As the COVID-19 public health crisis evolves, your Chamber advocacy team is working to share legislative updates and continue to advocate for your business in Washington, D.C., Harrisburg, and Philadelphia. We’ve created a round-up of recent activity including Key Takeaways for Your Business and a Detailed Legislative Update. This represents our best knowledge of the situation as of 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, 2020.

Chamber members are invited to join weekly legislative update calls hosted by our Advocacy team to hear the latest on COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts at the federal, state, and local level as well as other legislative matters concerning our community.

KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR YOUR BUSINESS

Federal

  • Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, providing almost $2 trillion in support, is expected to become law.
  • The Chamber addressed our entire regional congressional delegation, advocating for aid to distressed sectors and relief to struggling businesses.

State

  • PA passes a $50 million emergency relief fund to help hospitals.
  • Governor Wolf announced the COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program (CWCA) to support small businesses.
  • The PA General Assembly and Wolf Administration failed to reach an agreement on a construction industry exemption from the COVID-19 closure order.
  • PA’s April 28 primary election will be delayed until June 2 in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry reported a record number of unemployment claims during the past week for a total of 540,000.
  • The General Assembly passed emergency changes to the state’s Unemployment Compensation law to ease eligibility requirements and access to compensation for claimants.

Local

  • The City issued a new Business Activity and Stay at Home Order detailing restrictions on business activity, personal activity, and congregation until further notice.
  • The Philadelphia Covid-19 Small Business Relief Fund has been established to provide grants and zero-interest loans to Philadelphia’s small businesses. 
  • The PHL COVID-19 Fund has been established to aid nonprofits that are on the frontline of the pandemic. 
  • The City is extending tax filing and payment dates until July 15 for BIRT and Net Profits Tax. 
  • City Council is currently reviewing a request from the Kenney administration for an emergency budget transfer of $85 Million to help the city mitigate and fight the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The Chamber will host a virtual Council Connector Breakfast with Councilmember At-Large Katherine Gilmore-Richardson on Friday, March 27, 2020.

DETAILED LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Federal: Updates from Washington D.C.

COVID-19 Stimulus Package

The United States Senate recently passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, an almost $2 trillion economic stimulus and emergency appropriation to respond to the spread of COVID-19. The House can pass the legislation as soon as today by unanimous consent if no lawmaker objects, which would save House members from returning to Washington to vote. The package provides:

  • Direct financial assistance to Americans
  • Unemployment insurance extended up to four months at full pay
  • $150 billion to state and local governments
  • $350 billion in loans for small businesses
  • $500 billion in aid to distressed sectors

Regional Advocacy for Stimulus

As Congress considered this legislative package, the Chamber addressed our entire regional congressional delegation urging swift legislative action to assist distressed sectors and provide relief to struggling businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The Chamber continues its call to regional business leaders to magnify this message by contacting U.S. House members in our region.

We applaud our regional congressional delegation for their real time efforts to seek and include the input from the region’s business, civic, and government sectors in this emergency aid package. Notable outcomes to our stated priorities include:

  • $100 billion to ensure health care providers continue to receive the support they need for COVID-19 related expenses and lost revenue
  • Delay to pending cuts to Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments until the fiscal year 2022
  • $50 million to be distributed among the 51 MEP centers to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers recover from the economic impacts of coronavirus. The bill also waives the statutory cost-match requirements for all FY2020 funding
  • $14.25 billion in funding to institutions of higher education
  • $13.5 billion in formula funding directly to states for elementary and secondary education
  • $29 billion in loans and loan guarantees and $29 billion in grants to airlines
  • $10 billion in relief funds for airports
  • $25 billion to support transit agencies operating expenses
  • $1 billion to support Amtrak with almost $500 million dedicated to the northeast corridor
  • Increases to the limitations on deductions for charitable contributions by individuals and corporations.

Question? Contact Anselm Sauter (asauter@chamberphl.com) for more information about federal legislative affairs.

State: Updates from Harrisburg

Aid to Hospitals and Insurance Options

Wednesday evening Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a $50 million emergency relief fund to help hospitals with treating the possible surge in COVID-19 patients. The measure allows for the purchase of medical equipment and supplies for hospitals, nursing homes, and emergency workers. The legislation now goes to Gov. Wolf, who is expected to sign it.

This week, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman and state Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said there are a number of insurance options available to help cover the potential health care-related costs that might incur due to COVID-19, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which they noted is offering special enrollment periods for those who experience various life changes, including the loss of employer-sponsored health care coverage.

PIDA Small Business First Fund Announced

This week, Governor Tom Wolf announced that new funding is available to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19, through a new program under the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority’s (PIDA) Small Business First Fund, the COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program (CWCA).

The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) recently authorized the transfer of $40 million to the Small Business First Fund for CWCA. PIDA authorized making $60 million available to provide loans of $100,000 or less to for-profit businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees. Funds are expected to become available this week.

