COVID-19 Relief Negotiations:
As Congress avoided a government shutdown last week, passing a one-week continuing resolution government funding bill that kicked the deadline to 12/18, the legislative hopes of several issues are riding on a funding negotiations breakthrough, none more important than COVID-19 relief.
Bipartisan congressional negotiators announced today that they have struck a compromise on a $908 billion COVID-19 relief package that will be broken up into two separate bills. The announcement of the dual bill nicknamed “908”, comes after weeks of negotiations between House and Senate Democrats.
The first bill, is a $748 billion package that includes less-controversial policies such as new unemployment benefits and additional small business funding through the Paycheck Protection Program. The second bill would seek to deal with the divisive issues surrounding COVID relief through a roughly $160 billion package that would include liability protection for businesses and state and local funding to combat the virus. This second bill is expected to need more time to be negotiated.
The recent breakthrough is not a guarantee that the bill will become law, as Democratic and Republican leadership have not cosigned the agreement. The expected vehicle for COVID-19 relief also has yet to be finalized, with appropriators haggling over an omnibus appropriations package to avoid a new shutdown deadline this week.
A reminder that ABC continues to push Congress and the administration to include key priorities for the construction industry in the deal highlighted in ABC’s letter to House and Senate leadership, a letter from a coalition of dozens of business organizations supporting additional efforts to include tax deductibility of Paycheck Protection Program loans in any year-end legislation, and a letter with national organizations and state affiliates addressing PPP tax deductibility issue as well. ABC has also been pushing action alerts on the PPP deductibility issue.
Reach out to your Representatives and Senators to urge their support for ABC’s priority issues in a COVID-19 relief package by taking action here: ABC COVID Relief Priorities Action Alert.
U.S. Begins COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution:
The first shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are out for delivery, with 189 packages leaving the Pfizer facility in Michigan today. The vaccine is expected to arrive at 145 locations across the U.S. today with another 400 boxes expected to be delivered tomorrow.
This welcome development comes as Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said in an interview Sunday that he expects the U.S. to have the capacity to vaccinate 20 million people in December, 50 million by the end of January, and 100 million by the end of February. Azar also indicated even more people could be vaccinated by then if the FDA approves the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. The CDC Advisory Panel on Immunization Practices will meet Thursday to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the Moderna vaccine.
The CDC has created a COVID-19 vaccine website with FAQs and more information on the vaccines, which can be accessed here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html
ICYMI - SBA Releases New FAQ on PPP Loan Necessity Questionnaire:
On December 9, 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) published FAQ Number 53, addressing why certain borrowers will receive Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Necessity Questionnaires. (See our prior alert on the questionnaires here.) The SBA also publicly released the for-profit and nonprofit questionnaires.
FAQ Number 53 confirms information that appears on the face of the questionnaires:
- SBA is reviewing all loans of $2 million or more, and the questionnaire is part of this process.
- The questionnaire is due 10 business days after a borrower receives it from their lender.
- "A request to complete the Loan Necessity Questionnaire does not mean that SBA is challenging a borrower's certification that is required by the CARES Act."
- The SBA will be applying a "totality of the circumstances test" and conducting a "multi-factor analysis" of the questionnaire responses.
FAQ 53 also provides additional context about the SBA's expectations for the review process:
- SBA notes that it is possible for a borrower to have made its economic need certification in good faith at the time of application, "even if subsequent developments resulted in the loan no longer being necessary." However, SBA "may take into account the borrower's circumstances and actions both before and after the borrower's certification to the extent that doing so will assist SBA in determining whether the borrower made the statutorily required certification in good faith at the time of its loan application."
- The SBA expects that it will request additional information, when necessary. If additional information is requested, "borrowers will have an opportunity to provide a narrative response to SBA explaining the circumstances that provided the basis for their good-faith loan necessity certification." (See our prior alert on preparing an economic need narrative here.)
- It appears that the SBA will make a final determination that a borrower did not have the requisite economic need only after giving the borrower an opportunity to submit additional information. FAQ 53 states: "SBA will make a final determination that a borrower lacked an adequate basis for its loan necessity certification after reviewing any additional information that a borrower chooses to submit."
ABC joined a coalition of 80 organizations in letters to Congressional Leadership and SBA/Treasury regarding the PPP Loan Necessity Questionnaires. At issue are "loan necessity" questionnaires that the Small Business Administration quietly circulated in recent weeks to obtain information from businesses that took Paycheck Protection Program loans worth $2 million or more. The nine-page forms, which the SBA issued with little public explanation, sought details from borrowers beyond what they provided in initial loan applications, including information on quarterly revenue, capital expenditures, dividend payments and whether any employees earned more than $250,000.
ABC will continue to monitor this critical issue and provide updates on any Congressional or Administration responses.
Biden Clinches Electoral College Victory:
Today, President-elect Joe Biden received enough electoral votes to formally clinch the presidency, as the 538 electors who make up the Electoral College met throughout the day in their respective states and the District of Columbia. This is the next major step in the Electoral College process to affirm the 2020 presidential general election results. Electors are required by law to vote for president and vice president on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, which this year is today.
The next important date on the calendar leading to the inauguration of the new president is Jan. 6, when Congress meets in joint session to formally accept the Electoral College results.
Congress Passes NDAA Despite Trump Veto Threat:
On Friday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved this year's defense policy legislation, setting up a confrontation with President Donald Trump after he threatened to veto the bill. Senators approved the National Defense Authorization Act by a wide 84-13 margin, well beyond the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. The House previously passed the legislation with a veto proof majority as well. However, President Trump has maintained his stance that he will veto the bill – although he has until December 23rd to do so.
Critical to ABC members, the bill contains a provision which would require nearly all businesses with 20 or fewer employees to register their “beneficial owners” with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network within two to three years of enactment and update that information regularly for the life of the business.
TOMORROW - Webinar on Potential Tax Proposals from the Biden Administration:
Tomorrow from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM EST, ABC, in collaboration with the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA), will be providing an overview of tax proposals expected from the incoming Biden Administration and the impact they could have on the nation’s construction businesses and contractors. The Biden plan intends to increase income and payroll taxes on high-income individuals (over $400,000) and raise income taxes on corporations (including a new minimum tax). This webinar qualifies for continuing professional education (CPE) credits for participants.
Click to register for the webinar.
THURSDAY - Frank Luntz Messaging Webinar on Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements:
Join renowned communications professional, author, political pollster and pundit Dr. Frank Luntz as he premieres research and messaging related to ABC’s fight for fair and open competition against government-mandated project labor agreements. A must-attend ABC members-only webinar for advocates of fair and open competition, participants will receive an overview of messaging and strategies ABC members, volunteer leaders and chapter staff can utilize to become effective advocates for the merit shop contracting community in our continued fight for fair and open competition on federal, state and local government procured public works contracting opportunities.
Register for the webinar at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 17, here: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/810690125698530828