Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have introduced a bill to extend a provision allowing companies to submit COVID-related claims for reimbursement through the end of fiscal year 2021, rather than its current March 31 deadline.

“The provision allows a critical lifeline for federal agencies to maintain contractors who would otherwise be at risk for layoff or furlough due to the pandemic,” Warner and Rubio, the leaders of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a letter to congressional leadership.

Low angled view of the U.S. Capitol East Facade Front in Washington, DC.

 A group of 10 trade associations also sent a letter Thursday to congressional leadership urging consideration of the bill, calling Section 3610 authority from the CARES Act a critical piece to helping cover the defense and national security industrial base’s efforts to keep workers employed as the effects of the pandemic continue through the year.

“We urge you to extend this critical support provision that allows federal agencies to best manage their total workforce during this ongoing pandemic,” the groups wrote in the letter. “This authority continues to be used by many federal agencies to maintain the capabilities and workforce necessary to meet mission needs and protect our national security and other vital programs.”

The letter was signed by the American Council of Engineering Companies, the Aerospace Industries Association, Associated General Contractors of America, The Center for Procurement Advocacy, the Computing Technology Industry Association, the Information Technology Industry Council, the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the National Defense Industrial Association, Professional Services Council and Security Industry Association.

Professional Services Council (PSC) officials, in a separate statement, said the “contracting community would face significant disruption if 3610 expires.”

“It is crucial that the Congress act to extend this vital provision without a lapse to ensure that federal agencies have the flexibility to retain the contractor workforce necessary to meet their mission needs,” David Berteau, president and CEO of PSC, said in a statement. “The expiration date is fast approaching, and now is not the time to let up on COVID-19 protections while there is still much uncertainty around safe access to workplaces.

The bill, according to the group’s letter, would not require additional appropriations, while the Pentagon has continued to urge Congress for nearly $11 billion in supplemental funding to help cover the defense industry’s COVID-related costs (Defense Daily, Feb. 25).

Senior Pentagon officials told the Senate Armed Services Committee in recent written testimony the department has only reimbursed $50 million to 84 companies to date, and said without appropriated funding that readiness and modernization efforts could be impacted.