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, June 4, 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. There will be no call on June 5, please join us for the next update call on Friday, June 12, 2020.

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

KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR YOUR BUSINESS

Federal

  • The Senate will consider legislation to modify the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by extending the period of time borrowers have to expend the funds received under the program.

  • The Senate passed legislation that had cleared the House last week to modify the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by extending forgiveness for expenses to 24 weeks and adjusting the limitations on non-payroll expenses to 40% of loan proceeds.

  • As of May 23, the Small Business Administration had approved 4.4 million PPP loans totaling more than $511 billion. At that time, about $138 billion in PPP funds remained available for additional lending.

  • The Senate is expected to begin drafting its version of an additional economic relief and assistance package, commonly referred to as Phase 4.

  • The Chamber and its CEO Council for Growth issued a statement this week calling for an additional legislative package to include both business liability protections together with aid to state and local governments.

  • The House leadership is laying plans to pass its 12 FY2021 appropriations bills before recessing in the month of August. The Senate expects to begin markups on Senate spending bills in the third week of June.

  • The House Democrats unveiled their surface transportation reauthorization bill, the INVEST Act, which provides $494 billion over five years for surface and rail transportation.

  • Last year, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee unanimously approved a five-year highway reauthorization bill (S. 2302) authorizing $287 billion in Highway Trust Fund contract authority and an additional $5.7 billion from the U.S. Department of the Treasury general fund.

  • The Chamber and its CEO Council support passage of a long-term surface transportation reauthorization designed to meet our nation’s current and future infrastructure needs.

State

  • Pennsylvania held its Primary Election amid a pandemic and continued civil unrest on Tuesday, June 2.

  • Candidates were nominated for the statewide offices of attorney general, treasurer, and auditor general, the 18 congressional districts, all 203 House seats, and the 25 odd-numbered Senate seats.

  • Approximately 1.8 million Pennsylvania voters applied for and were approved to vote by mail-in and absentee ballot. Governor Wolf ordered six counties to count ballots that arrive by mail for seven days after Tuesday’s 8 p.m. deadline.

  • Read the full legislative update for primary results and details on races to be declared.

  • The only contested statewide primary was for the Democratic nominee for auditor general, with six candidates seeking the party’s nomination in the General Election. Michael Lamb is favored to win at press time.

  • On Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue reported that May’s General Fund revenues were $439.7 million, or 17.3 percent, less than expected.

  • The Chamber will be hosting Representatives Kerry Benninghoff (June 12) and Jordan Harris (June 17) for virtual gatherings.

Local

  • Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia exceed 23,000 with over 1,300 deaths.
  • The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has recommenced participants in recent protest activities follow specific quarantining and testing recommendations due to the increased likelihood that they have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • The City’s Safer at Home plan and executive order outlines how Philadelphia will begin to reopen for business when the current Stay-at-Home Order is lifted, which is expected to occur on June 5. This includes industry-specific guidelines for reopening.
  • Due to the recent unrest, City Council did not hold budget hearings this week. All matters have been moved to next week.
  • The Committee on Law and Government will hold a hearing on Friday, June 12.
  • Amendments to the series of Bills seeking to regulate the landlord-tenant relationship are being considered by the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless.
  • The Chamber held a virtual City Hall Connector gathering with Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson on Wednesday, June 2.

DETAILED LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Federal: Updates from Washington D.C.

Increased Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility

The Senate passed legislation with unanimous approval to modify the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by extending the period of time borrowers have to expend the funds received under the program. Last week, the House passed amendments to the PPP by extending the loan under the CARES Act to allow borrowers forgiveness for expenses beyond the eight-week covered period to 24 weeks and also create more flexibility for loan forgiveness by adjusting the limitations on non-payroll expenses to 40% of loan proceeds, up from 25%. The legislation now awaits the President’s signature.

Neither the House nor Senate versions consider amendments to expand borrowing eligibility to include all nonprofit organizations under PPP, a key priority for the Chamber. The amendments also do not provide any supplemental funding to PPP when weeks ago that would have been a strong consideration.  The Treasury recently detailed activity through May 23, showing that the Small Business Administration had approved 4.4 million PPP loans totaling more than $511 billion. At that time, about $138 billion in PPP funds remained available for additional lending.

Phase 4 Relief Package 

The Senate is expected to begin drafting its version of an additional economic relief and assistance package, commonly referred to as Phase 4, following the $3 trillion package that was passed in the House in May. Senate leaders have said that they will not consider the House proposal.

