FRA Issue Update - 5/22/20

CDC Guidelines for Reopening

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week published detailed guidelines for reopening businesses and schools that have been shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. The document offers the most extensive guidance to date by the CDC. The publication of the guidelines is timely as all 50 states have reopened at some level to begin an economic recovery.

House and Senate Bills Aim to Modify PPP

On Thursday, Senators agreed to a deal that would ease restrictions for loans provided under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The proposal would extend the time businesses can use these loans from eight to 16 weeks while still qualifying for forgiveness. Businesses would also be allowed to use the loan towards the purchase of personal protective equipment needed to reopen safely. The upper chamber proposal differs from the House bill which would give small businesses 24 weeks to repay the PPP loan and eliminate the requirement of 75 percent of the funds going towards payroll. Both chambers will vote on their respective bills next week.

Carbon Neutrality of Biomass Published in June?

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that the agency is “hoping” to publish the proposed rule on the carbon neutrality of biomass in June. Wheeler’s response was to a question asked by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) who referred to a provision in the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 that directs the EPA to establish clear policies that reflect the carbon neutrality of biomass. Senator Wicker added that it is important that this rule be finalized this year to ensure that U.S. manufacturing can compete globally. The proposal has been under inter-agency review for nearly 90-days. FRA is monitoring this issue closely and will work with allied associations to provide comments on the rule after it is published in the Federal Register.

McConnell Pausing on Next Coronavirus Stimulus Package

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he would like to wait to see how the already approved three trillion dollars in spending plays outs before moving on to the next COVID-19 stimulus package. McConnell added another stimulus bill is likely necessary but will not look anything like the House bill passed last week. McConnell said that the final measure would not include a continuation of the $600 increase per week to unemployment and will have language that would prevent COVID-19 related lawsuits against businesses.

H-2B Visas

This week, Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD-1) circulated a sign-on letter to Republican Members of Congress that urges President Donald Trump to refrain from imposing further restrictions on the H-2B program. The letter had a signature deadline of today. This effort comes on the heels of letters from House and Senate members that were sent to the President last week that urged him to exempt H-2B forestry workers from pending orders that would ban nonimmigrant labor.

FRA also reached out to the U.S. Forest Service this week to discuss the importance of the H-2B visa nonimmigrant forestry labor to the reforestation of Forest Service lands. The agency has already canceled reforestation projects this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the difficulty in finding labor to do the work. This prompted the Forest Service to reach out to the Administration to discuss the importance of the H-2B visa forestry workers in meeting the land management goals of the agency.

USDA Announces $1 Billion in Loan Guarantees for Rural Businesses

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today that the Department is making available up to one billion dollars in loan guarantees to help rural businesses meet their working capital needs during COVID-19. The loans would be available through the Business and Industry CARES Act Program. The loans are available for rural businesses outside of a city or town with a population of less than 50,000 people.

 

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].