FRA Issue Update - 4/10/20

Coronavirus Stimulus 3.5 Stalls in Senate

A Senate effort to re-fill the bucket of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was derailed as Democrats and Republicans could not agree on new economic stimulus measures. The Democrats are holding out for additional aid for hospitals and local governments. The Republican-led Senate's main purpose of the legislation was to provide the PPP with an additional $250 billion for aid to small businesses. The increased funding measure would supplement the PPP that both parties had agreed to in the CARES Act. This funding is critical as the initial $349 billion will be allocated quickly as demand for the PPP forgivable loan for small businesses is high. Independent contractors, which includes many logging businesses, who can’t apply for PPP loans until April 10, may find limited dollars remaining if supplemental funding is not made available to the PPP. With more than 70% of U.S. small businesses having already applied for PPP loans, this situation is likely. Democrats and Republicans must set aside differences and supplement the PPP with additional funding. The parties can work to resolve their differences at a later time, in another COVID-19 stimulus bill. FRA sent a letter to House and Senate leadership urging them to move quickly and approve the additional $250 billion for the PPP earlier in the week.

Federal Reserve $2T Loan Program

On Thursday, 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.

FMCSA Extends the Emergency Declaration

On April 8, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) extended the emergency declaration that provides regulatory relief from hours of service rules for commercial motor vehicles that provide direct assistance to emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Paper products and precursor raw materials used to manufacture paper are included in the declaration. The prior declaration was set to expire on April 12, 2020.

Safe Routes Act Research to be Presented in an FRA Webinar

On April 30, FRA will provide a webinar to review research that assessed the safety and efficiency benefits of allowing log trucks to haul at legal state weights on the interstate. Dr. Joe Conrad from the University of Georgia who conducted the research, will present the findings. The research was conducted in the four Southeastern states of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. FRA and the Georgia Forestry Foundation supported the research to provide technical data in support of the bipartisan Safe Routes Act (H.R. 2453, S. 1509). SFI® Inc. Approved Credits will be offered and FRA has additionally applied for SAF CFE credits. Webinar registration information can be found here.

Lake States Region Bat HCP

The Departments of Natural Resources in the Lake States Region (Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) provided a webinar of the most recent chapters that were released for public comment on March 1. Chapters 4 and 5 provide measures for the take assessment and conservation strategies aimed to mitigate impacts to the bats, respectively. Timber management mitigations included are no timber management within 150 feet of a known maternity roost tree and implement leave tree guidelines that are already being implemented throughout the region as Best Management Practices. Having a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) in place in the next two years is critical as the US Fish and Wildlife Service was directed by a court decision to reassess the listing status of the Northern Long-eared Bat (NLEB). This review will likely result in an endangered status of the NLEB. An approved HCP will allow forest management to continue, even when the species is listed as endangered. FRA will be preparing and submitting comments on the LSR Bat HCP.

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].