FRA Issue Update - 3/27/20

Landmark Stimulus Bill Passed by Senate

A $2 trillion stimulus package (H.R. 748) passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday by a unanimous vote and is scheduled to be considered by the House of Representatives today. One wrinkle is that Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY-4) has insisted on legislators being physically present for a vote at the Capitol creating some parliamentary hurdles. But the package is expected to pass and later today be sent to the President, who will sign the measure. FRA prepared an analysis of H.R. 748 just after text was released that we distributed to members. That document may be found here.

Guidance on the Small Business Loans and other provisions is expected to be released in the coming days and competition will be tight for accessing these loans. FRA will stay close to developments and will provide this guidance to you as soon as it becomes available.    

SBA Loans

Eligibility for SBA loans includes businesses that are less than 500 employees. This includes sole proprietors, contractors and other self-employed individuals. Covered loans include payroll costs, costs related to certain group health benefits, and employee salaries. 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.

CISA Guidelines Updated

The Department of Homeland Security has updated the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA Guidance) that many governors have referenced in their Executive Orders was updated on March 23. The change, noted below, provides additional clarity to the critical manufacturing section of the CISA Guidance for workers supporting supply chains of essential businesses, which includes the forest product industry workers, loggers and truckers. Version 1.1 of CISA Guidance document can be found here.

CRITICAL MANUFACTURING: Workers necessary for the manufacturing of materials and products needed for medical supply chains, and for supply chains associated with transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture, chemical manufacturing, nuclear facilities, the operation of dams, water and wastewater treatment, emergency services, and the defense industrial base. Additionally, workers needed to maintain the continuity of these manufacturing functions and associated supply chains.

NOTE: Some states may be requiring a Stay at Home Exemption Certification for essential workers that are identified in their respective Executive Orders.  We encourage you to check with your state if you are under a shelter in place executive order. An example of this template, from Washington, can be found here.

State Department Increases H-2 Visa Processing

On Thursday, 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

If you have any questions, please contact FRA’s Director, Government Affairs Tim O’Hara, (218) 390-7965, [email protected] or FRA President Deb Hawkinson, (202) 296-3937, [email protected].