FRA Issue Update - 4/17/20

PPP Funds Exhausted

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) exhausted its funding of $350 billion on Thursday. By law, the Small Business Administration (SBA) will not be able to issue new loan approvals until Congress authorizes additional funding. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated, “the SBA has processed more than 14 years of loans in less than 14 days.” Mnuchin added, “It is critical that Congress appropriate additional funds to the PPP.” 

FRA recognizes the importance of the PPP in assisting many small businesses to remain viable, including those businesses that are important to the fiber supply chain. Last week, FRA sent a letter to leadership requesting that Congress appropriate additional funding to the PPP. On Wednesday, FRA joined more than 165 national and state associations on signing on to a letter sent to Congressional leadership urging them to provide additional funding for the PPP.

On April 13, the SBA released a detailed report on the progress of the PPP. This report showed that:

  • The top five states, in terms of approved loans, are California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas. These five states accounted for 27% of the approved loan applications and 33% of the appropriated dollars.
  • The average loan size was nearly $240,000 with 70 percent of the approved loans under $150,000.
  • The sectors of construction, professional and technical services, manufacturing, healthcare and food services accounted for approximately 50% of the approved loan amount.
  • Forestry (which includes logging), agriculture, fishing, and hunting accounted for 1.2% of the loans.

COVID-19 Phase 3.5 Stimulus

Congressional leadership continues to negotiate the details of a legislative package that would supplement the recently enacted CARES Act. Senate Republican leaders had proposed a $250 billion measure to replenish the PPP, which has run out of funds, and other programs in the CARES Act. House and Senate Democrat leaders countered with demands that an additional $100 billion be earmarked for hospital and health care provider funding. Democrats are also insisting that half of PPP funds be set aside for women and minority-owned businesses and that additional funds be provided for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Discussions between Secretary Mnuchin and House and Senate Democrat leadership and staff have been occurring this week. Our sources indicate that a deal is within reach and that the Senate could hold a vote as early as Monday on this next relief package. Currently, the House and Senate are in recess at least until May 4, but given that the Washington, D.C. government has extended its stay at home order until May 15, the Congressional recess may extend farther into May. Any legislative action would have to proceed in the Senate under “unanimous consent,” which means that objections from a single Senator could scuttle the deal. In the House, the House Rules Committee is exploring remote voting by proxy which would allow members of Congress to stay in their districts and not have to travel back to Washington. 

The bottom line is that we may see action in the Senate on Monday and subsequent consideration in the House as early as Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. FRA will stay close to the situation and keep you apprised of developments. 

Small Business Fund

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is offering grants to small businesses of $5,000. The Small Business Fund is funded by corporate and philanthropic partners. To qualify for a loan, a business must employ 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.

H-2B Data Released

The Department of Labor released the disclosure data for the first half of the fiscal year 2020 drawn from employers requesting nonimmigrant labor for the H-2B program. The number of certifications that were approved showed an overall YTD(2Q) increase by five percent, while requests for forestry workers increased eight percent (5,833 vs. 5,411). The seafood processing sector had the largest increase in demand for workers with a YOY increase of 33 percent FY(2Q), requesting nearly 2,300 more workers. The number of total workers that were certified during the first half of the fiscal was 126,656 which is nearly two times more than the mandated cap of 66,000. It is expected that the total demand for workers for FY 2020 will approach 150,000 workers, although the COVID-19 pandemic may reduce this number.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals from U.S. Forest Land

On April 16, the U.S. Forest Service published the latest Resource Update summarizing estimates of emissions and removals from forest land, harvested wood products, woodlands, and urban trees within the U.S. land sector. This report summarizes findings from the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2018 released earlier this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to the national-level estimates, there are more than 500 tables in the appendix to the Resource Update describing emissions and removals for the 48 contiguous states and Alaska.  

Trump Task Force on Re-opening the Economy

President Trump is asking a bipartisan group of lawmakers to join a task force on reopening the economy. Politico reports the following:

The Democratic senators invited to the task force are Senators Tom Carper of Delaware, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Dianne Feinstein of California, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Angus King of Maine, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Jacky Rosen of Nevada, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Mark Warner of Virginia and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Among the Senate Republicans asked to be on the task force are Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Rob Portman of Ohio, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

On the House side, the Democrats invited to the task force are Representatives Henry Cuellar of Texas, Ted Deutch of Florida, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Ro Khanna of California, Derek Kilmer of Washington, John Larson of Connecticut, Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Jimmy Panetta of California and Tom Suozzi of New York.

Among House Republicans invited is House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

Forest Service Makes Contract Relief Available

On April 15, the Forest Service published a notice in the Federal Register that would provide up to two-year extensions on Forest Service timber sales, which includes extending contracts beyond a 10-year limit. Among the requirements to receive an extension is that a written request must be made by the purchaser, and contracts must not be in breach. To review the notice of contract extension, click here.

REMINDER: 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.

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].