Weekly Legislative Update April 13, 2020

Chamber Cites 'Urgent Need' to Resolve Patchwork of Virus Orders

 
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is calling for a greater focus on establishing a uniform, international approach to determine which businesses and industries should be deemed "essential" during the coronavirus pandemic. 
 
State and local governments in the U.S. have power to set their own restrictions on which businesses are spared from mandatory-closure orders, in some cases making decisions based on nonbinding guidance the Department of Homeland Security issued last month. In practice that has meant orders often differ across county, city, or state lines, as well as international borders, hindering the private sector's ability to respond to the public health crisis, Chamber officials said in a call with reporters Tuesday. 
"There is an urgent need for a uniform approach to identifying which workers and functions are deemed essential, and we urge states to follow a uniform model and provide guidance to state and local law enforcement, employers, and employees," said Christopher Roberti, the Chamber's senior vice president for cyber, intelligence, and security policy.
The Chamber, which bills itself as the world's largest business organization, has joined with other industry groups and business representatives to lobby federal policymakers, state governors, and international governments. They argue the coronavirus is a global threat that requires a streamlined approach, not a patchwork system that breeds confusion. 
The Chamber continues to receive reports from member businesses about customer-service call centers being deemed non-essential, which blocks companies from being able to access important information from banks and other financial institutions. John Drake, the Chamber's executive director for supply chain policy, said the group also has received reports about restrictions barring truck drivers from delivering medical supplies across international borders.
Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency took steps to address cross-jurisdictional problems through its March guidance, which followed a request from the Chamber. The agency plans to further update its guidance, Chamber representatives said on the call. 
"As the Nation's response to COVID-19 continues to develop, CISA is working with our partners across industry and government to understand the range of essential critical Infrastructure functions and workers that are involved in supporting this whole-of-society effort," CISA Director Christopher Krebs said in a statement to Bloomberg Law. "We continue to encourage state and local jurisdictions to provide feedback on the how they're using the list, and are committed to keeping the list up-to-date in step with the evolving response to COVID-19." 
In addition to working with CISA, Chamber officials are asking international governments to follow the CISA guidance to clarify rules for businesses that have an international footprint, said John Murphy, the Chamber's senior vice president for international policy.
"Having a patchwork can really complicate the ability of industry to provide those essential services," Murphy said.

TIA Signs onto Joint Trades COVID-19 Business and Employees Fund Letter

 
Dear President Trump, Secretary Mnuchin, Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McCarthy:

Thank you for your leadership in response to one of the most significant health threats and economic disruptions in our nation's history. We, the undersigned organizations, and those we represent, commend you for passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act as a necessary step to address the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to calls for help from businesses across the country, we request that Congress advance a proposal to further assist with economic recovery and mitigate a larger financial crisis resulting from widespread disruption of economic activity.

 
Government mandates that have been put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19 such as wide- spread quarantines, travel restrictions, and social-distancing measures are driving an unprecedented level of disruption to business activity and continuity. This disruption is rippling across the U.S. economy, severely constraining consumer and business spending. Organizations of all sizes and their employees are facing insurmountable strain. Without broad-based and expeditious federal action, long-term damage to the financial markets, rampant unemployment, and irreparable harm to communities are almost certain. Although the loan programs instituted by the CARES Act provide a down payment on economic support for Main Street businesses, additional liquidity will be required for impaired industries and businesses to avoid an unprecedented systemic, economic crisis.
 
The undersigned groups represent a broad coalition of the business community, working together to provide a short-term and immediate pathway forward for employee retention and business viability and recovery through the rapid delivery of liquidity. We believe this framework can assist all impacted businesses regardless of size, industry, or location.
 
The COVID-19 Business and Employee Continuity and Recovery Fund ("Recovery Fund") would be funded by the federal government and under the authority of a special federal administrator with the ability to enter into contracts with interested businesses to administer the Recovery Fund and facilitate the distribution of federal funds and liquidity to impacted businesses and their employees. The requested relief would be designed to help businesses retain and rehire employees, maintain worker benefits, and meet operating expense obligations. Strong anti-abuse provisions, including audits and Special Inspector General oversight, would be included.
 
We urge the Administration and Congress to continue to think broadly and holistically to address the catastrophic emergency that has caused these unprecedented economic challenges. We believe the establishment of the Recovery Fund is necessary to supplement the efforts to expand lending in the CARES Act. Businesses across the United States are looking to you to restore confidence in our economy, support employee retention, and position businesses to survive this crisis and rebound once it ends. We stand ready to work with the Administration and Congress in implementation.
 
Sincerely,
 
The Tire Industry Association and other associations.  

USTMA Launches Quick Reference Chart on State-Level Definitions of Essential Businesses 

 
Late last week, USTMA launched a resources page to track state-level definitions of essential businesses. It is updated daily, and the most-current version is always available via this publicly-accessible link: