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From monthly archives: August 2020

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Meadows Talks Negotiations, Small Business Survey on COVID, OK-5 Primary, & PPP Additional Guidance

President’s Chief of Staff Talks Next Step on COVID-19 Negotiations:

 

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, in an interview this morning talked about the pending negotiations with Speaker Pelosi and Democrats over a COVID relief package. In the interview, Meadows states that his staff has recently reached out to Pelosi's office but haven’t heard back, further stating that he thinks "the speaker is going to hold out until the end of September and try to get what she wants in the funding for the government during the [continuing resolution] or whatever funding mechanism happens to come up at the end of September.” Meadows also said he and the president don’t want a government shutdown, and that the White House is looking at additional executive actions, particularly for airline relief.

 

Pelosi's deputy chief has stated that “Democrats have compromised in these negotiations. We offered to come down $1 trillion if the White House would come up $1 trillion. We welcome the White House back to the negotiating table but they must meet us halfway.” Pelosi’s office also says that Meadows’ staff didn’t directly ask for negotiations.

 

Survey on Impact of COVID-19 on Small Businesses:

 

Earlier this week the National Federation for Independent Businesses (NFIB) Research Center released the latest COVID-19 related survey assessing the health crisis impact on small businesses. Congress is currently negotiating additional financial support for small businesses after the initial Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan period expired on August 8. If eligible, 44% of small businesses surveyed said they would apply or re-apply for a second PPP loan with another 31% saying they would consider applying for one. Key findings from the survey can be viewed here.

 

Of the most critical take aways from the survey: 21 percent of small businesses report that they can survive current conditions for 6 months or less, and 40 percent say a year a less, highlighting the need for additional relief to address the ongoing pandemic.

 

ABC has been working with NFIB alongside a coalition of small business organizations to advocate for critical assistance and policies that will assist small businesses throughout the pandemic.

 

Bice Wins OK-5 Primary:

 

Oklahoma state Sen. Stephanie Bice (R) won the GOP runoff in the state's 5th Congressional District Tuesday, setting her up to take on Rep. Kendra Horn (D) in one of the most closely watched House races in November.

 

Bice narrowly defeated Terry Neese, a self-styled “small-business expert” and the former president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, in the runoff. Bice and Neese were the top two vote-getters in the June 30 primary, though neither one broke 50 percent of the vote, forcing a runoff. Bice had a roughly 6-point edge when the race was called by The Associated Press and led Neese by fewer than 3,000 votes.

 

The race in the 5th District, where Horn won in a 2018 upset over then-Rep. Steve Russell (R), is one of the Republicans’ top opportunities to flip a seat in November. Horn is the target of an intense advertising blitz by outside groups, and President Trump won the district by about 13 points in 2016. 

 

SBA & Treasury Issue Additional PPP Guidance:

 

On Monday evening, SBA and Treasury released the Interim Final Rule - Treatment of Owners and Forgiveness of Certain Nonpayroll Costs.

 

The First Loan Forgiveness Rule, as revised by the Revisions to Loan Forgiveness and Loan Review Procedures Interim Final Rules, 85 FR 38304, 38307 (June 26, 2020), capped the amount of loan forgiveness for payroll compensation attributable to an owner-employee to either eight weeks' worth (8/52) of their 2019 compensation (up to $15,385) for an eight-week covered period or 2.5 months' worth (2.5/12) of their 2019 compensation (up to $20,833) for a 24-week covered period per owner in total across all businesses. There was no exception in the rule based on the owner-employee's percentage of ownership.

 

The new IFR provides that an owner-employee in a C- or S-corporation who has less than a 5 percent ownership stake will not be subject to the owner-employee compensation rule. The IFR describes the exemption as intending to cover owner-employees who have no meaningful ability to influence decisions over how loan proceeds are allocated. It should be noted that the IFR applies this exception only to corporate entities and does not provide an exception for partnerships or limited liability companies.