The Chamber and its CEO Council for Growth (CEO Council) issued a statement this week commending our regional congressional delegation for their past efforts to provide economic relief and calling for an additional legislative package to further address the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Congress considers building upon these past legislative efforts, the Chamber and its CEO Council urge our regional congressional leaders to include both business liability protections together with aid to state and local governments in the next economic assistance and relief package. The Chamber also calls for additional business relief measures, support for education and workforce programs, health care assistance, and key infrastructure investments. 

FY21 Appropriations

The House leadership is laying plans to pass its 12 FY2021 appropriations bills before recessing in the month of August, which would require Appropriations Subcommittees to begin drafting their respective spending bills in the coming weeks in order to pass a dozen bills by the end of July.  Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby said last week that he expects the Senate to begin markups on Senate spending bills in the third week of June. Congress has until September 30, 2020 to pass an FY21 spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

As Congress begins the process of markups for FY21, the Chamber and its CEO Council will continue to highlight our FY21 appropriations requests outlined here in our March 2020 letter to our regional congressional delegation.

Surface Transportation Reauthorization

The House Democrats unveiled their surface transportation reauthorization bill, the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act (INVEST Act), which provides $494 billion over five years for surface and rail transportation, including $319 billion for the Federal-aid highway program, $105 billion for transit programs, $4.6 billion for highway safety programs, $5.3 billion for motor carrier safety programs, and $60 billion for rail programs.  The proposal provides $411 billion over five years out of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for highway, transit, safety, and research programs, a 46 percent increase over current investment levels.

Last year, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee unanimously approved a five-year highway reauthorization bill, America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (S. 2302), authorizing $287 billion in Highway Trust Fund contract authority and an additional $5.7 billion from the U.S. Department of the Treasury general fund. This funding is a 27 percent increase over the current surface transportation bill, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The committee also advanced by voice vote a bill – S. 1992 – to repeal a planned rescission of nearly $7.6 billion from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that was included in the FAST Act.

Neither the House nor Senate have identified funding to pay for the spending authorization proposals. The Chamber and its CEO Council support passage of a long-term surface transportation reauthorization designed to meet our nation’s current and future infrastructure needs.  We believe federal lawmakers should identify new, long-term, sustainable transportation funding to address the impending shortfalls to the Highway Trust Fund. Congress has until September 30, 2020 to agree on a deal for reauthorization.

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

State: Updates from Harrisburg

June 2 Primary Election

On Tuesday, June 2, Pennsylvania held its Primary Election amid a pandemic and continued civil unrest. The election was postponed from April 28. Pennsylvania voters nominated candidates for the statewide offices of attorney general, treasurer, and auditor general, the 18 congressional districts, all 203 House seats, and the 25 odd-numbered Senate seats.

On Monday, Governor Tom Wolf ordered Philadelphia and five other counties (Philadelphia, Allegheny, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, and Montgomery) to keep counting ballots in the primary election that arrive by mail for seven days after Tuesday’s 8 p.m. deadline. Republican Party officials said the Governor’s extension violates constitutional protections that ensure equal voting laws.

According to state officials, approximately 1.8 million Pennsylvania voters applied for and were approved to vote by mail-in and absentee ballot, which they said is 17 times greater than the number who applied for an absentee ballot for the last presidential primary in 2016.

The only contested statewide primary was for the Democratic nominee for auditor general, with six candidates seeking the party’s nomination in the General Election. Michael Lamb is favored to win at press time.

In the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) lost to challenger Nikil Saval in the 1st District and Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) was defeated by challenger Amanda Cappelletti in the 17th District. In the 19th District, Rep. Carolyn Comitta beat out two challengers to win the primary nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester).

At press time, races to watch include: Rep. MaryLouise Isaacson (D-Philadelphia) who holds a narrow lead over three challengers; Rep. James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia) who is currently losing in a field of four candidates; Rep. Roni Green (D-Philadelphia) who is currently sitting second in a four-way race; Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) who is trailing; and seats being vacated by Reps. Rosita Youngblood (D-Philadelphia) and Stephen McCarter (D-Montgomery) are still too close to call.

Currently, in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Republicans have a 110-93 House majority and a 29-21 Senate majority.

Pennsylvania May Revenues

On Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue reported that May’s General Fund revenues were $439.7 million, or 17.3 percent, less than expected.

In April, the Commonwealth was over $2 billion short of estimates – roughly 50 percent due to business closures as a result of the pandemic and the delayed payment and extension of some tax due dates.

