COVID-19 government responses on 5/6/20

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COVID-19 government responses on 5/6/20
  • Daily Numbers
  • Young, Bennet Announce Major New Proposals to Support Hardest-Hit Small and Mid-Sized Businesses
  • SBA Extends May 7 Safe Harbor Date to May 14, Will Issue New Guidance
  • Congressional Agenda for May
  • House Introduces Legislation to Help Chambers of Commerce, Tourism Groups
  • Where the Virus is Spreading Fastest
  • Additional PPP Guidance
  • U.S., U.K. Announce Trade Agreement Negotiations
  • ICE Working with 3M, Amazon, Pfizer, Others to Identify Counterfeit Coronavirus Supplies
  • HUD Increases and Expands Flexibility of Funds for Public Housing Authorities
  • DOL Announces Additional Flexibility for Dislocated Worker Grants
  • Lawmakers Rebuff Trump’s Demand for Payroll Tax Cut in Next Virus Aid Bill
  • CISA Issues Cyber Warning for Health Organizations in USA and UK
  • White House Considers Phasing out Coronavirus Task Force
  • Senate Hearings Next Week
  • U.K. Draws up Three-Stage Plan to Ease Lockdown Restrictions
  • COVID-19 Recovery Site for Homeless Serves More Than 250 in Indy
  • Pence Complimented Indiana’s Reopening Plan, Governor Says
  • PPP & Rapid Response Loan Dashboard
  • Indy, Marion County Order Remains in Place

BY THE NUMBERS 

Number of Statewide Cases: 21,870 (+837) 

Marion County Cases: 6,730 (+311) 

Hamilton County Cases: 882 (+37) 

Johnson County Cases: 764 (+46) 

US Cases: 1.2M 

Global Cases: 3.7M 

Number of Statewide Deaths: 1,264 (+51) 

Number of Marion County Deaths: 390 (+16) 

US Deaths: 71,079 (+2,000) 

Global Deaths: 258,160 (+5,814) 

Number of new Hoosiers Filing for Unemployment: 57,397 as of 4/30/20 

FEDERAL 

Young, Bennet Announce Major New Proposals to Support Hardest-Hit Small and Mid-Sized Businesses 

Today, U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) announced bold new proposals to support the small- and mid-sized businesses most affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. The Young-Bennet plan includes a new RESTART loan program to provide funding to jump-start the hardest-hit businesses for the remainder of 2020 and provide loan forgiveness as a backstop against ongoing difficulties. It would also make enhancements to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to support restaurants and other deeply affected businesses. 

Near-Term Fix to PPP for Hardest-Hit Businesses 

Background: PPP has an 8-week “covered period” that begins immediately following the origination of a PPP loan. As funds were limited and there was much uncertainty, businesses rushed to apply and were unable to adjust the timing of their application to a point when they were actually prepared to relaunch their business. Payroll during this 8-week period is used to determine what amount of loan forgiveness a business receives. Businesses are also required to rehire their full headcount by June 30, 2020, regardless of whether their business is back up to anything near full capacity. Businesses that have already laid-off employees are having difficulty rehiring. Some businesses may be shuttered for most or even all of the 8-week period and may even be prohibited from operating at anything near full capacity by June 30, making the decision to rehire employees for a short time frame even more difficult. 

Proposal: Young and Bennet propose a simple fix to address a shortcoming of the PPP for many of the most-affected businesses: extend the 8-week covered period to deploy PPP funds and earn loan forgiveness to 16 weeks after the loan is disbursed for the hardest-hit businesses that have seen revenues decline by at least 25%. 

Longer-Term Strategy: The RESTART Program 

Background: The PPP has worked well for some businesses, but is often less effective for the businesses that should be receiving the most assistance – the smallest businesses or those who have seen revenues decline the most. Its limited duration will also leave many of the most-affected businesses without support in the difficult months ahead. 

Proposal: Young and Bennet propose a new RESTART Program, to provide funding to cover the next 6 months of payroll, benefits, and fixed operating expenses for businesses that have taken a substantial revenue hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. A share of that loan will be forgiven based on the revenue losses suffered by the business in 2020, and the remainder can be repaid over 7 years, with no interest payments due in the first year and no principal due for the first two years. This program is designed to provide small- and medium-sized businesses with loans to get their businesses going again, and ensure that they receive loan forgiveness to help fill in a loss in revenues. 