 

For more information and updates, visit SBA.gov/PaycheckProtection or Treasury.gov/CARES

 

REMINDER—2020 Congressional Recess Grassroots Toolkit:

 

We have updated 2020 Congressional Recess Grassroots Toolkit, which is also available on National Connections. There you will find useful resources for the August recess period, including: a PowerPoint with information on hosting lawmakers at events; a case study from ABC Pelican, which includes media outreach examples; information on key ABC policy priorities; template letters to the editor; graphic assets and more.

 

Please contact Grassroots Manager Patrick McCarty ([email protected]) for any questions regarding the Grassroots Toolkit or if you host any events with elected officials. If you have any questions about communications or media outreach for an upcoming event, please reach out to Director of Media Relations Rachel O’Grady ([email protected]).

 

PPP Webcast on Thursday:

 

The Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) will host an interagency webinar on Thursday, August 27, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. ET.

 

Join Small Business Administration (SBA) officials for an overview of the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Forgiveness Platform. This presentation is open to all SBA lenders who participated in the SBA PPP lending program. During the webinar, SBA will:

  • Provide an overview of PPP loan forgiveness guidance;
  • Demonstrate how to access and use the SBA PPP Loan Forgiveness Platform; and
  • Review best practices for using the SBA PPP Loan Forgiveness Platform.

 

Registration is available at https://www.webcaster4.com/Webcast/Page/583/36742

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House Passes Postal Bill & Republicans Opt Against New Party Platform

House Postal Bill Passed Over Weekend:

The House on Saturday passed a bill aimed at rolling back service cuts at the U.S. Postal Service that Democrats say could harm the influx of vote by mail ballots in the November presidential election due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Democrat’s bill would provide an additional $25 billion for the Postal Service and passed 257 to 150, with 26 GOP members voting yes.

The effort comes as the number of Americans using the mail to cast their ballots in November is expected due to concerns about the virus and in person voting.

Passage of the bill is unlikely to have any impact on Post Office operations as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated the Senate wouldn’t be taking up the House bill, and the White House threatened to veto it. Senate Republicans are also preparing to introduce a scaled-back version of their roughly $1 trillion coronavirus package that is expected to include $10 billion for the Postal Service. 

The U.S. Postal Service also said in a statement it is concerned that some requirements of House-passed bill will constrain its ability to make operational changes to improve efficiency and reduce costs. The USPS also says it is fully capable and committed to delivering election mail securely and on time.

 

Republicans Opt Against New Party Platform for 2020:

In a statement released Sunday, the Republican National Committee announced that instead of unveiling a range of new policy goals should its candidate win in November's presidential election, the party would instead "continue to enthusiastically support the President's America-first agenda." The President’s re-election campaign also released a set of core priorities for a second term yesterday. The Democrats released their platform last week.

The committee said that because of the scaled-back nature of this year's convention, its first to be held largely online, the party's Convention Committee on Platform had been unable to meet. The GOP says it instead plans to campaign on the same platform as that announced in 2016 and will not be launching a new platform until 2024, when the next presidential election will take place.

 

DOL Publishes Guidance on Tracking Compensable Hours for Remote Work

On Aug. 24, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division issued Field Assistance Bulletin 2020-5, which clarifies employers’ obligations to track the hours of compensable work of employees who are teleworking. The guidance responds both to the needs created by new telework or remote work arrangements that arose in response to the coronavirus and to other telework or remote work arrangements.

According to a DOL news release, this guidance reaffirms that an employer is required to pay its employees for all hours worked, including work not requested but allowed and work performed at home. Additionally, if the employer knows or has reason to believe that an employee is performing work, the time must be counted as hours worked.

In addition to this guidance, WHD’s compliance assistance materials and resources on COVID-19 include a Fact Sheet for Employees, a Fact Sheet for Employers and a Questions and Answers resource about paid sick and expanded family and medical leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

For more comprehensive coronavirus resources, visit abc.org/coronavirus.

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Biden Accepts Nomination & Dems Plan Saturday Vote on Postal Issues

Biden Officially Accepts Democrat Nomination for President:

 

Former Vice President Joe Biden accepted the Democratic nomination to challenge President Donald Trump, urging Americans in a prime-time-address last Thursday to vote for new national leadership. The address capped the final night of the mainly virtual Democratic National Convention.

