Aindriu Colgan | NSWA Vice President, Governmental Affairs
Last week, President Trump officially signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law 116-136) into law, following passage by the House earlier in the day by voice vote. Aindriu Colgan, VP of Government Affairs, distributed a full summary of the CARES Act last week, but in case you need easy access, it is available online here. Additional federal resources regarding the coronavirus response may also be found here.
Some of the highlights of the legislation include:
- A one-time direct payment of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child to taxpayers making less than $75,000 a year. Those making between $75,000 and $99,000 will receive a discounted amount, and those making more than $99,000 will receive no payment.
- Provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits through December 31, 2020, to help those who remain unemployed after weeks of state unemployment are no longer available.
- Allows employers and self-employed individuals to defer payment of the employer share of the Social Security tax they otherwise are responsible for paying to the federal government with respect to their employees.
- Temporarily increases the amount of interest expense businesses are allowed to deduct on their tax returns, by increasing the 30-percent limitation to 50 percent of the taxable income (with adjustments) for 2019 and 2020.
- Provides $500 billion to the Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund to provide loans, loan guarantees, and other investments.
The process has begun in Washington to expedite loan, grant, and direct payments. It will likely take a couple weeks to get the infrastructure prepared to disseminate these funds. Undoubtably, there will be unintended roadblocks that will need to be addressed in a fourth, possibly fifth relief package. Further packages will likely focus on ensuring federal programs are adequately funded to help state and local governments respond to this crisis.
Additionally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters yesterday that she foresees a fourth coronavirus legislative package focusing on recovery efforts, specifically job creation and U.S. infrastructure building, in addition to significantly more money being allocated to local and state agencies with some funding coming from the Federal Reserve through expanded lending opportunities.
NSWA will continue to work with federal agencies and lawmakers on the implementation of the CARES Act and the development of further coronavirus relief packages to ensure that our members have the tools, resources, and flexibility to weather this crisis.
Senate Engages on Saudi and Russian Crude Dumping
10 members of the United States Senate, including Energy and Natural Resources Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Environment and Public Works Committee Chair John Barrasso (R-WY), and Armed Services Committee Chair Jim Inhofe (R-OK) sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging him to investigate excessive dumping of oil by Russia and Saudi Arabia that has destabilized global oil markets. Under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, the President can impose tariffs based on a recommendation from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce if “an article is being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten or impair the national security.” President Trump has already used Sec. 232 to impose tariffs on imported aluminum and steel.
Additionally, Sec. Pompeo held a brief phone call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bi Salman urging Saudi Arabia to “rise to the occasion and reassure” energy markets by dialing back its plan to flood oil markets.
EPA Suspends Enforcement of Environmental Laws
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suspended enforcement of the country’s environmental laws in response to the coronavirus. The agency told companies that they would not need to meet environmental standards during the pandemic.
In a statement, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that the “EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements.”
Several industries and trade associations have petitioned the agency for relief from the environmental regulations during the national state of emergency. Several asked to invoke the “force majeure” clauses of their legal settlements with the EPA to allow for extensions on deadlines and flexibility on environmental goals in the face of unforeseen circumstances.