Following are the basic terms of the program: 

Loan Terms/Amount/Eligibility: 

  • • 7-year loan, capped at 45% of 2019 gross receipts up to $10 million 
  • • 100% federal guarantee for life of the loan 
  • • Employment cap of 5,000, with streamlined procedures for <500 employee firms 
  • • No cap on loan size based on multiple of payrolls 
  • • Self-certify a revenue loss (25% year-over-year, for at least three-month period) 
    • • Interest Rates/Payment Schedule: o No principal payments required for 2 years 
    • o Fixed interest rate for first 2 years with a maximum rate of 4% ▪ No interest payments due for first 12 months 
    • ▪ Payments of interest only for next 12 months 
    • o Interest rate for years 3 to 7 is the Applicable Federal Rate (AFR) plus a spread of 250 – 450 bps, based on revenue decline 
    • • Restrictions on dividends/share buybacks/executive compensation for duration of loan with special rules for pass-thru entities. 

Use of Funds: 

  • • Businesses can borrow to pay costs for next 6 months, based on half of 2019 levels of: o Total payroll (up to $100k per employee) 
  • o Employee benefits (for both current and furloughed employees) 
  • o Rent 
  • o Utilities 
  • o Mortgage payments on existing mortgages as of February 15, 2020 
  • o Other scheduled debt service, as of February 15, 2020 

Loan Forgiveness: 

  • • Level of forgiveness based on loss in revenues and may be applied for within 2 years of loan origination 
  • • No requirement to increase staffing beyond what business conditions dictate 
    • • Smaller business forgiveness (<500 employees) more generous than larger businesses o Small Business Forgiveness based on a formula including percentage decline in revenues for Payroll + Benefits + Operating Costs. 
    • • Larger businesses follow same forgiveness, except for payroll (i.e. benefits and operating costs fully included but not payroll). 
    • • Nonprofits would have access to a loan, but would not be eligible for forgiveness. Instead, the loan terms would have a longer duration (e.g. up to 10 years) and/or a lower interest rate. 

A more detailed summary of the Young-Bennet proposal and examples can be found here

SBA Extends May 7 Safe Harbor Date to May 14, Will Issue New Guidance 

The Department of Treasury has updated its Frequently Asked Questions guidance (found here) with a new FAQ #43 stating the Small Business Administration has extended the safe harbor date, from May 7, 2020 to May 14, 2020. This is the date by which borrowers can repay loans and be deemed to have made the necessity-based certification contained in the PPP loan application in good faith. This certification was addressed in FAQ #31 and FAQ #37 in the guidance linked above and was the subject of a previous update. The safe harbor was established by regulation published by the Department of Treasury on April 28, 2020, which provides that borrowers who applied for PPP loans prior to the date of that regulation can take advantage of the safe harbor. FAQ #43 also provides that the SBA intends to issue more guidance on how it will review the certification prior to May 14, 2020. That guidance will likely be relevant for applicants for PPP loans who applied after April 28, 2020 as well. 

Congressional Agenda for May 

What will Congress work on in May? Indeed, HOW will Congress return to some semblance of normal work in May? Recent guidelines from the Capitol Physician recommend postponing regular face-to-face meetings with constituents and lobbyists for as much as a year. In short, this is going to be a long, slow slog into the unknown. 

Logistically, we know votes on both the House & Senate side will take longer. Committee hearings will be fewer and farther between, relegated to the larger hearing rooms. The general pace of work will be slower than usual, with most staff still working remotely and individual offices' policies varying greatly as to who comes to work and who does not. While the Physicians guidelines will carry weight, we all know, House and Senate offices have historically acted like small fiefdoms and there will be a variance in terms of how offices react. Overall, we suspect there could be a start/stop/start pattern to work on Capitol Hill. Just as different states are re-opening on different schedules, so too will congressional offices. Depending on how events unfold, there could be a period of trial and error in terms of Congress returning to work. Looking ahead, we expect the normally predictable summer schedule to be upended. While time off for July 4th and political conventions will remain sacrosanct, we do not think much of the summer schedule will be as it has been in the past. In terms of scheduling legislation, debate on difficult, controversial legislation is typically slotted in the days leading up to a scheduled recess. But leadership might not be able to rely on calendar backstops, so we need to watch how scheduling techniques may change. 