President Trump said earlier in the night that he planned to watch Biden's speech on the final night of the Democratic National Convention, and he chimed in on Twitter as the former vice president drew to a close: "In 47 years, Joe did none of the things of which he now speaks. He will never change, just words!" Trump tweeted.

 

House Set to Vote Tomorrow on Postal Service Funding:

The House voted on Saturday on legislation to prevent any operational changes at the Postal Service that could affect mail delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic and provide $25 billion for the agency's operations. 

Additionally, calls were mounting last week for Democrats to take up more bills, with letters to Pelosi, including an expected letter from members of the Blue Dog Coalition urging party leaders to resume coronavirus talks immediately, outlining a slew of priorities, and another letter — from swing-district members of both parties — with a similar call to action to leaders of both parties. However, with no plans for the Senate to return before September, a deal this month seems unlikely at this time.

Speaker Pelosi also rejected a push by more than 100 Democrats last week that urged leadership to schedule a vote this past Saturday on legislation to extend enhanced unemployment insurance on a time frame based on econometrics. Pelosi said that while she personally supports the idea of tying unemployment insurance payments to economic measures like the unemployment rate instead of allowing the benefits to expire on arbitrary dates, she argued that voting on such a proposal at this stage could ultimately backfire in coronavirus relief negotiations with Republicans.

 

CISC Releases Updated COVID-19 Prevention, Preparedness and Response Plan for Construction:

 

The Construction Industry Safety Coalition  released an updated COVID-19 Prevention, Preparedness and Response Plan for Construction on Aug. 18. ABC, a member of the CISC Steering Committee, encourages its members to review the plan, which includes the latest protective measures and guidance on keeping workers safe on jobsites.

The plan outlines the steps that construction employers and employees can take to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, such as protective measures to take on the jobsite, personal protective equipment and work practice controls to be used, cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and what to do if a worker becomes sick.

 

Recent updates to the plan include:

  • Symptoms of COVID-19
  • Screening questions for jobsite visitors
  • Guidance on the use of face coverings
  • Guidance on Jobsite Exposure Situations
  • Information on when to Record a COVID-19 Case on the OSHA 300 Log
  • COVID-19 Checklist for Employers and Employees

 

The updated language is shown in red, and the resources are structured so any construction company can download and tailor them to their own work and jobsites.

 

For additional COVID-19 information, see ABC’s Emergency Preparedness and Safety Resources.

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Republicans and Democrats Introduce Bills to Address Postal Issues & Tuesday Primary Results

House Democrats Release Postal Bill, and Senate GOP Releases Skinny COVID Relief Package:

House Democrats released a bill today that would halt post office cutbacks and give the agency $25 billion in additional funding. Text of the six page bill can be viewed here, and the House is planning on passing the bill on Saturday.

Republican Senators also are circulating a new, “skinny” coronavirus relief package. If this package can get the support of at least 50 Senators, the Senate leadership strategy will be to attach this package to a “must pass” continuing resolution (CR) that Congress will use to fund the government past the September 30 deadline. Right now it is too early to tell whether this strategy can be successful.

The package, as it currently stands, would include:

  • Liability Reform – Provides necessary liability protections for non-profits, hospitals, churches, schools, and businesses from opportunistic litigation. Individuals and businesses who operate in good faith and follow the guidance of their state or local public health officials will have safe harbor during this unprecedented pandemic.
  • Education Funding – Includes $105B to help get students back to school and provide for the continued learning of all students in elementary, secondary, and higher education. 
    • $70B for elementary and secondary schools. Of that, 1/3 goes out immediately to these schools, both private and public. 2/3 goes to schools re-opening in person.
    • $29B for higher education.
    • $5B for the Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund.
    • $1B for the Bureau of Indian Education and outlying areas.
  • Testing Funding – Provides $16B for testing, contact tracing, mitigation and surveillance of COVID-19 in states. 
  • Vaccine Preparation – Provides $29B for vaccine, therapeutics, and diagnostic development, as well as vaccine distribution.
  • PPP Second Draw – Provides a second draw of PPP loans capped at $2 million for businesses with 300 or fewer employees and revenue losses of 35% or more. The provision uses $100B in unobligated funds and approximately $160B in new funds.
  • Unemployment Insurance – In line with the President’s recent executive order, the bill provides a federal plus-up of $300 for pandemic unemployment insurance until December 27, 2020.
  • USPS Funding – Provides assistance to the postal service by converting the $10B loan to USPS in the CARES Act to a grant.
  • Continuing Resolution – Includes a CR for government funding until December 18, 2020, ensuring Democrats cannot use the threat of a government shutdown as a negotiating tactic before the election.

