Federal contractors would get leniency for missing deliverables because of their COVID-19 response plans, and prime contractors would be in line for quicker payments, under a Democratic Party-authored relief bill that debuted Tuesday in the House of Representatives – and was flatly rejected by the Senate’s Republican leadership.
The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, H.R. 6800, would also clarify that contractors are allowed to bill the government, under the previous COVID-19 assistance legislation signed into law in March, not only for the salaries of people who could not work during the disese response, but for expenses associated with keeping employees and subcontractors “in a ready state.”
Minutes after the legislation dropped, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the GOP-led upper chamber would not take it up, or even negotiate with the Democrats who control the House, unless the Trump administration decides it wants another big stimulus bill.
In the meantime, McConnell said, the Senate wants to work on “narrowly crafted” bills going forward, the first of which should include liability protection for businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate had not released the text of that bill at deadline Tuesday.
In a five-minute video broadcast Tuesday on Facebook, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the Senate GOP was wrong to “pause” further relief funding to assess the economic effect of the enormous spending bills already signed into law. Pelosi argued that COVID-19, which has killed more than 80,000 people in the U.S., would only kill more people, without the funds provided by the $3-trillion House bill.
Should the House bill become law, federal contractors would be protected from getting black marks on their permanent records if any COVID-19 precautions they take causes them to miss deliverables to their federal customers. The HEROES Act would prohibit such missed deliverables from being “included in the any past performance database,” and block agencies from grading contractors down in future contract competitions because of such missed deliverables.
The House measure also would also require the government to accelerate payments to agency prime contractors for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, as defined by the federal government. Under this provision, payments would be due to contractors “15 days after the receipt of a proper invoice,” according to the bill.
The bill would also make telework mandatory through Dec. 31, 2020, for any federal civil servant already authorized to telework because of COVID-19.
Likewise, the bill would require agencies to authorize contractor telework “to the maximum extent practicable.” Many contractors have already taken that step. Where contractors cannot telework, contracting officers would have to document “any decision to not allow telework” in the period spanning from 15 days after the bill passes to the end of the pandemic.