June 2020 Government Affairs Update
President Trump Signs Proclamation Suspending Issuance of New H-2B Visas
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump signed a proclamation which temporarily suspends the issuance of new H-2B visas through the end of 2020. This order also applies to H-1B visas, H-4 visas, L-1 visas and some J-1 visas. The president sighted a high unemployment rate due to the COVID-19 pandemic as justification for the decision. The proclamation goes into effect today.
The visa suspension applies to individuals who:
- Are outside the United States on the effective date of this proclamation;
- Do not have a nonimmigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation; and
- Do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission.
The following individuals are exempt from the suspension:
- Any lawful permanent resident of the United States;
- Any immigrant who is the spouse or child, as defined in section 101(b)(1) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1101(b)(1)), of a United States citizen;
- Any immigrant seeking to enter the United States to provide temporary labor or services essential to the United States food supply chain; and
- Any immigrant whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.
BSCAI is closely monitoring this issue and will be sure to keep members updated on future developments.
SBA and Treasury Issue Revised PPP Loan Forgiveness Applications and Guidance
The Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury Department have issued a revised Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness application which implements changes from the PPP Flexibility Act signed into law earlier this month. In addition to revising the full forgiveness application, SBA also published a new EZ version of the forgiveness application that 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%.
The EZ application requires fewer calculations and less documentation for eligible borrowers. Details regarding the applicability of these provisions are available in the instructions to the new EZ application form. Both applications give borrowers the option of using the original 8-week covered period (if their loan was made before June 5, 2020) or an extended 24-week covered period.
Click here to view the EZ Forgiveness Application.
Click here to view the Full Forgiveness Application.
In addition, the SBA and Treasury issued a new interim final rule which implements the 24-week covered period and specifies which expenses are eligible for forgiveness.
SBA Issues First Interim Rule on PPP Revisions
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has issued the First Interim Rule regarding revisions to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) following the passage of the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act. The interim rule provides initial guidance to borrowers on the program’s changes under the new law.
Below is a summary of the provisions passed by Congress that were included in the interim rule:
- Extends the covered period for loan forgiveness from eight weeks after the date of loan disbursement to 24 weeks after the date of loan disbursement. Borrowers who have already received PPP loans retain the option to use an eight-week covered period.
- Lower the requirements that 75 percent of a borrower’s loan proceeds must be used for payroll costs and that 75 percent of the loan forgiveness amount must have been spent on payroll costs during the 24-week loan forgiveness covered period to 60 percent for each of these requirements. If a borrower uses less than 60 percent of the loan amount for payroll costs during the forgiveness covered period, the borrower will continue to be eligible for partial loan forgiveness, subject to at least 60 percent of the loan forgiveness amount having been used for payroll costs.
- Provides a safe harbor from reductions in loan forgiveness based on reductions in full-time equivalent employees for borrowers that are unable to return to the same level of business activity the business was operating at before February 15, 2020, due to compliance with requirements or guidance issued between March 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020 by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, related to worker or customer safety requirements related to COVID–19.
- Provides a safe harbor from reductions in loan forgiveness based on reductions in full-time equivalent employees, to provide protections for borrowers that are both unable to rehire individuals who were employees of the borrower on February 15, 2020, and unable to hire similarly qualified employees for unfilled positions by December 31, 2020.
- Increases to five years the maturity of PPP loans that are approved by SBA (based on the date SBA assigns a loan number) on or after June 5, 2020.
- Extends the deferral period for borrower payments of principal, interest, and fees on PPP loans to the date that SBA remits the borrower’s loan forgiveness amount to the lender (or, if the borrower does not apply for loan forgiveness, 10 months after the end of the borrower’s loan forgiveness covered period).
- Confirms that June 30, 2020 remains the last date on which a PPP loan application can be approved.
SBA and Treasury Announce New PPP Public Disclosure Policy
Over the weekend, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury Department announced that they will make public additional data regarding the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Specifically, the SBA will be publicly releasing the names of businesses that received $150,000 or more in PPP loans. Additionally, they will be releasing addresses, NAICS codes, zip codes, business type, demographic data, non-profit information, jobs supported, and loan amount ranges as follows:
- $350,000-1 million
- $1-2 million
- $2-5 million
- $5-10 million
Federal Reserve Announces Opening of Lender Registration for the Main Street Lending Program
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston announced that the Main Street Lending Program Lender Portal is now open. The program, which will operate through three facilities – the Main Street New Loan Facility, the Main Street Priority Loan Facility, and the Main Street Expanded Loan Facility – is designed to help ensure that small and medium-sized businesses have access to the credit they need to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. As announced last week, the portion of the loans retained by the originating bank has been lowered to five percent for all eligible loans submitted to the program, creating additional balance sheet capacity for participating lenders. Once lenders are successfully registered for the program, they can begin lending to eligible borrowers. However, as of today, the program is still not in operation. For more information on the Main Street Lending Program, including program information and frequently asked questions, visit www.bostonfed.org/mslp.
OSHA Issues Guidance on Masks in the Workplace
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a series of frequently asked questions and answers regarding the use of masks in the workplace. The new guidance outlines the differences between cloth face coverings, surgical masks and respirators. It further reminds employers not to use surgical masks or cloth face coverings when respirators are needed. In addition, the guidance notes the need for social distancing measures, even when workers are wearing cloth face coverings, and recommends following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance on washing face coverings.
OSHA Issues Guidance for Reopening of Non-Essential Businesses
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued guidance to assist employers reopening non-essential businesses and their employees returning to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidance supplements the Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services’ previously developed Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and the White House’s Guidelines for Opening up America Again. The guidelines provide general principles for updating restrictions originally put in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19. During each phase of the reopening process, OSHA says employers should continue to focus on strategies for basic hygiene, social distancing, identification and isolation of sick employees, workplace controls and flexibilities, and employee training.
Non-essential businesses should reopen as state and local governments lift stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders and follow public health recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal requirements or guidelines. Employers should continue to consider ways to use workplace flexibilities, such as remote work and alternative business operations, to provide goods and services to customers.
D.C. Circuit Court Rejects Petition on COVID-19 Emergency Standard in the Workplace
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected a petition from the AFL-CIO seeking a court order to force the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) to issue an emergency temporary standard on infection control in the workplace. After the ruling, OSHA said it will continue to enforce the law and offer guidance to employers and employees to keep workplaces safe.
Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration’s Attempt to Rescind DACA Program
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling which blocks the Trump Administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The DACA program was originally instituted under the Obama Administration and protects immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. The Supreme Court ruling stated that the Trump Administration failed to provide an adequate reason to justify ending the DACA program.