In the House, the Speaker has been holding daily calls with Democratic colleagues including chairs and segments of her caucus. As we understand it, committee chairs have been asked to have recommendations for the next relief bill ready by today. In the Senate, GOP leadership felt that it could not pass additional relief legislation by consent, and needed more direct interaction between senators; thus, the push to return to session this week. There is some sentiment in the GOP Conference to take time to judge the results of previous relief bills and unease that the nearly $3 trillion in new spending to date. For this week, on the floor we expect things will somewhat resemble the pre-Crisis process- a slow grind on the floor through nominations, while talks about the next Crisis relief package ramp up. 

The Next COVID-19 Relief Package - We would be surprised if the next bill passes before the end of May. Each package that has been enacted to date has taken longer than expected, usually past any “final deadline.” PPP funding is going to expire again soon, but the last bill showed the limits of how much fund depletion can drive legislation. Plus, now the more Members will physically be in Washington, that can only serve - for better or worse - to slow the process. The most likely scenario is House Democrats moving on a proposal next week or the week after, and then Senate GOP reacting. It is hard to see the Senate passing a bill so eventually, we expect more shuttle diplomacy negotiating led by Sec. Mnuchin. 

Expiring Programs - Recent congressional action has set up a series of expiring provisions for the balance of the year, including the lapsed FISA provisions that Congress is Likely to extend in coming weeks. This long list of programs provides a number of possible inflection points that could lead to congressional activity. Here is a list of expiring provisions that will likely be addressed this year. 

July 23 Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program 

July 31 Unemployment Insurance increase 

Sept 30 Student loan repayment deferral and suspension of interest accrual 

Sept 30 FAST ACT (surface transportation authorization), National Flood Insurance Program 

Nov. 30 TANF, Community Health Center authorization, Variety of Medical programs 

Dec 31 Suspension of Medicare sequester, extension of emergency expansion of family medical and sick leave programs, variety of tax extenders. 

House Introduces Legislation to Help Chambers of Commerce, Tourism Groups 

Representatives Chris Pappas (D-NH-01), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Gil Cisneros (D-CA-39), and Greg Steube (R-FL-17) introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R. 6697) to ensure local chambers of commerce and other nonprofits who support small businesses—and who are not currently eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)—can receive the federal assistance they need to navigate the devastating economic downturn of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a press release from the bill introducing Members, U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president Neil Bradley was quoted: “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pleased to support the Local Chamber, Tourism, and 501(c)(6) Protection Act. Local chambers of commerce across the country play a vital role in assisting local businesses weathering the economic storm caused by the coronavirus. Including these organizations in the Paycheck Protection Program ensures they can continue with this important work in the weeks and months ahead. We will continue to work with Representatives Pappas, Fitzpatrick, and other members of Congress to include local chambers in this important program." 

Where the Virus is Spreading Fastest 

Besides keeping an eye on the nation's tragic, climbing coronavirus totals, state-level trends are also revealing, Axios editor-in-chief Nicholas Johnston writes

  • • Why it matters: Rising, or falling, numbers of cases is one of the key metrics for determining where mitigation efforts are working and when the economy can begin to reopen. 

The Trump administration's reopening guidelines specify that in order to start lifting restrictions and reopening businesses, a state needs to report 14-day trends of fewer cases or fewer positive tests (though local officials get some leeway). 

  • • Not a lot of states meet the criteria. 

This chart compares each state's seven-day average of new cases from Monday and the seven-day average from a week prior, April 27. 

  • • Comparing the averages of two dates helps smooth out a lot of the noise in how states sometimes inconsistently conduct and report tests. 
  • • By this metric, Minnesota, Nebraska and Puerto Rico have the most worrisome trends. Arkansas and Wyoming have the most positive trends. Twelve states are moving in the right direction. 
  • • But more than a third of the nation still has a growing number of cases. That includes Texas and Virginia, where Republican and Democratic governors are beginning to unveil reopening plans. 

Additional PPP Guidance 

On Tuesday, Treasury released additional guidance on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). An updated FAQ on the program is here. Treasury also released an FAQ on the Coronavirus Relief Fund authorized by the CARES Act. 

