House Will Not Return on May 4
House leadership announced Tuesday, April 28th, that they will not return to Capitol Hill on May 4 when the Senate does. They have not yet indicated when they will return to Washington.
Paycheck Protection Program Reborn
On Monday, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) became operational again after being infused with another $321 billion allocated by H.R. 266, enacted late last week. We fully expect at least one more COVID relief measure to be negotiated by Congress and the Administration, likely when Members of Congress return to Washington. In the meantime, House Ways and Means Committee members on Wednesday made their case for expanded business relief to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA-1) urged Mnuchin in a teleconference to expand a tax credit for employers that retain their employees during the pandemic.
FRA is working with forest products industry allies here in Washington on proposals specific to our sector that would be helpful in sustaining the value chain through this pandemic. Tax incentives for use of carbon storing building materials, mentioned below in the Trillion Trees Act, is one of those. We will continue to work with our colleagues and our champions on Capitol Hill to identify and advance measures that ensure the viability of the entire forest products sector through this crisis and beyond.
PPP Second Round Interim Rule—Results of Round 1 Report
The Department of Treasury released the interim final rule “Small Business Administration Business Loan Program Temporary Changes; Paycheck Protection Program – Additional Criterion for Seasonal Employers.” The rule provides regulations that allow additional lenders to originate loans and establish terms and conditions. The final rule was published on April 30.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) published a report that summarizes the first round of loans provided through the SBA Paycheck Protection Program. The report shows that more than $342 billion of loans were approved in 1.7 million individual loans. More than 1.2 million of the loans were under $150,000 but only accounted for 17% of the approved loan amount. The top five sectors receiving loans by the highest dollar amounts were construction (13.12%), scientific and technical services (12.65%), manufacturing (11.96%), healthcare and social assistance (11.65%), and accommodation and food services (8.91%). The SBA report can be found here.
Congressman Gallagher Joins FRA Webinar on Transportation
Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI-8) participated in a webinar hosted by the FRA titled “Safety and Efficiency of State-Legal Log Trucks on Interstate Highways in Eight Wood Baskets in the US South.” The Webinar highlighted the FRA and Georgia Forestry Foundation research that assessed the safety, efficiency, and environmental benefits of allowing log trucks access to a safer interstate route when available at legal state weights. This research provides information that supports the bipartisan supported Safe Routes Act (HR 2453) that was introduced by Congressman Gallagher in May of 2019. “I have let the leadership of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee know that the Safe Routes Act is my number one priority as a member of the on the House T&I Committee,” said Gallagher. “The goal is to include the Safe Routes Act in the original text of the House Surface Transportation Bill, which expires in September 2020”, Gallagher added. The Congressman did speculate, however, that we would likely not see a new Highway Bill until 2021, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Congress Westerman to Modify Trillion Trees Act
Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-AR-4) said he will expand the Trillion Trees Act in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Act would be modified to expand the wood construction incentives already in the bill to encourage homeowners and homebuilders to use low-carbon building materials, more insulation, and energy-efficient appliances.
Karl Rove Election Insights
FRA participated in a webinar that featured former President George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove. Rove made the following comments/predictions:
- The Senate would remain under Republican control but at a narrower margin.
- The House will remain under Democratic control, but the majority will narrow as Republicans will gain additional seats.
- The Covid-19 pandemic will make it very difficult for either party to campaign in key states.
- The presidential election is a toss-up.
- Current polls have Biden up 5.3 points over Trump.
- President Trump needs to win Florida to be re-elected.
- The choice of Vice President candidate becomes more important for Biden as his health, as of late, raises concerns. The choice of a Vice President candidate could swing a close election.
- President Trump likely to keep Pence as a Vice President candidate
- Mail-in voting will become more popular, but it is too late to put an infrastructure in place in most states to have complete mail-in voting.