FRA Issue Update - 5/8/20

Trump Administration Considers Ban on Non-Immigrant Workers

With unemployment claims increasing by 3.2 million the week ending May 2 and unemployment rates near 15 percent, the Trump Administration is drafting a ban of non-immigrant seasonal labor, which would include H-2B visas. An Executive Order implementing a likely 60-day pause on guest worker visas could be signed this month by the President.

On Thursday, Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Josh Hawley (R-MO) sent a letter to the President that requested he suspend guest worker visas for 60 days, citing the high unemployment rates. In response, FRA sent a letter to the four senators outlining the importance of the H-2B program workers who plant most of the 1.6 billion trees across 2.6 million acres every year in the U.S. The FRA letter additionally explained the requirement to advertise positions to American workers before hiring non-immigrant labor.

FRA is currently working on a broader effort to inform the Administration about the importance of the H-2B program to the wood supply chain.

IRS Guidance Contradicts Legislative Intent of PPP loans

The IRS issued guidance last week that prevents businesses from deducting expenses like rent and wages that were covered with loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Such expenses are normally deductible. Several Senators sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stating that the IRS’s interpretation of the PPP program ignores the Congressionally established overarching intent of the PPP.

FRA joined nearly 150 trade associations in sending a letter to leadership on the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee. This letter requests the CARES Act be amended in future legislation to allow PPP loan recipients to deduct expenses.

Next Round of COVID Stimulus

House Democratic leadership is expected to release a CARES Act 2.0 legislative package either later today or over the weekend. In a call on Monday with all the relevant committee chairs, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5) outlined a broad proposal that will likely exceed $2 trillion in additional spending to help revive the economy and sustain state and local governments. The proposal will include additional funding for the PPP and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. 

The House is expected to be back in Washington and in session next week. Speaker Pelosi has announced that she would like to have a vote on the CARES Act 2.0 proposal next week, but this seems optimistic at this point. We do anticipate action on this proposal before Memorial Day. As soon as we see the text of the package, we will provide a summary to you. 

Anti-Biomass Energy Video

Late last month in conjunction with Earth Day, producer Michael Moore released a YouTube video titled Planet of the Humans. The nearly two-hour documentary is highly critical of all forms of renewable energy, including electricity produced from biomass. Reviews from virtually every sector have been disapproving of this piece on grounds that it relies on largely outdated information. We wanted to flag this video for you. The piece addresses biomass energy at the 52:36 mark. 

The Biomass 101 campaign that FRA supports is currently not planning on addressing the claims in this video on grounds that the environmental community has been so vocally critical of it. 

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].