The Department also issued a new interim final rule on Nondiscrimination and Additional Eligibility Criteria. The new interim final rule provides guidance on PPP and outlines the need for nonprofits to meet their nondiscrimination requirements. Guidance for religious employer exemptions is also included. In addition, the guidance includes information for eligible small educational institutions seeking to participate in PPP.

U.S., U.K. Announce Trade Agreement Negotiations 

On Tuesday, the United States and the United Kingdom announced the launch of trade agreement negotiations between the two countries. The first round of negotiations will begin today and continue through May 15. All first-round negotiations will be conducted virtually with officials from nearly 30 different negotiating groups and are expected to cover all aspects of a comprehensive trade agreement. The U.S. team will be led by Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Dan Mullaney. 

ICE Working with 3M, Amazon, Pfizer, Others to Identify Counterfeit Coronavirus Supplies 

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has formed a partnership with 3M, Amazon, Pfizer, and others to combat the flow of counterfeit masks, tests, and other equipment from entering the country. ICE and the companies have agreed to share information and best practices to track suspicious shipments as well as take down suspicious online listings for masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). 

ICE says it has identified more than 19,000 suspicious domain names associated with COVID-19 and is working to shut many of them down. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has also seized close to 500 shipments of unauthorized products. 7 

The move comes as demand for PPE outpaces supply, despite increased production by several large companies through powers under the Defense Production Act (DPA). Increased demand has allowed counterfeit PPE equipment from unproven vendors to enter the country. 

HUD Increases and Expands Flexibility of Funds for Public Housing Authorities 

In a press release Tuesday, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson announced $380 million in supplemental administrative fee funding that will be awarded to Public Housing Authorities (PHAs). The additional funding, authorized by CARES, can be used for traditional administrative fees and new costs associated with protecting assisted families and employees impacted by the pandemic. 

DOL Announces Additional Flexibility for Dislocated Worker Grants 

The Department of Labor (DOL) issued a press release Tuesday announcing Dislocated Worker Grant (DWG) funding provided to states and territories can now be used for contact tracing as well. The funding was originally authorized for states and territories to temporarily employ workers due to the pandemic. 

States and territories that have received DWG funding will now be able to fund activities related to disaster-relief employment contact tracing if the “purpose of the tracing is in response to and in order to mitigate the public health emergency.” Contact tracing has proven to be an effective measure in isolating potential coronavirus cases as well as supporting the containment of the virus. 

Lawmakers Rebuff Trump’s Demand for Payroll Tax Cut in Next Virus Aid Bill 

President Donald Trump’s latest red line for the next phase of coronavirus legislation—a payroll tax cut for workers—has few fans in Congress even among Republicans, further complicating the path toward a new rescue package as House Democrats rush to release their own plan as early as next week. As senators returned to Washington, D.C., this week to an unusually sparse and eerie Capitol, resistance began to mount against Trump’s favored form of putting more money into workers’ pockets, with lawmakers noting that a payroll tax cut only helps those gainfully employed at a time when record numbers of Americans are filing for jobless claims. 

The intraparty rift on a payroll tax cut comes as the Democratic-led House scrambles to produce additional coronavirus legislation with perhaps another massive price tag. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, made it clear that they will pause any rescue package as they begin to scrutinize the effectiveness of previous rounds of aid sent to states, hospitals, consumers and small businesses. 

The bipartisan opposition to a payroll tax cut has not deterred Trump, who has continued to tweet about his idea even as growing opposition from his own party that came into sharper view on Tuesday.

CISA Issues Cyber Warning for Health Organizations in USA and UK 

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a cyber warning to security agencies in the United States and United Kingdom amid the finding of malicious cyber campaigns targeting health organizations assisting in coronavirus response efforts. 

The warning provides safety tips for employees such as changing passwords and implementing two-factor authentication. 

The cyber hackers, known as advanced persistent threat groups, have attempted to target health organizations to collect personal information, intellectual property, and national intelligence. 

White House Considers Phasing out Coronavirus Task Force 

During a meeting with reporters on Tuesday, Vice President Pence said the Administration is considering phasing out the task force as early as June. The phaseout would be gradual and shift the coronavirus response efforts to various federal agencies. The effort would coincide with additional states easing lockdown restrictions. 

