or sign endorsement deals, under the NCAA’s watch. More from Politico

Southwest not anticipating a profitable year
Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Gary Kelly said on Wednesday he does not expect the airline will be profitable in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, snapping a 47-year streak of posting consecutive full-year profits.
“As long as the case counts are high, I think that we have to expect that travel will be relatively modest,” Kelly said at a Texas Tribune event. “We’re continuing to see traffic and revenues down 75% versus a year ago today and to think that would recover to the point we would be profitable I just think is unrealistic.”
Southwest’s has cut its scheduled flights by about 35% to 40%, Kelly added. “The airlines are less full,” Kelly said, noting the airline was not booking middle seats. More from Reuters

NBB CEO Troubled By Dept of Energy Recommendation
The U.S. Department of Energy has indicated it’s recommending the EPA approve 58 small refiner gap waiver petitions presented this year. National Biodiesel Board CEO Donnell Rehagen says those waiver requests go as far back as nine years ago and if approved will create a lot of instability in the Renewable Fuel Standard.
He says 85 earlier approved SREs caused the loss of half a million gallons of biodiesel and now DOE is recommending to the EPA 86 more SREs. Read more from WNAX radio

Are Virtual Visits to the Doctor in our Post-Covid Future?
Virtual doctor’s visits in August were half of what they were during their April peak, a sign the pandemic might not be the turning point for virtual health without sweeping changes.
Telehealth visits are still more common now than they were pre-pandemic. The number of weekly virtual visits was 7% higher the first week of August than they were the first week of March when the pandemic began, new research from The Commonwealth Fund shows. But that’s half of the virtual visit peak in April when weekly telehealth visits were roughly 14% higher than they were pre-pandemic.
The Trump administration loosened some rules around telehealth in March, letting patients take appointments by phone from home. But permanent change for that requires congressional action.
Patients typically can’t be at home or in their car when they’re having a virtual doctor visit, “and that’s the antithesis of when we think about telehealth services and the ability to get care when you need it,” Jacob Harper, a Morgan Lewis attorney based in Washington D.C., said. “It leads to situations that no one uses it because you already have to be at the doctor’s office,” he said.
From Bloomberg reports
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