All loan applications must be submitted through a Certified Economic Development Organization (CEDO). Businesses seeking guidance from DCED can also contact its customer service resource account at ra-dcedcs@pa.gov. For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, Pennsylvanians should follow www.governor.pa.gov and www.doh.pa.gov.

In addition, two other bills were introduced to help small business:

General Assembly, Administration Fail to Come to Agreement on Construction Industry Exemption

The Pennsylvania General Assembly worked this week on a measure to exempt the construction industry from the list of businesses that must remain closed due the COVID-19 crisis, but failed to come to an agreement with Governor Wolf. The Administration favored granting a waiver to sites with no more than ten workers, except in counties with stay-at-home restrictions. House and Senate Republican leaders opposed the plan arguing that a majority of the sites are located in counties with the restriction. Members are not expected back to work until April 6, 2020.

Pennsylvania General Assembly Working Remotely 

Members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a measure (SB 422) to delay the state’s April 28 primary election until June 2 in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The bill allows counties to consolidate polling places at least 20 days before the election. Governor Wolf is expected to sign the measure.

The House and Senate also considered Senate Bill 751 to allow emergency school code changes to address concerns from the COVID-19 crisis. The legislation eliminates the 180-day instruction requirement on all public and private schools, among other provisions. In addition, the bill ensures there will be no loss of school subsidies, including for charter schools, and no staff member of any public school will see any less or more compensation than would have received without the school closures.

Unemployment Claims Skyrocket

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (Dept. L&I) reported a record number of people have filed unemployment claims during the past week for a total of 540,000 new filings. Previously, the highest number of first-time claims ever filed in Pennsylvania was 168,200, but that was for the entire month of January 2010. Dept. L&I has not commented on the number of staff on hand to process new claims, but the agency said it is recruiting retired staff to come back on board temporarily. Individuals from the other departments within the agency are also helping to process claims.

The General Assembly passed House Bill 68, which provides for emergency changes to the state’s Unemployment Compensation law in response to COVID-19. The legislation was amended Wednesday to include temporary provisions that provide the Labor and Industry Secretary the authority to waive provisions permitted by federal law to ease eligibility requirements and access to compensation for claimants whose unemployment is related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Question? Contact Liz Ferry (lferry@chamberphl.com) for more information about state legislative affairs.

Local: Updates from Philadelphia’s City Hall

Stay at Home Oder

The City issued a new Business Activity and Stay at Home Order detailing restrictions on business activity, personal activity, and congregation in Philadelphia regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. These new restrictions took effect Monday, March 23, 2020, at 8 a.m. The City’s emergency restrictions no longer end on Friday, March 27, 2020, to align with the Governor’s order, the City’s order remains in effect until further notice. Businesses can seek a waiver from Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). 

Support for Small Business and Nonprofits

The City’s Commerce Department and PIDC have established the Philadelphia Covid-19 Small Business Relief Fund. The tiered fund is designed to provide immediate relief in the form of grants and zero-interest loans to Philadelphia’s small businesses. 

The PHL COVID-19 Fund has been established by the City, The Philadelphia Fund, The United Way and the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia to aid nonprofits that are on the frontline of the pandemic, providing urgent resources throughout the Philadelphia region. 

The City is extending tax filing and payment dates for some business taxes. The Department of Revenue will honor the federal extensions granted to businesses from the IRS for filing and payments until July 15, 2020 for the Business Income and Receipts Tax and the Net Profits Tax. This policy includes estimated payments.  No action is required from businesses to take advantage of this extension policy in Philadelphia.

Activities at City Hall

Earlier today, City Council’s Appropriations Committee held a hearing on Bill No. 200258,  a request from the Kenney administration for an emergency budget transfer of $85 Million to help the city mitigate and fight the coronavirus outbreak. While there was no public comment during this meeting, Council did call on the administration to have a bi-weekly reporting requirement on how funds will be spent and encouraged that all investments are focused on residents and small businesses that have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. The Chamber testified in support of Bill 200258. The bill was amended and reported out of Committee with a favorable recommendation. Council will vote on the bill for final approval as early as next Thursday.

City Council Budget hearings have been postponed until further notice.

The Chamber will host a virtual Council Connector Breakfast with Councilmember At-Large Katherine Gilmore-Richardson on Friday, March 27, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. on our Zoom platform. Chamber members will have an opportunity to see and hear from the Councilmember, as well as voice their concerns, regarding the City’s efforts to assist businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. Those wishing to participate are asked to RSVP to Darrell Davis at ddavis@chamberphl.com. The breakfast is sponsored by Stradley Ronon and OutFront Media.

WE’RE HERE FOR YOU, YOUR TEAM, AND YOUR BUSINESS

The constantly changing nature of this public health crisis requires continued engagement with public policy developments. We invite you to reach out to our advocacy team directly with your questions: 

Chamber members are invited to join weekly legislative update calls hosted by our Advocacy team to hear the latest on COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts at the federal, state and local level as well as other legislative matters concerning our community.