House Committee Advances Transportation Bill — Gallagher Speaks to Safe Routes
The full House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee advanced the $494 billion transportation reauthorization bill following a 36-hour mark-up session that addressed more than 200 amendments in committee. During the mark-up, the Committee adopted amendments from both sides of the aisle, including 34 Republican and 23 Democratic. The bill passed out of committee on a party-line vote of 35-25. The House plans to bring the bill to the floor on June 30th.
During the mark-up, Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI-8) spoke to his amendment that would include the Safe Routes Act (H.R. 2453) provisions in the House bill. Gallagher withdrew the amendment and offered to work with Democrats in a bipartisan fashion as the legislation heads to a floor vote. Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4), Chair of the House T&I Committee, said he is sensitive to the issue as the forest products industry is important in his district. He offered to work with Congressman Gallagher to make reasonable accommodations for this type of transport. FRA will continue to inform House members about the Safe Routes Act prior to a floor vote on the House bill. FRA led an effort in sending a letter signed-on by nearly 65 forestry associations to House T&I membership prior to the mark-up hearing that outlined the benefits of the Safe Routes Act provisions.
The road ahead: The Senate's surface reauthorization was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last summer. The Senate will have the upper hand in a conference as their highway bill passed unanimously out of committee.
H-2B Visas — Trump Expected to Announce Foreign Worker Ban
On Tuesday, President Trump met with his principal staff who have been working on the details of a Presential Proclamation that would ban foreign worker entry into the country. President Trump is expected to announce the Proclamation today or early next week. The proposed ban, as reported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will include H-2B visas. The length of the pending immigration ban is expected to be 120-days, although FRA has heard it could be as short as 30-60 days. FRA has been working extensively on this issue to exempt H-2B visas for forestry work from the Proclamation.
PPP Loan Program to End June 30
The Paycheck Protection Program's small business loan program will expire on June 30th. The popular program has already provided more than $500 billion in loans to help small businesses make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with the program’s popularity, loan applications have declined significantly in the last several weeks, leaving nearly $130 billion still available. The PPP provides small businesses with loans for payroll and other business expenses. The loans are forgivable if 60 percent of the money is used for payroll expenses. Businesses can only apply for a PPP loan once.
This week, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced modifications to the PPP loan forgiveness application along with an EZ version of the application. The EZ version applies to borrowers that: are self-employed and have no employees; or did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%, and did not reduce the number or hours of their employees; or experienced reductions in business activity as a result of health directives related to COVID-19 and did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%. Both applications give borrowers the option of using the original eight-week covered period (if their loan was made before June 5, 2020) or an extended 24-week covered period. These changes will result in a more efficient process and make it easier for businesses to realize full forgiveness of their PPP loan.
SBA Accepting New Applications for EIDL Loans
On June 15th, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SBA announced that they will be accepting new applications for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). The EIDL loan advances up to $10,000 to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. The loan will not have to be repaid and is available to agricultural businesses including those businesses engaged in the production of food and fiber, ranching, and raising of livestock, aquaculture, and all other farming and agricultural related industries (which includes the forest products industry) with 500 or fewer employees. The grants are available until December 16, 2020.
Senate Passes Historic Lands Bill
The Senate passed the most significant conservation legislation in decades on Wednesday. Senators voted 73-25 to clear the package to secure full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million annually and provide 9.5 billion over five years to address maintenance backlogs on the nation's public lands. The bill must still win approval in the House before it can go to the President’s desk.