1. NECA Secures Key Fixes in the Senate-Passes PPP Flexibility Act
This week, the Senate passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act by unanimous consent since they were not officially in session this week, but wanted to act quickly before the 8 week period ended for the first round of borrowers. The president is expected to sign it into law shortly.
NECA’s Look Ahead: The PPP Flexibility Act addresses several of the issues NECA contractors had with the Paycheck Protection Program, including:
- PPP borrowers can choose to extend the eight-week period to 24 weeks, or they can keep the original eight-week period. The idea is to make it easier for more borrowers to reach full, or almost full, forgiveness by being able to determine which timeline works better for them.
- Borrowers can use the 24-week period to restore their workforce levels and wages to the pre-pandemic levels required for full forgiveness. This must be done by December 31, instead of the previous deadline of June 30.
- Borrowers now have five years to repay the loan instead of two. The interest rate remains at 1%.
- The bill allows businesses that took a PPP loan to delay payment of their payroll taxes.
- The payroll expenditure requirement drops from 75% to 60%, but the downside is it is now a cliff, so borrowers must spend at least 60% on payroll or none of the loan will be forgiven. The Senate will try to fix this with technical corrections or another bill so that it isn’t all or nothing at the 60% threshold.
- The legislation includes two new exceptions allowing borrowers to achieve full PPP loan forgiveness even if they don’t fully restore their workforce. Previous guidance already allowed borrowers to exclude from those calculations employees who turned down good faith offers to be rehired at the same hours and wages as before the pandemic. The new bill allows borrowers to adjust because they could not find qualified employees or were unable to restore business operations to February 15, 2020 levels due to COVID-19 related operating restrictions.
2. NECA Advocates for Composite Plans With New Study
Earlier this week, NECA along with a larger coalition of Construction industry groups circulated a study showing that composite plans, the hybrid retirement plan option, would have fared better during both the 2008 financial crisis and the current pandemic. The short study clearly shows that the required overfunding practices and the early addressing of economic factors encouraged by these plans would allow for the security they need to adequately provide lifelong benefits, even in the face of economic downturn.
NECA’s look Ahead: NECA continues to advocate for the passage of composite plans into law so that our chapters and their union partners will have the voluntary option to consider if this plan structure is right for them. After passing the House of Representatives late last month as part of the HEROES Act, composite plans now wait for Senate approval.
3. House T&I Chair Releases INVEST in America Act
This week, Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) released the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act. The bill is a 5-year, $494 billion investment in our nation’s surface transportation. This bill will likely change in the markup process later this month when Republicans weigh in. A floor vote is expected on July 1, 2020 to ensure the highway reauthorization is complete before the September 30 deadline.
NECA’s Look Ahead: The bill includes the following key provisions:
- $319 Billion in highway investments:
- Delivers better roads and bridges faster by prioritizing fixing the broken, outdated infrastructure we already have, including 47,000 structurally deficient bridges, before building new highway capacity.
- Dramatically increases funding for development of charging stations and other alternative fueling options for electric and zero-emissions vehicles.
- Doubles funding for technology deployment to increase innovation and creates new program to fund green materials research and to deploy green construction materials and practices to create smarter, more efficient transportation systems.
- $105 Billion for Transit Investments:
- Increases funding for transit agencies to add new routes and provide more reliable service, encouraging viable public transit options and fewer single-occupant cars clogging highways.
- Provides the investments needed to address the growing backlog of transit maintenance needs, making public transit safer and more reliable.
- $60 Billion for Rail Investments:
- Triples funding for Amtrak to $29 billion over five years.
- Invests in Amtrak stations, facilities, services, and modernization of its equipment.
- Creates a new $19 billion program, the Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization and Expansion (PRIME) grant program, devoted entirely to passenger rail improvements and expansion, performance optimization, and intercity passenger rail transportation expansion.