Senate Hearings Next Week 

The Senate has announced the addition of several new hearings next week. The Senate Banking Committee will meet remotely to hold a hearing entitled “Oversight of the Federal Banking Regulators.” The hearing will include Randal Quarles, Vice Chair for Supervision at the Federal Reserve, Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting, Jelena McWilliams, Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and Rodney Hood, Chairman of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). 

Senate Judiciary will hold a hearing entitled “Examining Liability During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a hearing entitled “COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School.” Witnesses for this hearing include Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield, HHS Assistant Secretary Admiral Brett Grigor, and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. 

Additionally, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced that it would also conduct a hearing next week with Dr. Rick Bright, the former BARDA head who has filed a whistleblower complaint related to the Administration’s handling of COVID-19. 

U.K. Draws up Three-Stage Plan to Ease Lockdown Restrictions 

The United Kingdom has developed a three-stage plan for reopening business across the country. The plan states the government must review the lockdown by May 7. The first phase will reopen small shops and outdoor workplaces. The second phase will reopen larger retailers, followed by the third phase which will reopen pubs, restaurants, and hotels. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a comprehensive plan on Sunday for exiting the lockdown. 

STATE 

COVID-19 Recovery Site for Homeless Serves More Than 250 in Indy 

A COVID-19 recovery site the state established for homeless individuals in Indianapolis has helped more than 252 people to date, Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Jennifer Sullivan said during Wednesday’s daily press briefing. In March, the Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded $5 million to the state of Indiana to establish centers for homeless individuals who needed to be quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19 or because they tested positive for the disease. The Indianapolis site opened March 29. Sullivan said 167 of the 252 individuals have been successfully discharged, 113 of them were referred to primary care appointments, 27 were connected to mental health services and five were able to find long-term housing. The homelessness population is considered vulnerable to the coronavirus because individuals are often housed in close proximity to one another in shelters and are more likely to have existing health conditions. Since establishing the Marion County site, the state has opened more than a dozen other centers throughout the state. Sullivan said they targeted areas that had high percentages of homeless individuals. She said they recently expanded the criteria for who can be served at some of the sites to include those experiencing domestic violence or living in group homes with substance use disorders or intellectual or developmental disabilities. “We have effectively prevented an additional level of public health crisis by avoiding COVID outbreaks in homeless shelters in Indiana,” Sullivan said. 

Pence Complimented Indiana’s Reopening Plan, Governor Says 

Gov. Eric Holcomb said during his daily press briefing Tuesday afternoon that he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence on Monday about Indiana’s five-stage plan to reopen state’s economy. Pence, he said, told him he thought the plan was “thorough” and “thoughtful.” 

Holcomb announced the phased-in approach on Friday afternoon, with retailers in most counties in the state being allowed to reopen with 50% capacity on Monday, and a goal of completely lifting restrictions by July 4. Holcomb said Pence told him he has seen a lot of different plans for states across the country, but none have been better than Holcomb’s roadmap for Indiana. 

“He held it up, actually, as a model,” Holcomb said. 

LOCAL 

PPP & Rapid Response Loan Dashboard 

Below is the latest PPP & Rapid Response Loan Dashboard for the Indy Chamber. 

Despite an early setback with the SBA rules, our partnership with Bankable is bearing fruit. With almost $2M in PPP loans issued as of COB yesterday (expected to be $2.2-$2.5M by COB today) the vast majority of loans (75%) are going to XBE’s and restaurant/hospitality as leading industries. The loan size is also significantly lower than the national PPP average, reinforcing the demand for these products by small businesses and microenterprises. In addition to PPP loans, we have recapitalized our Rapid Response Loan Fund which will allow us to further assist small restaurants and retail establishments with cash-flow lending as they look to reopen in the coming days and weeks. 

Indy, Marion County Order Remains in Place 

Marion County will continue to enforce a stay-at-home order until May 15, despite the state of Indiana’s Back on Track plan that indicates the county could ease restrictions and start to reopen businesses May 11. The restrictions also apply to places of worship in Marion County, delaying their opening. 

IMPORTANT LINKS 

Links to all executive orders may be found here: https://www.in.gov/gov/2384.htm 

Link to the Stay-At-Home Order FAQ may be found here: https://www.in.gov/gov/3232.htm 

More information may be found at the ISDH website at in.gov/coronavirus/ and the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

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