Impact of COVID-19 on the Forest Products Industry – National Level

As FRA works to provide the latest information on the impact of COVID-19 on the forest products industry, we’ll be updating this information daily each weekday. We are working to keep this as accurate as possible in a dynamic and evolving situation, and value your help as we work to keep this tool updated. If you see information that is incomplete, outdated or incorrect please send that – as well as any relevant links – to [email protected].

 



CARES Act

Landmark Stimulus Bill Passed by Congress and Signed into Law by President Trump

On March 27, a bipartisan $2 trillion stimulus package (H.R. 748) was signed into law by President Trump. FRA prepared an analysis of H.R. 748 just after text was released that we distributed to members. That document may be found here.

The American Forest Resource Coalition has put together a summary of the highlights of the CARES Act programs for small and mid-size businesses. This summary is available here.

Federal Reserve $2T Loan Program

On Thursday April 9, the Federal Reserve announced a program that would provide more than $2 trillion in loans to businesses of all sizes. The Fed announcement came in response to the high unemployment claims being filed over the past week. Among the measures of the program, the Federal Reserve will secure loans from banks to medium-sized businesses that had up to 10,000 employees or $2.5 billion in revenue in 2019. The goal is to encourage banks to loan more money to mid-sized businesses.



CISA Guidelines

CISA's Identifying Critical Infrastructure During COVID-19 guidance and accompanying list are intended to support state, local, and industry partners in identifying the critical infrastructure sectors and the essential workers.

This document gives guidance to state, local, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions and the private sector on defining essential critical infrastructure workers. Promoting the ability of such workers to continue to work during periods of community restriction, access management, social distancing, or closure orders/directives is crucial to community resilience and continuity of essential functions.

The most up to date version of the CISA Guidelines can be found here.

 



H-2B Visas

State Department Increases H-2 Visa Processing

On March 26, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided an update on its partnership with the Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expedite the processing of H-2 visas (includes H-2B). The State Department took steps to increase processing of H-2 visa holders. These changes should allow the majority of H-2 visas of qualified applicants to be adjudicated without an interview. The measures to be implemented include:

  • Authorization of consular officers to expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview. This expansion increases the period which a worker may qualify for an interview waiver whose permit expired from 12 to 48 months, providing the worker did not require a waiver of ineligibility the first time they applied and are applying for the same visa classification.
  • Consular officers can, if they so choose, waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no potential ineligibility.

You will find a listing of FAQs here.          

Woods-to-Mill blog on H-2B and COVID-19



Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program is a forgivable loan designed to help small businesses impacted by the current pandemic retain their employees. More information is available at this link, and a good list of what business qualify can be found here.

The interim final rule announcing the implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program is available here.

FRA has joined with 165 national and state associations signing on to a letter sent to Congressional leadership that urged them to provide additional funding for the PPP. This letter is available here.

Notice 2020-32 provides guidance regarding the deductibility for Federal income tax purposes of certain otherwise deductible expenses incurred in a taxpayer’s trade or business when the taxpayer receives a loan pursuant to the Paycheck Protection Program under section 7(a)(36) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 636(a)(36)).



Safety

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced that businesses will not have to consider confirmed cases of COVID-19 as recordable incidents for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordkeeping purposes unless there is objective evidence available to them that the cases are work related. OSHA noted that determining whether a worker contracted COVID-19 while performing work duties is difficult given ongoing community spread.

OSHA Workplace Guidance - OSHA has released Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. This is available here.




Small Business Administration

The stimulus package passed by the Senate on March 26 included an expansion of the SBA loans. Eligibility for SBA loans includes businesses that are less than 500 employees which include sole proprietors, contractors, and other self-employed individuals. Covered loans include payroll costs, costs related to certain group health benefits, and employee salaries.

The SBA is currently taking applications from businesses that are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. FRA has gathered some resources to help navigate the SBA process.

  • The CARES Act established several new temporary programs to address the COVID-10 crisis. A summary of these funding options is available here.
  • To find out if you qualify for the SBA Loans click here.
  • You can begin the process to file a loan application with the SBA here.
  • Process guide on how to apply for loans can be found here.
Additional information on the SBA response can be found here.


Transportation

Drivers with expiring credentials as of March 1

The CDL waiver and Notice of Enforcement policy allow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) to exercise its enforcement discretion to not take action in certain cases when a Commercial Learners Permit, CDL or Medical Certificate is expired.

Waiver in Response to the COVID-19 Emergency – For States, CDL Holders, CLP Holders, and Interstate Drivers Operating Commercial Motor Vehicles can be found here.

Notice of Enforcement Policy Regarding Expiring Driver’s Licenses and Medical Examiner’s Certificates During Covid-19 National Emergency can be found here.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hereby declares that a national emergency continues to exist that warrants extension of Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002 issued on March 13, 2020, expanded on March 18, 2020, and extended and further expanded on April 8, 2020. This extension continues the exemption granted from Parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) for the fifty States and the District of Columbia. This Declaration extends the exemption through June 14, 2020.

This extension of the Emergency Declaration addresses national emergency conditions that create a “need for immediate transportation of essential supplies, equipment and persons, and provides necessary relief from the FMCSRs for motor carriers and drivers engaged in the transport of essential supplies, equipment and persons.”

More information is available here.



Other Useful Information

On March 28, the U.S. Department of Labor added to the guidance for workers and employers explaining paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Find out more information here.

Safety Guidance

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed interim guidance to help prevent worker exposure to COVID-19. More information available here.

Small Business Fund

The U.S, Chamber of Commerce Foundation is offering grants to small businesses of $5000. The Small Business Fund is funded by corporate and philanthropic partners. To qualify for a loan a business must employee, between 3 and 20 people, be in an economically vulnerable community, and have been harmed financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. To find out more information on the Small Business Fund click here.