Postmaster General Dejoy also announced that he is taking a variety of measures to ensure the post office can efficiently handle the mail, including delaying policies that had been the subject of significant criticism in recent days. Speaker Pelosi responded to the announcement by stating that this was the proper course of action and the result of the “heat” brought by Democrats. However, Pelosi also stated that the action was an “insufficient first step in ending President Trump’s election sabotage campaign” and still plans to move ahead with the Saturday vote.

 

U.S. Department of Labor to Offer Online Prevailing Wage Seminars in September For Employers, Workers and Other Stakeholders

In a press release, DOL announced it is offering online seminars in September “to provide compliance assistance on the legal requirements to pay prevailing wages on federal and federally funded contracts for contracting agencies, contractors, unions, workers and other stakeholders. The events are part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness among and improve compliance by employers with federal and federally funded contracts.”

DOL’s Wage and Hour Division will offer the live portion of the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts seminar on prevailing wage requirements on federal and federally funded construction contracts from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT on Sept. 15, 2020. Register here.

The live portion of the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act seminar on prevailing wage requirements for contractors performing services on federal contracts will be from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT on Sept. 10 and 16, 2020Register for one of these sessions.

More information about the online seminars is available here.

 

Florida, Wyoming and Alaska Primary Results:

Primary results in Florida yesterday left Freshman Rep. Ross Spano (R-Dover), who had been under fire and investigation for accepting improper loans to his 2018 campaign, losing his re-nomination campaign last night to Lakeland City Commissioner, local business owner, and retired Navy pilot Scott Franklin in a 51-49% count with over 60,000 votes tabulated. Mr. Spano becomes the eighth House incumbent and fifth Republican to lose re-nomination this year, however, with Franklin now as the new GOP nominee, the GOP could be in stronger position to hold the potentially competitive seat in November.  

For the Democrats, former TV News anchorman Alan Cohn defeated state Rep. Adam Hattersley (D-Riverview), 41-33%, to advance into the general election.  

Two open seats in Florida also picked their GOP primary winners, both of whom are now favorites to win the general election. In retiring Rep. Ted Yoho’s (R-Gainesville) 3rd District, his former staff member and ex-campaign manager Kat Cammack scored an upset win with just over 25% of the vote in a field of nine other candidates.  She defeated former congressional aide and businessman Judson Sapp, and physician James St. George, both of whom substantially outspent Ms. Cammack.  She now faces apparent Democratic primary winner Adam Christensen.

In the open 19th District, anchored in the Ft. Myers/Cape Coral area, two-term Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Naples/Ft. Myers) is retiring. In what turned into a very close finish, State Rep. Byron Donald won with nearly 23 percent of the vote in the nine-person primary for the district, after Dane Eagle, Donalds' chief competitor in Tuesday's race, called to concede. College professor Cindy Banyai was an easy winner on the Democratic side, but she is a severe underdog in the general election. 

In the competitive 13th District primary, US Air Force veteran, businesswoman and conservative activist Anna Paulina Luna won the Republican primary against attorney and former congressional aide Amanda Makki, 2018 nominee George Buck, and two others in another race where the winning candidate was outspent.  Ms. Luna will now oppose Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) in the general election.

In an expected result, former four-term Rep. Cynthia Lummis easily won the open Republican US Senate primary with a 60% win over nine opponents to succeed retiring four-term Sen. Mike Enzi (R) and now becomes the favorite to defeat new Democratic nominee Merav Ben-David, a Laramie college professor and zoologist. 

