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 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 21, 2020. The state report was updated on May 22, 2020 to reflect the newly announced phased reopening of some Pennsylvania counties.

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.

We also have a COVID-19 Information Hub with up-to-date resources to support your business.

KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR YOUR BUSINESS

Federal

  • The U.S. House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act. Senate Republicans are not expected to consider this proposal and instead are calling for a spending pause until they can evaluate the impact of previous stimulus packages.

  • The House also passed a resolution to allow floor votes through the use of a proxy, allowing legislative business to be conducted remotely.

  • Phase 4 stimulus legislation will likely not be introduced in the Senate until June, with debate centering around aid to state and local governments and business liability protections.

  • A bipartisan group of Senators has proposed a $500 billion stabilization fund for state and local governments to be distributed according to population size, infection rates, and revenue losses.

  • Senate Republicans have said they are preparing a major legislative package to create a legal safe harbor for businesses, nonprofits, and schools that follow public health guidelines to the best of their ability.

  • Member companies are encouraged to contact our advocacy team with your federal priorities for Phase 4 as we prepare to issue the Chamber’s third statement on COVID-19 relief legislation.

  • The Chamber will host a virtual gathering with Congressman Brendan Boyle on May 26.

State

  • Governor Wolf announced that businesses and employees in the real estate industry may begin to conduct limited business-related activities statewide as long as state-issued health and safety guidelines are followed.

  • The PA House of Representatives passed legislation requiring PA executive agencies to retain records related to decisions made or actions taken during the Governor’s COVID-19 disaster declaration.

  • The House also passed legislation to require a report on the 2020 Primary election absentee and mail-in ballots as well as a bill that allows counties in the “yellow” and “green” phases of reopening to provide outdoor food and beverage service.

  • The House is currently considering multiple bills that, among other things, would create a $50 million grant program for small businesses and exempt CARES Act money to individuals and federal loans to businesses from state and local taxes.

  • The House is also considering a package of bills to update the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) governance structure, empowering the PASSHE Board of Governors with broader authority over the institutions in their purview. 

  • The House passed a measure to create a special COVID-19 response committee to monitor the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 emergency.

  • The Chamber will be hosting Representatives Kerry Benninghoff and Jordan Harris for virtual gatherings in June.

Local

  • Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia exceed 20,000 with over 1,000 deaths.

  • Enrollment has opened for the Summer 2020 Rebuild Ready training program for Philadelphia-based design and construction businesses to gain the skills needed to bid for and work on Rebuild projects.

  • Schedules are now available for City Council’s Stated Meeting, Budget Hearings, and Committee Hearings.

  • The Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless will convene on May 29 to discuss bills seeking to regulate the landlord-tenant relationship and mandate a rent freeze.

  • The Chamber will host a virtual gathering with Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson on June 2.

DETAILED LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Federal: Updates from Washington D.C.

House Passes HEROES Act

The United States House of Representatives passed its sweeping $3 trillion proposal for economic assistance and relief legislation, the COVID–19 Housing, Economic Relief, and Oversight Act 2020 (HEROES Act).  The measure would continue funding efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, directly support individuals and households, and provide assistance to distressed sectors of the economy. The legislation passed mostly along party lines with 14 Democrats joining all but one Republican in opposition.

The House also passed a resolution to allow floor votes through the use of a proxy. The rules revision allows the House to conduct legislative business remotely, including considering the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations bills, the FAST Act reauthorization, and the Water Resources Development Act of 2020.

Phase 4 Stimulus Debate Moves to the Senate

Senate Republicans are not expected to consider the HEROES Act sent to them by the House Democrats. Instead, Republicans are calling for a pause to spending packages related to the pandemic until they can evaluate the impact of previous stimulus packages. Any Phase 4 legislation in the Senate is therefore likely not to be introduced until June. 

