COVID-19

COVID192

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates from ABC Western PA

ABC Western PA is committed to serving our members during this unprecedented time. We are continuing to offer valuable updates, resources and services to our members, and staff will be working remotely temporarily to ensure that we are available for you.

Below are recent updates from the Chapter regarding the COVID-19 crisis. Please scroll down to see all updates.

Continuously updated list of COVID-19 informational resources from ABC National, please click here.

 

Wednesday April 29th

Guidance for Businesses in the Construction Industry Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency: Frequently Asked Questions.


Friday, April 24th

ABCWPA is excited to announce that this evening, Governor Wolf’s office confirmed the resumption of construction statewide on May 1, 2020. See below for the links to both the Press Release and the written Guidance.

Be safe, be healthy.


Wednesday, April 21st

ABC Pennsylvania Applauds Passage of House Bill 2400

The Associated Builders and Contractors of Pennsylvania (ABC Pennsylvania) has been supportive of state and federal guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Businesses that are essential or have been granted waivers from the governor’s business closure order must follow COVID-19 social distancing, mitigation, and cleaning protocols. ABC Pennsylvania members who have waivers enhanced their safety plans accordingly to include jobsite control measures and other mitigation protocols. Read the rest of the press release.
 
Another busy day in Harrisburg:
 
  • House Bill 2400 Passes House: The Speaker’s legislation opening up the construction industry passed moments ago largely along a party-line vote of 111-91. ABC Pennsylvania issued a press release applauding passage. The fate in the Senate is unclear. Since HB 2400 is still active, our previously issued action alert remains live. So far, we generated 486 messages into the Legislature. 
  • Construction Safety Task Force Report: Attached is the report of our COVID-19 task force, along with a cover letter to the Governor. 
  • Overtime Rule: In January, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved raising the overtime eligibility threshold. The House and Senate both have 10 legislative days in which to attempt to override IRRC’s vote via a “disapproval resolution.” ABC Pennsylvania has been signing onto PA Chamber memos expressing our concerns. Today, the House voted along party-lines (109-93) to approve the disapproval resolution. The resolution now goes to the Senate, which now has 10 legislative days (or 30 calendar days, whichever is longer) to consider the resolution. Unclear what the Senate will do at this point.
  • Federal Stimulus: Also moments ago, the U.S. Senate passed another stimulus package totaling $460 billion. Of that figure, $360 billion would replenish the Paycheck Protection Program. The U.S. House is expected to vote on the package on Thursday.
 

HR Toolkit The Employer’s Guide to COVID-19

This toolkit provides a comprehensive overview of the most pressing issues facing employers, including vital information regarding new federal laws such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, HIPAA privacy considerations, carrier response to the pandemic, layoffs and furloughs, tax credits and much more. However, please note that due to the developing nature of the pandemic, it is highly likely that the guidance found in this toolkit will require updating. Every effort will be made to continue to provide the most accurate, up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 and employer compliance considerations.

This toolkit is informative in nature and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice.


Thursday, April 16th

The Pennsylvania House and Senate passed Senate Bill 613, which would allow businesses to re-open that can adhere to federal guidelines for social distancing and other health and safety protocols. The bill would also bring the Commonwealth in line with 44 other states who follow these same guidelines.

The waivers issued by the Department of Community and Economic Development require COVID-19 mitigation measures to be put in place. On April 15, Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, M.D. issued an order requiring essential businesses to follow certain social distancing, mitigation, and cleaning protocols. All businesses should be provided the same courtesy if they are able to successfully implement COVID-19 safety protocols.

Unfortunately, Governor Wolf has said he intends to veto the bill when it reaches his desk. Use this platform to ask him to reconsider his veto of Senate Bill 613.


Wednesday, April 15th
Your ABC staff has been working hard as the House had a long afternoon yesterday:
 
  • Senate Bill 613 Passes the House: ABC Pennsylvania supports this legislation, as it would require the governor to develop a COVID-19 plan for businesses to adopt as a condition to re-open. There were passionate speeches on the floor from both sides. The bill passed largely on a party-line vote of 107-95. The bill will go to the Senate for concurrence. Word is the Senate may return tomorrow to take up the measure. If the bill goes to the Governor, he will have 10 days to sign, veto, or let it lapse into law. 
  • House Bill 2400 Moves Forward: ABC Pennsylvania supports this legislation, as it would allow the construction industry to re-open. The bill moved through the second stage of the legislative process. There are a few more stages left before a final vote would take place in the House. If that happens, the bill would start the process over in the Senate.
  • ABC Advocate Response to Action Alerts: Since the governor’s business close order was issued, we sent four “call to action” alerts and one informational alert. Combined, the four action alerts generated over 1,100 emails into the governor and legislature. The number of advocates signed up to receive our alerts grew from 1,200 to 2,320, a 52% increase. Congrats to all for helping make this happen!