In Alaska, surgeon Al Gross was an easy Democratic Senate primary winner in the wee early morning hours and now will challenge first-term Sen. Dan Sullivan (R). While the seat is seen as a likely Republican hold for 2020, the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group working to defeat the president, has spent $1.3 million on ads supporting Gross and calling Sullivan a “Trumpist.” And a group called Flip the West has spent $8,000 on text messaging and phone campaigning to support Gross. 

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2020 Congressional Recess Toolkit & House to Vote on Postal Issue Saturday

House To Return Saturday for Postal Service Vote:

 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will call the U.S. House back following the Democratic National Convention this week, to address the recent uproar over changes in the U.S. Postal Service that Democrats have argued could threaten to impede voting in November’s election. “Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, one of the top Trump mega-donors, has proven a complicit crony as he continues to push forward sweeping new operational changes that degrade postal service, delay the mail, and – according to the Postal Service itself – threaten to deny the ability of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming elections in a timely fashion,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democratic lawmakers. Among coming actions, the Democratic-held House will vote on a bill that “prohibits the Postal Service from implementing any changes to operations or level of service it had in place on January 1, 2020,” Pelosi said in the letter. According to recent reports, the House bill also plans to add $25 billion for the USPS to prohibit cutbacks in service leading up to the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is also facing some pressure to return the Senate from recess to vote on legislation to address the issue as well.  

 

While Democrats are claiming sabotage, and some emergency funding for the USPS may be required, some news outlets and Republicans have highlighted that the U.S. Postal Service’s warning to dozens of states, via letters from USPS General Counsel Thomas Marshall, are just that – warnings to ensure that votes are counted and states recognize the need to allow additional time to process mailed in ballots. The USPS has warned states that their deadlines “for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.” The letters were planned before the new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, took the reins on June 15. And Mr. Marshall sent nearly identical advice to election officials in a May letter posted at USPS.com. “To account for delivery standards and to allow for contingencies (e.g., weather issues or unforeseen events), voters should mail their return ballots at least 1 week prior to the due date,” Mr. Marshall wrote in May. The same rule, he added, should apply to blank ballots: “The Postal Service also recommends that state or local election officials use FirstClass Mail and allow 1 week for delivery to voters.”

 

ABC Joins Coalition Letter to NDAA Conference:

 

ABC joined a coalition of business organizations last week in a letter (attached) to the conferees of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) opposing a House-passed provision that would overhaul anti-money laundering regulations, including a requirement that corporations report ownership information to the Treasury Department. The provision was not included in the Senate version of the NDAA, and now House and Senate NDAA Conferees must decide if this small business mandate will remain in the final version of the bill.

 

Under the current Customer Due Diligence (CDD) rule, financial institutions are required to collect and verify the identities of the beneficial owners of companies that have accounts with their banks. The so-called Corporate Transparency Act would shift this responsibility away from these large banks that are best equipped to handle the reporting requirements and instead burden millions of small businesses, who often have limited capacity to file unfamiliar government paperwork. This proposal would also expose small businesses to serious criminal penalties for paperwork violations and raises privacy concerns as it provides law enforcement officials broad access to personal information without a subpoena or warrant. This would set a dangerous precedent that could be detrimental to our employers.

 

USCIS Announces Fee Increases:

 

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a new fee structure that will take effect on October 2, 2020. The final rule, published in the Federal Register on August 3, 2020, announced that there would be adjustments to filing fees for certain immigration and naturalization benefit requests. The final rule increases certain fees by a weighted average of 20%, adds new fees, removes certain fee exemptions, establishes multiple fees for nonimmigrant worker petitions, and limits the number of beneficiaries for certain forms. See a recent write up on these changes from Littler here.

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Congress Recesses for August

McConnell Recesses Senate Until September, Leaving Virtually No Chance of Relief Package Being Passed this Month:

 

Senate Majority Leader McConnell announced yesterday afternoon that the Senate will be in recess until September 8th. Though there will be several pro forma sessions during the recess period, and Senators were also advised, that they are still subject to being called back with 24 hours of notice to vote on a final Phase 4 COVID relief deal, if one is reached, based on that schedule, the likelihood of significant Senate floor activity on additional relief legislation in the near term is obviously low. McConnell added Thursday afternoon that he still hopes "we'll have some kind of bipartisan agreement here sometime in the coming weeks."

