AIPI COVID-19 Update March 21, 2020

Three Ways the Federal Administration is Responding to the COVID-19 Outbreak

The federal administration is responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, in part, by giving Americans more time to file and pay taxes, challenging broadband industry providers to reduce barriers to access where possible, and increasing regulatory flexibility for federal grant recipients affected by the outbreak. Details below. 

IRS Delaying Payments and Filing Dates

Tax Day has been moved back three months to July 15, 2020. The IRS previously announced that it would defer income tax payments until July 15, but initially left the filing deadline at April 15. The Secretary of the Treasury announced yesterday that the IRS will delay the income tax filing and payment deadline in response to the coronavirus. 

Keep Americans Connected Pledge

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai asked broadband service providers to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge in order to ensure that Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of  serious disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The pledge reads as follows:

Given the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society, [[Company Name]] pledges for the next 60 days to:

  1. not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;

  2. waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and

  3. open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

Dozens of providers have taken this pledge, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. 

In a related effort, National Digital Inclusion Alliance has compiled a list of current offers from ISPs that will help low-income households to acquire service at low or no cost. Most have eligibility limitations linked to income or program enrollment. The list also includes established, nationally available low-cost plans offered by nonprofit organizations. Other providers’ plans will be added as they learn of them. 

OMB Issues Guidance to Grant-Issuing Agencies to Allow Flexibility for Affected Grantees

On March 9, 2020, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum (M-20-11) to the heads of executive departments and agencies, providing agencies with additional flexibilities for grants assisting the response to COVID-19. 

On March 19, 2020, OMB issued a follow-up memorandum (M-20-17). This memorandum provides similar administrative relief listed in M-20-11 to an expanded scope of recipients affected by the loss of operational capacity and increased costs due to the COVID-19 crisis. This memorandum provides short term relief for administrative, financial management, and audit requirements under 2 CFR Part 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. The memo lists 13 allowable actions: “Administrative Relief Exceptions for COVID-19 Crisis.” 

Many of the authorized actions (see the full list at the link above) have to do with deadline extensions, allowability of abnormal processes, limited exemptions, and various administrative flexibilities. However, awarding agencies are required to maintain records on the level of particular exceptions provided to recipients. The relief does not compromise Federal financial assistance accountability requirements. Federal awarding agencies are authorized to take such actions, as they deem appropriate and to the extent permitted by law, with respect to the administrative provisions that apply to grantees affected by the COVID-19 (for both recipients with COVID-19 related grants and other types of Federal grants).