Tuesday, April 13th

ABC continues to advocate for additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program, as the loan program is set to expend the original $349 billion appropriation by week’s end and Congress remains divided on an interim bill.

ABC Action Alert:

  • With critical funding needed to continue the Paycheck Protection Program, ABC urges members to contact their U.S. lawmakers in support of a clean funding bill to extend an additional $251 billion to PPP. Please click here to take action and urge Congress to support additional small businesses relief.

Update on PPP:

  • Earlier today, the U.S. Treasury released guidance on how lenders can process 1099/independent contractors/gig economy workers for PPP loans.
  • As of this morning, approximately 1.01 million loans have been approved under the PPP by more than 4,000 lenders, totaling $242 billion. However, there is little progress being made on an agreement to provide additional funds to the program before money runs out at some point this week.
  • The Senate and the House, outside of an emergency need, are not scheduled to be back in DC until May 4th. Complicating issues more, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, who forced members back into town to pass the CARES Act, has again pledged to call for a floor vote and force members back to town if another package is agreed on by Congressional leadership. Members would have to be given 24 hours’ notice before having to return to town as well.
  • Associations and organizations representing small businesses, including ABC, are also advocating for further expansion of the PPP program to include 501(c)(6) non-profits, expand past the 8-week payroll coverage, and further assist small businesses.

State and Local Updates:

  • Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has extended the state’s “Stay at Home” order through April 30, a two week plus extension over the original April 14th timeline established by the state. All other state laws, rules and provisions related to the original order are also extended, according to the governor’s executive order. Other metropolitan areas in the state had existing orders that already extended beyond the state’s April 14th date, including “Safer at Home” directives in Nashville through April 24 and Memphis through April 21. Contractors working in Tennessee can find more information on essential businesses and services that may continue to operate under the executive order here.
  • Mid-Atlantic and West Coast states are also now exploring multi-state efforts to respond to COVID-related developments, and further state cooperation is expected in coming weeks.

ABC continues to update this resource racking state and local COVID-19 policies impacting the construction industry.


Monday, April 13th

ABC PA – quick update as we start the week:

  • Tuesday House Session: The House will be in session tomorrow. Senate Bill 613 is on the radar to advance – this is the bill that was amended to include language that would require the Governor to develop a COVID-19 plan for businesses, and allow businesses to open that follow that plan. ABC PA supports the bill/amendment. If the House passes the bill, it would go to the Senate for concurrence. The House could also move House Bill 2400 (the construction bill), but that bill has several stages to go through the process before a final vote can take place.
  • Next Step: ABC PA is preparing an action alert asking ABC members to ask their state rep to support SB 613.
  • ABC PA Waiver Request: DCED denied ABC PA’s request for a waiver to have ALL construction to continue.

Tuesday, April 7th

ABC Pennsylvania Supports Legislation Allowing Construction Activities to Continue

During these unprecedented times, the wellbeing of our workforce and residents is – and always will be – paramount. The Associated Builders and Contractors of Pennsylvania (ABC Pennsylvania) stands by and supports our government leaders in protecting the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians during this time of emergency.

In Pennsylvania, construction activities are permitted if a waiver is granted from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). ABC Pennsylvania supports those operations to continue if they are done in a safe way and trusts businesses to make their own decisions, as each project is unique. That is why ABC Pennsylvania created a Construction Safety Task Force to provide guidance, best practices and standards for the construction industry both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the rest here.


Friday, April 3rd

ABC of Western PA is grateful Congress and the Trump Administration passed the CARES Act to help businesses, nonprofits and millions of Americans withstand the coronavirus pandemic, but associations need more help. We joined the American Society of Association Executives and 3,000 other organizations to urge lawmakers to include associations in critically needed aid legislation.

Read the letter here.


Paycheck Protection Program and Tax Provisions for Small Businesses – What You Need to Know:

Paycheck Protection Program Overview:

  • Starting April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply. Starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply. The guidance suggests applying quickly as there is a funding cap.
    • The application form for borrowers can be found here.
  • Although the program is open until June 30, 2020, the Treasury Department encouraged businesses to apply quickly “because there is a funding cap.” U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has also said that if the initial pool of loans for small business goes quickly, Congress could work to expand funding on a bipartisan basis.
  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides $2 trillion in federal funding for programs to support our nation’s hospitals and businesses, and the most critical of these programs for ABC and our members (a majority of which are small businesses) is the Paycheck Protection Program that authorizes nearly $350 billion in forgivable loans. PPP loans must be made during the period prior to June 30, 2020 and is retroactive to February 15, 2020.

