On March 23, 2020, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia issued the following statement to 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. We ask regional business leaders to magnify this message by contacting both U.S. House and Senate members in our region.
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The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, representing roughly 600,000 employees from thousands of member companies and organizations across the eleven-county tri-state area, urges swift government action to implement additional emergency response that will provide critical aid to sectors experiencing financial distress due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
We urge our regional congressional delegation to build on recent bipartisan efforts that respond to the threat of COVID-19 and deliver much-needed assistance to our national economy. The Chamber urges support for policies and funding which will assist distressed sectors and provide liquidity to struggling businesses as detailed below:
- $100 billion for hospitals and health care providers. Ensure emergency funding is not exclusively tied to direct treatment and also provide relief for prevention and preparation costs related to COVID-19.
- Increase emergency investment in Medicaid, prevent pending cuts to Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments, enact MACPAC’s language on DSH thirdparty payment and protect states from the effects of the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation (MFAR).
- Support telemedicine provisions, including the following:
- Require states to relax cross border telemedicine restrictions by accepting the OCR position on health care privacy and security
- Eliminate the need for an in-state professional license so long as the professional providing the telehealth service is licensed and in good standing in a state in the U.S.
- Open a 30-day, one-time special enrollment period (SEP) for the individual market open to all uninsured Americans. If done properly, this could be an effective step in expanding coverage to vulnerable residents in this time of crisis.
- Establish a Risk Mitigation & Premium Stabilization Fund across all lines of coverage for protection against possible catastrophic costs due to the emergency and the additional risk being assumed by health plans as COVID-19 spreads and people seek coverage and care.
- Provide assistance for consumers & businesses to maintain coverage so people are able to get the care they need. For consumers recently laid off, this could be done through subsidies via Cobra and for businesses via payroll tax suspensions and various withholdings.
Business Relief and Liquidity
- Provide businesses with zero interest, unsecured lines of credit and maximize the benefit of SBA loan programs by increasing loan limits
- Waive loan fees, and provide forbearance on interest and loan payments through 2020.
- Expand allowable uses of the loan to include payroll support, paid sick or medical leave, insurance premiums, mortgage payments, and any other debt obligations.
- Provide $1 billion to Community Development Financial Institutions, Economic Development Corporations, and Non-Profit Lenders that can include capital as grants that could be used for increased staffing to address volume of demand, loan loss reserves, and capital to make new, but high-risk loans.
- Ensure Community Development Financial Institutions, Economic Development Corporations, and Non-Profit Lenders are eligible to receive and deploy any new, flexible loan funds.
- Provide clear and consistent guidance for all federal contracts to help accelerate payments, obligations, and contract awards and facilitate the flow down of critical resources to the supply chain and stabilize procurements, while ensuring minimal disruption to the delivery of goods and services. This is especially important if contract performance is inhibited by any government restrictions on facilities or workforce participation.
- Boost funding and relax the 50% cost share match for all federal funding to Manufacturing Extension Partnership program so that the program can continue to assist manufacturing, improve supply chain resilience and workforce readiness.
- Delay Payroll Tax Payments for Employers until at least 2021.
- Expand the charitable deduction for contributions to nonprofits and charitable organizations regardless of whether the taxpayer itemizes his or her return.
- Create an unemployment assistance program that expands eligibility to selfemployed individuals and independent contractors adversely affected by the coronavirus public health emergency.
- Support SEC regulated non-bank lenders to the middle market such as Business Development Companies (BDCs) with low or no interest loans to enhance liquidity and capital availability for middle market employers.
- Define eligible nonprofit organizations for emergency aid funding to include 501(c)(6) groups.
- Provide adequate funding to institutions and students of higher education facing urgent needs relative to COVID-19. The American Council on Education estimates Higher Education Institutions will require $58 billion. However, early drafts of proposed funding amounts are not enough funding to prevent institutions from implementing layoffs or, worse, closure.
- Suspend all payments due for loans made under the Higher Education Act for 6 months, during which interest will not accrue.
- Offset local and state government losses in revenue with adequate funding for public education. For example, the School District of Philadelphia is seeking an initial infusion of $600 million in federal funding to offset costs, put in place remote learning systems for students, and begin to back fill revenue streams.
- Exclude from a student’s Pell Grant duration limit any semester that the student does not complete due to COVID-19.
- Expand Pell Grant to provide for partial completion of course credits. Temporary online learning has provided only partial completion of course requirements, therefore requiring additional semesters to complete full requirements.
- Waive the financial responsibility system that applies to private, but not public, colleges for the next three years. Without this waiver, many colleges will have to begin immediate layoffs to meet the existing federal requirements by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
- Provide $58 billion to passenger air carriers and cargo carriers. Specifically, $25 billion in loans and loan guarantees and $25 billion in direct assistance to passenger air carriers; $8 billion to cargo air carriers.
- Provide $10 billion in grants to airports.
- Provide $20 billion for transit infrastructure. For example, based on ridership losses, SEPTA’s initial financial impact assessment estimates $150 million in lost revenue over the final four months of its fiscal year, ending June 30, 2020.
- Provide at least $500 million for AMTRAK.
State and Local Government
- Create a stabilization fund to assist municipalities and states with loss of revenue.