 

The House already left town and isn't expected to return until Sept. 14, the four key negotiators of a potential relief deal have not met in person since Friday, when the talks officially collapsed. Further, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that negotiations on the relief package would not restart until Republicans agreed to a $2 trillion price tag for the deal.

 

September will be the last month that Congress will be in session before the 2020 elections, giving Reps. and Senators just a few weeks to not only hammer out a deal on coronavirus aid, but also on government funding before it runs dry on Sept. 30, to avoid a government shutdown.

 

Pelosi has said the next package cannot wait six more weeks, and she does not want to tie the $1 trillion-plus relief talks to an already contentious government funding battle. However, with a limited number of days with the House and Senate in session, circumstances could change.

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Biden Announces Sen. Kamala Harris as VP Pick

Biden Taps Harris for VP Slot:

 

After promising Democratic voters a female running mate and considering some 11 women for the post, Joe Biden has selected U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California as his running mate, his campaign announced this afternoon. President Trump was quick to post an ad against the VP pick via his social media accounts, and held a press conference this evening where he answered questions about Biden’s pick and criticized her policy positions on energy and health care.

 

Harris, is a first term U.S. Senator, elected in 2016 after serving as California’s attorney general and, before that, San Francisco district attorney. A native of Oakland, California, Harris is the child of Jamaican and Indian immigrants. Harris was also a 2020 Democratic candidate before dropping her bid last December, and clashed with Biden over racial issues during the first Democratic presidential primary debate.

 

If elected, she would be the nation’s first female, first Black and first Asian American vice president. Harris, 55, provides the ticket with some generational diversity as well. Biden, 77, would be the oldest president-elect in U.S. history if he were to win in November.

 

Primary Elections Continue:

 

Voters in Connecticut, Minnesota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin all head to the polls today in their regularly scheduled primaries. In Minnesota all eyes are on the 3rd and 7th congressional districts. In MN-03, voters will decide whether Leslie Davis or Kendall Qualls, who are both running as Republican candidates, will face incumbent Dean Phillips (D).  While a five-way Republican primary will decide who face incumbent Rep. Collin Peterson (D) who has served in the House since 1991.

 

Freshman Rep. Bryan Steil (R), who succeeded former Speaker Paul Ryan (R), leads the way in WI fundraising with $2.54M raised. Steil is favored to win the re-election in WI-01. State Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R), who currently serves as the majority leader in the state senate, is also favored to win in the open WI-05 primary.

 

Finally, voters in Georgia will also cast their ballots for four congressional runoff campaigns in three districts. 

 

HHS Releases July-December State Testing Plans

 

On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) posted the July-December COVID-19 testing plans for states, territories, and localities. The guidance requires each state to include detailed parameters for testing strategies, including the target number of tests per month. CDC staff in each state will provide assistance in several forms, including plan implementation, testing strategies, and contact tracing.

 

More information, including each state’s testing plans, is here.

 

McHenry, Crapo Call on Treasury and Fed to Fully Utilize COVID-19 Relief Funds

 

On Monday, House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) sent a letter to Treasury and the Federal Reserve urging both entities to utilize the remaining funds in the Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF) to the fullest extent. The ESF was created in an effort to provide an economic backstop in the wake of the pandemic and has the potential to provide trillions of dollars in liquidity to support both businesses and employees in need.

 

The full text of the letter is here.

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With Relief Talks Over, President Signs Executive Orders

With Relief Talks Over, President Signs Executive Orders:

 

In lieu of the failed negotiations over additional relief funding from Congress, the White House on Saturday signed executive orders to provide expanded unemployment benefits, a temporary payroll tax deferral, eviction protection and student-loan relief. While Democrats criticized the president when he threatened the move during negotiations, saying the administration would be better off returning to the bargaining table, it now seems unlikely that both sides will be able to come to any agreement on additional relief funding authorized by Congress in the near term, especially as the House is currently out of session and, while the Senate is technically in, most Senators have also returned to their home states.