At the center of the debate on the next phase of stimulus is the aid to state and local governments and business liability protections. In the most recent package of economic stimulus that was signed into law, aid to state and local government was removed in order to reach consensus among congressional leaders. Congressional Democrats have vowed to include direct assistance to states and municipalities in Phase 4. A vehicle for compromise could be through a bipartisan group of Senators’ proposal to establish a $500 billion stabilization fund for state and local governments. The fund would be divided into three tranches, distributed according to population size, infection rates, and revenue losses. The bill prohibits the use of funds for deposit into any state or state-affiliated pension fund.

Republican leaders have indicated that they will not support a Phase 4 package that does not include business liability protections for employers during the pandemic, noting that liability protection could be “narrowly crafted” so it would not protect gross negligence. Senate Republicans have said they are preparing a major legislative package to create a legal safe harbor for businesses, nonprofits, and schools that follow public health guidelines to the best of their ability.

The Chamber will issue its third statement on COVID-19 relief legislation urging passage of a bill that provides critical aid to state and local government together with protections for businesses in addition to a number of critical priorities identified by our members and business community.  Member companies are encouraged to contact us with your federal priorities for Phase 4. We would also welcome you to raise the profile of your priorities in a virtual meeting on Tuesday, May 26 with Congressman Brendan Boyle.

Upcoming Federal Virtual Event

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

State: Updates from Harrisburg

Gov. Wolf Allows Real Estate Industry to Reopen

On Tuesday, Governor Tom Wolf announced that businesses and employees in the real estate industry may conduct limited business-related activities statewide.

Previously, businesses and employees in the real estate industry were permitted to conduct limited in-person activities in counties in the yellow phase of the commonwealth’s phased reopening plan.

The real estate guidance requires businesses and employees to follow all applicable provisions of the Guidance for Businesses Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency to Ensure the Safety and Health of Employees and the Public, which includes provisions requiring that every person present at a work location wear masks, and all in-person activities should be scheduled and limited to no more than the real estate professional and two people inside a property at any time, exercising appropriate social distancing. When conducting settlements/closings, agents must utilize remote notary, powers of attorney, or the exchange of contract documents electronically or by mail wherever possible. Where it is not possible to conduct settlement/closing via remote notary or POA, attendance in-person must be limited to required signatories and their legal counsel or real estate professional only, and steps to preserve social distancing must be followed.

Gov. Wolf Announces New Phased Reopenings

On Friday, Governor Wolf announced the continued phased reopening of counties across the commonwealth.

The following counties will move from “red” to “yellow”: Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, and Schuylkill.

The following counties will move from “yellow” to “green”: Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango, and Warren.

Pennsylvania General Assembly Action

This week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives considered several measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Legislation (HB 2505) to require Pennsylvania executive agencies to retain records related to decisions made or actions taken during the Governor’s COVID-19 disaster declaration passed unanimously; and legislation (HB 2502) requiring the government to provide a report on the 2020 Primary election absentee and mail in ballots by county also passed.

In addition the House passed House Bill 2506, approved with bipartisan support, to allow restaurants and bars located in counties that have moved to the “yellow” or “green” phases to provide outdoor food and beverage service in compliance with the CDC and state Department of Health safety guidelines. According to the National Restaurant Association, 96 percent of Pennsylvania restaurant owners have laid off or furloughed employees since the beginning of the pandemic.

Other bills being considered in the state House include:

  • House Bill 2452 would create a $50 million grant program for small businesses – making no more than $3 million in gross annual receipts or employ up to 30 full-time employees – that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • House Bill 2408 would exempt federal CARES stimulus money to individuals from state or local taxes. As amended, the bill would include federal CARES funding provided to nonprofits, charitable trusts, and employers under Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness.
  • House Bill 2497 would exempt loans provided to businesses under the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act from state taxation.

House Considers PASSHE Reform Bill

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is considering a package of bills introduced by state House Education Committee Chair Curt Sonney (R-Erie) to update the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) governance structure. PASSHE is the largest provider of higher education in the commonwealth.

