Week in Review

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The CDC extends eviction moratorium in some communities, the Labor Department rescinds Trump-era joint employer rule, and more…

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IN THE NEWS

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new order to halt evictions until October 3, 2021, in counties with heightened levels of community transmission of COVID-19. CDC director Rochelle Walensky cited the recent surge in COVID-19 cases from the “highly transmissible” Delta variant as justification for the order. Walensky stated that “it is imperative that public health authorities act quickly to mitigate such an increase of evictions, which could increase the likelihood of new spikes” because “mass evictions and the attendant public health consequences would be very difficult to reverse.”
  • The Department of Labor announced a final rule rescinding a Trump Administration rule that established a four-step process to identify joint employers. A federal court struck down the Trump-era rule last year for unlawfully limiting the broad definition of joint employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Biden Administration noted that it will continue to assess policy issues related to joint employment “before determining whether alternative regulatory or subregulatory guidance is appropriate.”
  • The U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement agreement with Volusia County School District (VCS) in Florida after a complaint accused the district of excluding children with disabilities from school, disciplining students for behavior resulting from their disability, and using law enforcement to remove students with disabilities from school. The Justice Department alleged that VCS failed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s nondiscriminatory requirements and that VCS staff did not provide “necessary behavioral supports and lacked training on how to properly respond to students’ disability-related behavior.” The settlement agreement outlined policy changes to address VCS’s practices, including training staff on the nondiscriminatory requirements.
  • The U.S. House Committee on Financial Services approved a bill to replace the London Interbank Offering Rate (LIBOR), the base interest rate upon which the international financial system and financial contracts depend. The bill, introduced by U.S. Representative Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) as the Adjustable Interest Rate (LIBOR) Act of 2021, would create a process to replace LIBOR in contracts with a new interest rate determined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The Committee recommended the bill to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives making a final bill possible before LIBOR expires at the end of this calendar year.
  • The Bureau of Land Management announced its plans to review the potential environmental impact of oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The Trump Administration previously recommended permitting oil and gas leasing in certain areas of the Refuge. The Secretary of the Interior under the Biden Administration halted the oil and gas leasing program until the Bureau could “conduct a new, comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the oil and gas program” that would “address the identified legal deficiencies” of the current program. Kristen Miller, director of the Alaska Wilderness League, applauded the decision to conduct a new review and emphasized that “until those leases are canceled and the Arctic Refuge drilling mandate reversed, one of the wildest places left in America will remain under threat.”
  • A Chinese news outlet owned by the state-run Xinhua News Agency reportedly published a critique of online gaming and tech companies, calling video games “spiritual opium” and a form of “electronic drug.” The now-removed analysis called out one game titled “Honor of Kings” for allegedly getting children addicted to game play and exploiting them with in-game purchases. Following a 10 percent drop in its share price, the game’s developer Tencent announced limits on the hours of play for minors and a ban on in-game purchases for children under the age of 12. With recent crackdowns on private Chinese tech and education companies, Daniel Ives, a Wall Street analyst, reportedly called the indictment of video games a “shot across the bow.”

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK

  • In a Brookings Institution report, Carl Romer, Andre M. Perry, and Kristen Broady found that the end of the CDC’s eviction moratorium will trigger a housing crisis with the potential to “decimate entire neighborhoods,” particularly in Black communities. Romer, Perry, and Broady argued that the pandemic has “exacerbated historical racial inequities in housing security” in which Black residents are evicted at disproportionately high rates. Romer, Perry, and Broady recommended that policymakers pass right-to-counsel legislation for eviction-related disputes, increase the cost of eviction filings, expand funding for and resources towards rental assistance, build more affordable housing, and increase the minimum wage.
  • In a recent report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined how the Small Business Administration (SBA) has managed the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program during the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress allocated funds and eased borrowing requirements for the program to provide low-interest loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofits that were affected by the pandemic. Between March 2020 and May 2021, the SBA administered $230 billion in loans and grants through the program. GAO found, however, that the program is susceptible to fraud and providing funds to ineligible applicants. GAO also found that the SBA did not provide effective, consistent, or timely information to potential and actual applicants about processing times, loan limits, and their loan status. GAO recommended that the SBA develop a comprehensive strategy for communicating with applicants, conduct data analytics to detect ineligible and fraudulent applications, and implement a comprehensive risk oversight plan.
  • In a research letter published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, a team of researchers led by Rebecca Feldman Hamm of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania determined that a discrepancy in diagnosing anemia based on race could put pregnant women of color at risk of developing anemia at the time of birth. The guidelines for defining anemia differ for Black patients, who must have lower levels of hemoglobin—a measure that indicates a patient’s red blood cell and iron levels—than white patients to be considered anemic. Hamm and her coauthors found that the lower hemoglobin standard for Black patients prevented early intervention and treatment for Black women to avoid riskier outcomes leading up to birth. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists maintains the guidelines that contain the racially inconsistent definition of anemia, but Penn Medicine will now use the same hemoglobin level to diagnose anemia in its patients across racial categories. Hamm and her team recommended that other health care providers follow suit to reduce harm to and improve treatment for Black, pregnant women.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY

  • In an essay in The Regulatory Review professor Y. Tony Yang of George Washington University and Vasiliki Rahimzadeh, a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University, argued that numerous legal, ethical, and operational barriers make a digital vaccine passport system premature. Yang and Rahimzadeh noted that key components of a vaccine passport system would include patient data sharing, methods to verify vaccine records, and regulations that govern the processes for requesting proof of vaccination. Yang and Rahimzadeh cautioned that vaccine passports may pose privacy concerns and exacerbate “inequalities between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.” Yang and Rahimzadeh concluded that without rigorous evidence about vaccine effectiveness, vaccine passports may provide limited utility “especially if approved vaccines prove less protective against emerging variants.”