 

While the legal picture surrounding the executive actions remains unclear, the Democratic response has coalesced around the President’s actions being insufficient to address the crisis rather than criticizing him for going too far. While it would have seemed unthinkable a year ago for Democrats to scoff at a $1 trillion spending proposal, Democrats felt that they could push Republicans to increase funding for the deal ahead of the August recess. However, by the White House walking away from talks and addressing some of the pressing issues through executive orders the President has succeeded, at least momentarily, in avoiding the need for immediate legislative action. Further, Trump’s advisers say executive action could pressure Democrats to reduce their demands and allow him to argue to voters that he’s looking out for their well-being amid congressional inaction.

 

At issue for many businesses operating during COVID will be the lack of liability protections that have been sought by many industries throughout the country, and the expiration of the Paycheck Protection Program loans along with no fix to the PPP tax deductibility issue.

 

The executive actions:

 

·        Federal Eviction Moratorium: The eviction moratorium put in place for tenants by the CARES Act expired July 25, but due to the 30-day notice requirement, the moratorium actually ends August 24. In June, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) already extended the moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for homeowners. The new executive order does not explicitly renew the moratorium, but instead instructs the relevant agencies (HUD, HHS, CDC) to consider measures and identify funds that would provide relief and spare renters and homeowners from eviction or foreclosure.

 

·        Payroll Tax Deferral: This memorandum instructs the IRS to stop collecting the 6.2 percent employee side payroll tax for those making $104,000 or less. The delay is retroactive to July 1. It is unclear whether employers will pass on savings to employees, as the White House can only suspend collection without an act of Congress, and failure to withhold could eventually result in a $150 billion tax bill. For his part, President Trump has promised to ensure these payments are forgiven if re-elected.

 

·        Enhanced Unemployment Benefits: This is the most complex, and legally questionable aspect of this weekend’s package of executive actions. In an effort to replicate the lapsed Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), this memorandum instructs relevant agencies to create an "assistance program for lost wages" by tapping $44 billion in unspent disaster relief funds. The weekly benefit would be structured as a $300 federal match to $100 provided by participating states.  The memo calls on states to use Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) proceeds provided by the CARES Act to trigger the federal match, pointing out that $80 billion remained unspent at the end of June. However, a survey by the National Association of Budget Officers found that while much of the money was unspent, three quarters of the $150 billion had already been committed for specific purposes. Implementation and state participation in this program remain open questions. The memo calls for it to run through the first week in December, or until the Disaster Relief Fund is drawn down to $25 billion--the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that the funding will last for five weeks.

 

·        Defer Student Loan Payments: The CARES Act suspended payments, interest, and collections on federal student loans for six months. These protections were slated to expire September 30, right before the presidential elections. This memorandum extends the existing student loan payment suspension and interest freeze through the end of the year.

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COVID Relief Deal Chances Dead for Now & Tennessee Primary Results

COVID Negotiations End, Chances of Relief Deal Dead for Now:

 

After a meeting Friday afternoon between the 4 lead negotiators of the next phase of COVID relief, Sen. Schumer called the meeting disappointing and it appears as though no deal has been reached ahead of the self-imposed Friday deadline for negotiations. Democrats have proposed reducing their original $3+ trillion request by $1 trillion if Republicans were willing to increase their $1 trillion opening offer by an additional trillion, however, Republicans have called a $1 trillion increase a non-starter in recent days.

 

For all intents and purposes, at this time COVID relief talks are dead without one side completely changing their position, which would likely take an intervening issue that has yet to present itself.

 

Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin says he and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will recommend to President Trump that he go forward with executive order related to virus relief, stating “the president would like to make a deal. Unfortunately, we did not make any progress today.” Mnuchin says he and Meadows will recommend that the President sign an EO on unemployment insurance, rental foreclosures, and student loan forbearance.

 

At issue for many businesses operating during COVID will be the liability protections that have been sought by many industries throughout the country. The Paycheck Protection Program loans will also end tomorrow as a result of the inaction.

 

Tennessee’s Primary Results:

 

Thursday night's Tennessee Senate and House primaries give hope to Republicans as we move into the November elections. Former US Ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty secured the Senate Republican nomination with a 51%-39% victory over Dr. Manny Sethi, a Nashville surgeon. Hagerty will now face businesswoman and environmental activist Maquita Bradshaw (D) who was an upset winner in the Democratic primary while virtually spending no money on her campaign.

