WASHINGTON ― Congress is poised this week to extend prized “Section 3610” authorities ― which let federal agencies pay certain contractors even if they aren’t working ― as part of the government’s next pandemic relief package.

House Democrats are expected Tuesday to pass the final version of a $1.9 trillion package which contains the extension sought by trade groups and small businesses. Without the extension to Sept. 30, the authority would have expired March 31.

The Senate on Saturday voted 96-3 to approve the extension as an amendment from Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. It applies to Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

The National Defense Industrial Association, Aerospace Industries Association and the Professional Services Council were among groups that lobbied to extend 3610, arguing it was critical to the national security industrial base’s relience.

“With so much uncertainty around safe access to workplaces, now is not the time to let up on COVID-19 protections,” David Berteau, PSC’s president and chief executive, said Saturday in a statement. “If enacted, this extension will help the federal government continue to access the highly skilled, cleared and trusted contractor workforce needed to meet mission needs.”

The Defense Department spent about $18.3 million to reimburse contractors under 3610, well more than the six other agencies which were also covered as part of the authority, the Government Accountability Office reported in September.

Joe Gould is the Congress reporter for Defense News.

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