PPP Eligibility:

  • The bill defines eligibility for these loans as a small business, 501(c)(3) or 501(a) nonprofit, a 501(c)(19) veteran’s organization, or Tribal business concern described in section 31(b)(2)(C) of the Small Business Act with not more than 500 employees, or the applicable size standard for the industry as provided by SBA, if higher. Note the bill does not include 501(c)(6) nonprofits.
  • Sole-proprietors, independent contractors, and other self-employed individuals as eligible for loans and allows businesses with more than one physical location that employs no more than 500 employees per physical location in certain industries, mainly franchise and food services, are also eligible.
  • The bill requires eligible borrowers to make a good faith certification that the loan is necessary due to the uncertainty of current economic conditions caused by COVID-19, and that they will use the funds to retain workers and maintain payroll, lease, and utility payments.
  • Borrowers also must not be receiving duplicative funds for the same uses from another SBA program and participation in a PPP loan excludes businesses from taking advantage of tax programs included in the CARES Act to prevent double dipping into these federal programs.
  • SBA-certified lenders are only required to determine whether a business was operational on February 15, 2020, and had employees for whom it paid salaries and payroll taxes for eligibility in the PPP.

PPP Loans:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, starting April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply for and receive loans to cover their payroll and other certain expenses through existing SBA lenders. Starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply for and receive loans to cover their payroll and other certain expenses through existing SBA lenders. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans as soon as they are approved and enrolled in the program.
  • PPP loans can be as large as 250% of a business’s average monthly payroll costs over the last 12 months, however, the maximum loan amount under this program is $10 million through December 31, 2020. It also specifies allowable uses of the loan to include payroll support, such as employee salaries, paid sick or medical leave, insurance premiums, and mortgage, rent, and utility payments.
  • PPP loans are made by over 800 SBA-certified lenders throughout the country and the CARES Act allows for additional lenders to join the program, as needed. Additional lenders approved by Treasury are only permitted to make Paycheck Protection Program loans, not regular 7(a) loans.
  • PPP Loans are subject to a fixed interest rate of 0.50%, and are subject to complete payment deferral (including principal, interest and fees) for at least six months and up to one year, subject to a process to be determined by the SBA, and are not subject to any prepayment penalty.
  • Businesses interested in a PPP loan should contact their bank to see if it is an SBA-approved lender.
  • PPP Loans are not required to be secured by collateral or personally guaranteed, do not require that the borrower be unable to find credit elsewhere, and are not subject to the SBA’s fees through June 30, 2020. 

Loan Forgiveness:

  • Principal amounts on PPP loans, for the first 8-week period from when the PPP Loan is made, may be forgiven, if loan funds are used to cover payroll costs, interest payments on mortgages (not including prepayments or principal), rent and utilities.
  • The amount of a PPP loan that may be forgiven cannot exceed the principal amount of the loan. The amount forgiven will be reduced proportionally by any reduction in employees retained compared to the prior year and reduced by the reduction in pay of any employee beyond 25 percent of their prior year compensation. Payroll costs are capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee.
  • To encourage employers to rehire any employees who have already been laid off due to the COVID-19 crisis, borrowers that re-hire workers previously laid off will not be penalized for having a reduced payroll at the beginning of the period.

Additional Resources:


Wednesday, April 1st

Quick update from ABC PA and the DCED deadline:

  • Stay Home Order: The order now covers the entire Commonwealth, effective until April 30.

  • Waivers: ABC Pa has been told the waivers requests now top 31,000.

  • Other Materials: For your awareness, ABC PA is working on an action alert to support the soon-to-be introduced bills that would allow construction activities to continue.