HB 2171 would reform the governance and accountability of PASSHE’s Board of Governors and the Councils of Trustees by authorizing the board to create, expand, consolidate, transfer, dissolve, or close an institution or college, which would better empower the board to align the system with commonwealth workforce needs and enrollment; vesting the board with the power to enforce policies and require institutions to share services and participate in collaborations, among other items.

HB 2172 would make legal reforms including affirming the system’s sovereign immunity status and status as a government instrumentality, among other items.

House Passes Measure to Create Special COVID-19 Committee

The state House voted to appoint a special COVID-19 response committee this week.

The resolution, authored by House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster), calls on the Speaker of the House to appoint seven members, four from the majority party and three from the minority party to a committee to monitor the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 emergency.

Committee members are tasked with identifying issues of immediate importance that require governmental action and issuing a report and recommendations for House actions. The committee has the power to hold hearings, take testimony, conduct investigations, and issue subpoenas.

Upcoming State Virtual Events

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

Local: Updates from Philadelphia’s City Hall

COVID-19 Case Data

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health today announced 179 additional confirmed cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Philadelphia. That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 20,132. The Department of Public Health confirmed 9 additional fatalities in Philadelphia. This brings the number of residents who have succumbed to the virus in Philadelphia to 1,049. Of the total deaths, 567 (54%) were long-term care facility residents.

Philadelphia Businesses Can Enroll in the Summer 2020 Rebuild Ready

Rebuild announced that applications are now being accepted for small, diverse Philadelphia businesses to enroll in the Summer 2020 Rebuild Ready training program. The free 12-14 week training program offers Philadelphia-based design and construction businesses support building the specific skills needed to bid for and win work on Rebuild projects. Rebuild Ready is delivered in partnership with The Enterprise Center and Surety Bond Associate and provides technical assistance focused on various areas of business management in the construction industry, including:

  • Estimating, bid preparation, and contract negotiation
  • Business planning
  • Capital access
  • Cash flow management
  • Finance and accounting
  • Project management
  • Risk management
  • Legal
  • Human Resources

Financial Support for Businesses

Upcoming City Council Meetings and Budget Hearings

City Council’s next Stated Meeting took place today, May 21, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.:

View a full list of Council’s future Stated Meetings »

View information on how to give public comment at Stated Meetings »

City Council  FY21 Budget Hearings began on Monday, May 18, 2020.

Public testimony on the budget was conducted as it relates to the School District on May 20 and it will be conducted virtually on May 27 and June 9 at 3:00 p.m to address the operating budget.

City Council Committee Hearings

View a full list of Council’s Committee Hearings »

View information on how to give testimony at public hearings of City Council committees » 

Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless
SCHEDULED: Friday, May 29, 2020 at 9:30am
Testimony Bills 200301, 200302, 200304 and 200305, 200294 and 200295 – Seeking to regulate the landlord-tenant relationship and mandate, among other things, a year-long rent freeze.

Committee on Health and Human Services
NOT SCHEDULED
Bill 200303 – Expanding paid sick leave during emergencies.

The Chamber, along with industry partners, sent an Emergency Paid Sick Leave Letter and a Rent Control Letter to Council, urging them to consider the timing of the measures and their cost to local businesses in a time of crisis. Engagement and advocacy efforts are ongoing in this regard.

All Stated Meetings and Public Hearings will be held remotely using Microsoft Teams and can be viewed on Xfinity Channel 64, Fios Channel 40, or online at: phlcouncil.com/watch-city-council

City Hall Connectors Virtual Gathering

This week the Chamber hosted City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart for our City Hall Connectors series. The Controller summarized her recommendations for the FY21 Budget as well as took questions from members regarding various COVID-19 recovery issues.

The next City Hall Connector virtual gathering will take place with Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 at 10:00 a.m., registration will be available shortly.

Questions? Contact William Carter (wcarter@chamberphl.com) for more information about local legislative affairs.

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.

We also have a COVID-19 Information Hub with up-to-date resources to support your business.