FRA Issue Update - 4/24/20

COVID Stimulus

Late yesterday, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 388-5 legislation (H.R. 266) authorizing $321 billion in additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Initial funding for PPP of $350 billion, included as part of the two trillion dollars CARES Act rescue package, was exhausted last week.

President Trump will sign the measure today at noon in a ceremony at the White House. The program is expected to be operational again beginning Monday

Those companies that applied for PPP forgivable loans but did not receive funding in the first round should contact their lenders to ensure that paperwork is in order and ready to be processed as demand for these funds continues to be strong. Estimates are that this additional $310 billion will last about a week.

Below is a snapshot of H.R. 266—

A total of $484 billion in aid and economic stimulus that includes: 

  • $321 billion for the PPP's forgivable loans to cover payroll and other fixed costs for small businesses. Of that figure, $60 billion is reserved for smaller lenders.
  • $50 billion to backstop roughly $350 billion in additional emergency disaster loans for small businesses, along with $10 billion for grants of up to $10,000 each that disaster loan recipients can obtain.
  • $75 billion for hospitals and other health care providers, and $25 billion for COVID-19 testing.

Eligibility rules governing which businesses are permitted to receive funding under PPP are unchanged under H.R. 266.

Enactment of H.R. 266 will mark the fourth package addressing COVID-19 relief. We fully expect at least one more relief measure to be negotiated by Congress and the Administration, likely when Members of Congress return to Washington, DC in May.

If you have any questions about the PPP, please contact Eric Kingsley, [email protected].

H-2B Visas and President’s Immigration Pause

The H-2B Coalition, of which FRA serves on the group’s steering committee, was active this week on two different occasions. On Monday, the Coalition sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf. The letter outlined the struggles many businesses are facing during the pandemic and the challenges of securing seasonal employment. Among the actions requested in this letter were: reinstating premium processing for H-2B visas, expediting the transfer of workers and visa extensions, and if the economy improves, promptly releasing supplemental visas to those businesses in demand. Many of these provisions are already available for the H-2A visa, a nonimmigrant worker visa for the agricultural sector.

On Tuesday, FRA, the H-2B Coalition, and many of our allies in the forest products industry mobilized in response to a tweet on Monday from President Trump that said he would suspend immigration to the U.S. This tweet raised the level of concern for those businesses, including those in forestry, that rely on seasonal workers. A tremendous amount of outreach from the forest products sector to Congressional Members and the White House let them know of our concern with suspending H-2B visas in recruiting seasonal nonimmigrant labor. The H-2B Coalition additionally sent a response to the White House urging President Trump to exempt H-2B visas from the Executive Order suspending immigration. The result of all these efforts had a positive outcome, as H-2B visas are reportedly exempt.

Waters of the U.S.

Earlier this week, the EPA published its Navigable Waters Protection Rule in the Federal Register, nearly four months after the Administration unveiled the regulation. This action starts a 60-day clock before the regulation takes effect on June 22. During this window of time, however, it is anticipated that numerous lawsuits will be filed challenging the rule. Environmental groups around the country have signaled they will sue to overturn the rule, arguing that it is too narrowly constructed and insufficient to protect our nation’s bodies of water. FRA will continue to monitor the situation closely and keep you apprised of developments.

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].