 

In East Tennessee, Rep. Phil Roe (R) is retiring after serving a full six terms and his successor will be pharmacist and political activist Diana Harshbarger (R). Harshbarger won her primary against 13 Republican candidates to secure the party nomination with a small plurality to win the district. She spent the most money on her campaign in comparison to her challengers with over $1.3 million spent, most of which was self-funded. Harshbarger will face the new Democratic nominee Blair Walsingham, a farmer and US Air Force veteran in November.

 

In Tennessee’s 5th District, Rep. Jim Cooper (D) secured his 16th non-consecutive term as he outspent his top opponent by more than a 7:1 ratio, which earned him a 57%-40% victory. No Republican’s filed for candidacy in the 5th district this year.

 

Lastly, Reps. Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville), Chuck Fleishmann (R-Chattanooga), Scott DesJarlais (R-Sherwood), John Rose (R-Cookeville), Mark Green (R-Clarksville), David Kustoff (R-Germantown), and Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) all won their respective primaries as unopposed or recording at least 71% of the vote. Each of them will be well equipped for re-election in November.

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Stalemate Continues on COVID Relief

Stalemate Continues on COVID Relief Deal:

 

Today, President Donald Trump said he expects to sign orders on Friday or Saturday extending enhanced unemployment benefits and imposing a payroll tax holiday as lawmakers have been unable to reach agreement on stimulus legislation that includes those measures. Trump, speaking to reporters before leaving on a trip to Ohio, said he also expects to sign orders providing eviction protection and on student loan repayment. Unilateral action by Trump likely would set up a legal fight over presidential authority. Trump made the comments after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said negotiations on a new virus relief package were making progress, though the two sides still have major differences as their self-imposed Friday deadline for a deal looms.

 

Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer are scheduled to meet again Thursday evening with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for another round of negotiations to try to bridge the gap between them on the cost and breadth of another stimulus plan. The Trump administration has been discussing tapping unspent stimulus money from the $2 trillion stimulus passed in March to fund executive orders.

 

Pelosi said today that she would support Trump extending the eviction moratorium for renters, but said additional funding must be approved by Congress. “I don’t think they know what they’re talking about” in looking to tap unspent stimulus money, she said.

 

ABC continues to push critical priorities for the construction industry, and most recently joined a coalition of business organizations in requesting critical fixes to the next phase of small business relief through the Paycheck Protection Program.  

 

ABC also recently led an effort along with 180+ business organizations to include PPP tax deductibility in the next round of relief. You can view the full letter and signatories here. ABC is also continuing to push for the inclusion of liability protections in any deal and joined a coalition letter sent to members of Congress last week calling for passage of the timely, targeted, and temporary COVID-19 liability protections set forth in S. 4317, the “SAFE TO WORK Act." The letter, linked here, was singed by 480 organizations.

 

Sen. Rubio Warns of Layoffs if PPP not Extended:

 

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., warned on Wednesday that a new wave of small business layoffs could come if Congress does not re-up the funding to the Paycheck Protection Program in its next round of coronavirus relief spending. About $130 billion of the $650 billion allocated toward the program remains untapped, but will become unavailable on August 8 without an extension. 

 

According to reports, an administration official stated that Democrats and Republicans have come to an agreement on extending PPP funding, though the exact details remain unclear.

 

Republicans proposed last week allocating $190 billion to the program. In contrast, a $3 trillion proposal unveiled by House Democrats in their May HEROES Act did not include any new PPP funding. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the top Democrat on the Small Business Committee, said Tuesday he was largely on board with the Republican proposal. 

 

ABC Member JWR Construction Services Recognized as Senate Small Business of the Week:

 

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Macro Rubio (R-Fla.), chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, announced that ABC Florida East Coast Chapter member JWR Construction Services was named the Senate Small Business of the Week. JWR was recognized as an exemplary family-owned business that is committed to their employees and customers while serving their community in Deerfield Beach and throughout Florida in many ways.

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