The May Personal Income Tax (PIT) revenue was $44.8 million, or 5 percent, above estimate, totaling $947.2 million. The Sales and Use Tax (SUT), and corporation taxes (primarily the Corporate Net Income tax, or CNIT) did not meet estimates. SUT receipts totaled $699.1 million last month, which was $282.9 million, or roughly 29 percent, less than anticipated, pushing year-to-date collections $576.1 million, or 5.5 percent, below estimate.

Upcoming State Virtual Events

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

Local: Updates from Philadelphia’s City Hall

COVID-19 Case Data

On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced 126 additional confirmed cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Philadelphia since Tuesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 23,160. The Department of Public Health confirmed 34 additional fatalities in Philadelphia. This brings the number of residents who have succumbed to the virus in Philadelphia to 1,324. Of the total deaths, 699 (53%) were long-term care facility residents.

New Guidance for COVID-19 Testing for Protestors

Because of the large number of people that have participated in protest activities in Philadelphia, the Health Department believes that there may be an increased likelihood that participants may have been exposed to COVID-19. The Health Department is recommending those who were at or near a protest – even if they wore a mask – follow these recommendations to combat the spread of the virus:

  • Monitor for symptoms like new-onset fever, cough, or shortness of breath for fourteen days.
  • Try to stay away from other people for fourteen days; if you can’t stay at home, be sure to wear a mask properly and try to stay at least six feet from others.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 seven days after having been in a crowd; those seeking testing do NOT need to identify that they were at a protest but instead should say they were near someone who may have had COVID-19.

Safer at Home (Yellow Phase)

The City’s Safer at Home plan and executive order outlines how Philadelphia will begin to reopen for business when the current Stay-at-Home Order is lifted, which is expected to occur on Friday, June 5, 2020. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health continues to advise residents that they are “safer at home,” and should only leave to engage in essential activities.

Lower-risk activities permitted to operate within certain parameters during the Safer-at-Home Order (Yellow Phase) include:

  • Restaurants (including food trucks and walk-up ordering, no dine-in service)
  • Retail businesses (curbside and delivery are strongly encouraged)
  • Child care centers
  • Outdoor youth day camps and recreation
  • Outdoor parks-related amenities
  • Office-based businesses (telework still required whenever feasible)
  • Consumer banking
  • Automobile sales
  • Real estate activities
  • Manufacturing
  • Warehouse operations

Continued Precautions

As they restart, businesses will be required by the Safer-at-Home Order to follow a safety checklist of operations called “Safe Mode” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. View additional recommendations for different types of businesses and activities are detailed in a separate set of industry-specific guidelines.

Financial Support for Businesses

City Council Stated Meetings

City Council’s Stated Meeting will take place Thursday, June 4, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. Thereafter, remaining Stated Meetings for this session are as follows:

  • Thursday, June 11, 2020
  • Thursday, June 18, 2020
  • Thursday, June 25, 2020

Information on how to give public comment at stated meetings of City Council can be found at phlcouncil.com/offering-public-comment-at-council-sessions-temp.

The schedule for City Council’s budget hearings can be viewed at phlcouncil.com/budget2021.

Introduced in Council

Bill 200328 sponsored by Councilmember Gym, was introduced during Council’s May 21 Stated Meeting. The Bill seeks to provide workplace protections in emergency health orders and regulations and provide protections for employees against retaliatory actions both for the disclosure of information related to employer non-compliance with such orders and for refusal to work under unsafe conditions caused by non-compliance with such orders.

Budget Hearing Schedule

Due to the recent unrest, City Council did not hold budget hearings this week. All matters have been moved to next week. View the FY21 Budget Hearing schedule »

City Council Committee Hearings

The Committee on Law and Government will hold a hearing on Friday, June 12, 2020, at 2:30 PM. View the agenda »

The Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless hearing held last Friday on Bills seeking to regulate the landlord-tenant relationship and mandate, among other things, a year-long rent freeze was recessed until Friday, June 5, 2020.  None of the bills were voted on.

View a full list of Council’s Committee Hearings »

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

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 Gatherings

The Chamber held a virtual City Hall Connector gathering with Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson on Wednesday, June 2, 2020.  The Councilmember and Chamber members discussed the recent unrest in the City following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, and how our city can recover from it. Additionally, discussed were the Councilmember’s and City Council’s budget priorities and her perspective on rental housing bills currently being heard in Council’s Housing Committee.

Question? 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. There will be no call on June 5, please join us for the next update call on Friday, June 12, 2020.

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