Tuesday, March 31st

ABC PA is still working on your behalf:

  • Stay Home Order: The Governor added 7 more counties to the stay home order (Cameron, Crawford, Forest, Franklin, Lawrence, Lebanon, and Somerset), bringing the total to 33. 
  • Future Legislation: Speaker Turzai and several state senators will be introducing legislation to grant a blanket waiver for construction.  Last we heard, the House bill has over 60 co-sponsors. 
  • Information Action Alert: We are set to launch an informational action alert tomorrow morning that will update ABC members on our advocacy efforts.
  • Media Statement: We were contacted by Penn Live (Harrisburg-regional newspaper) to provide a statement on the Governor’s order. The article has been posted! Link below.
  • Unemployment Compensation System: According to the Department of Labor & Industry, since March 15, there have been 834,684 new UC claims filed.  It is unclear when the $600 add-on payment approved by the federal government would be made available.
  • Support from Legislature: We hear every day of Legislators sending letters or posting on social media in support of opening up construction.
  • Partner Outreach: We continue to keep in touch with our partners.  We are not alone in what we have been doing and saying.  In addition, our efforts are being noticed across state lines, as ABC PA was contacted by the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association and the exterior insulation and finish trade association offering to assist and share intelligence on what other states are doing. 
  • Media:

Friday, March 27th

Please see an update on legislation set to pass in Congress and be signed into law this week.

In addition to our federal updates, please visit our ABC resource pages to find updates on federal legislation, state and local actions, and agency guidance on issues related to the coronavirus.

 

Coronavirus Emergency Relief Legislation:

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion bill that will provide relief to states and enhance federal assistance programs to address the ongoing health crisis. The U.S. House is expected to take up the measure on Friday. The legislation would send $1,200 checks to many Americans under a certain income threshold, create a $350 billion loan program for small businesses, and establish a $500 billion lending fund for industries, cities and states. Other provisions include payroll tax delays and other tax fixes for businesses and, importantly, $140 billion for hospitals. Click here for a copy of the final bill and click here for a section-by-section analysis. Additional information and links on the bill are included below.
  • CLICK HERE to learn about the Senate CARES bill tax provisions.
  • CLICK HERE to learn about the Senate CARES bill unemployment provisions.
  • CLICK HERE to learn about the Senate CARES bill small business provisions.
  • CLICK HERE to learn about the Senate CARES bill distressed industries provisions.

 

ABC National Resources:

Additional resources and next steps here.


Thursday, March 26th
ABC PA staff is working around the clock to keep you updated on our advocacy and intelligence: 
  •  Action Alert: Our action alert has now generated nearly 500 messages into the Governor’s Office. Since Friday, we have more than doubled our action alert registrant list, and many of the actions were taken from first time advocates.
  • Joint Letter: Over the last three days, we were able to secure 20 organizations to join our joint letter. The letter is in the hands of the Governor’s Office, legislative leaders, and key committee members. Read the letter here.
  • Amendment Intelligence: Yestersday, Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) filed an amendment to SB 327, an “administrative code” bill. The amendment would require DCED to grant a waiver to all public and private construction activities that can adhere to social distancing and other mitigation efforts. 
  • Latest Intelligence: It was looking like the bill and amendment would move; however, we learned that talks between the Governor and leaders did not produce an agreement on the waivers or allowing construction to continue. The Legislature is in recess and can be called back at any time, but at this point, they are not scheduled to return until April 6. We will continue to make calls to gather intelligence.
  • Unemployment Compensation Bill: The House concurred to Senate amendments to a UC bill (HB 68). The bill makes changes to the system in response to COVID-19, including requiring employer notification on UC eligibility (which is required under federal law); waiving work search requirements; waiving the waiting week; and automatic relief from charges for the employer. 
  • Federal Stimulus: It appears an agreement was reached on the next stimulus bill. Key provisions include:
    • $1,200 checks to eligible households.
    • $350 billion in loans for small businesses with less than 500 employees.
    • $500 billion in lending fund for industries and cities.
    • $150 billion made available in state and local stimulus funds.
    • $130 billion to hospitals.
    • Expanded UC benefits - workers would receive $600 per week for four months on top of what they receive from their state’s program.

Friday, March 20th
Governor Tom Wolf issued an unprecedented executive order closing all non-life sustaining businesses, including the construction industry, until further notice.
 
 
The order states that enforcement actions will be taken against businesses who are out of compliance as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 21. Penalties for non-compliance can include citations, fines, and license suspensions. ABC is sharing resources, exploring options, and encouraging members to take action. If your business has questions about the order or wishes to seek a waiver from the order, please see the information below:
 
  • Waiver: The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) has established a waiver process. ABC PA has been in direct communication with the DCED throughout this evolving situation. The waiver form is located on the DCED's main website, that link can be located here.
  • General Questions: If you have questions about whether your business needs to close, you can email: ra-dcedcs@pa.gov.
In general, we are alarmed the Governor’s executive order is open-ended, overly broad, and will have severe consequences on the construction industry. We need you to contact the Governor today! Link to Website: https://abckeystone.org/government-affairs-politics/voter-voice/