Impact of COVID-19 on the Forest Products Industry – National Level

As FRA works to provide the latest information on the impact of COVID-19 on the forest products industry, we’ll be updating this information daily each weekday. We are working to keep this as accurate as possible in a dynamic and evolving situation, and value your help as we work to keep this tool updated. If you see information that is incomplete, outdated or incorrect please send that – as well as any relevant links – to [email protected].

 


 

CARES Act

Landmark Stimulus Bill Passed by Congress and Signed into Law by President Trump

On March 27, a bipartisan $2 trillion stimulus package (H.R. 748) was signed into law by President Trump. FRA prepared an analysis of H.R. 748 just after text was released that we distributed to members. That document may be found here.

 



CISA Guidelines Updated

The Department of Homeland Security has updated the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA Guidance) that many governors have referenced in their Executive Orders. The change, noted below, provides additional clarity to the critical manufacturing section of the CISA Guidance for workers supporting supply chains of essential businesses, which includes the forest product industry workers, loggers and truckers. Version 2.0 of CISA Guidance document can be found here.

Critical Manufacturing

Workers necessary for the manufacturing of materials and products needed for medical supply chains, and for supply chains associated with transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture, chemical manufacturing, nuclear facilities, the operation of dams, water and wastewater treatment, emergency services, and the defense industrial base. Additionally, workers needed to maintain the continuity of these manufacturing functions and associated supply chains.

NOTE: Some states may be requiring a Stay at Home Exemption Certification for essential workers that are identified in their respective Executive Orders.  We encourage you to check with your state if you are under a shelter in place executive order. An example of this template, from Washington, can be found here.



H-2B Visas

State Department Increases H-2 Visa Processing

On March 26, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided an update on its partnership with the Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expedite the processing of H-2 visas (includes H-2B). The State Department took steps to increase processing of H-2 visa holders. These changes should allow the majority of H-2 visas of qualified applicants to be adjudicated without an interview. The measures to be implemented include:

  • Authorization of consular officers to expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview. This expansion increases the period which a worker may qualify for an interview waiver whose permit expired from 12 to 48 months, providing the worker did not require a waiver of ineligibility the first time they applied and are applying for the same visa classification.
  • Consular officers can, if they so choose, waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no potential ineligibility.

You will find a listing of FAQs here.          

Woods-to-Mill blog on H-2B and COVID-19

 


 

SBA Loans

The stimulus package passed includes an expansion of the Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. Eligibility for SBA loans includes businesses that are less than 500 employees which include sole proprietors, contractors, and other self-employed individuals. Covered loans include payroll costs, costs related to certain group health benefits, and employee salaries.

The SBA is currently taking applications from businesses that are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. FRA has gathered some resources to help navigate the SBA process.

  • To find out if you qualify for the SBA Loans click here.
  • You can begin the process to file a loan application with the SBA here.
  • Process guide on how to apply for loans can be found here.
  • Additional information on the SBA response can be found here.

Additional guidance on the SBA loans will be available in the coming weeks. FRA, however, recommends that if you feel your business qualifies for an SBA loan under the stimulus legislation, we encourage you to apply now, as distribution of funds may be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

How does the Paycheck Protection Program Work?

  • The program provides small businesses and non-profits with 500 or fewer employees with federally insured, partially forgivable loans that can be used to cover operating expenses:
    • Maximum loan is 250% of the employer’s monthly payroll costs, or $10 million (whichever is less);
    • Payroll costs include wages, salaries, retirement contributions, healthcare benefits and contributions to retirement;
  • The program has a number of attractive features for borrowers, including:
    • Six to twelve months of deferred payments
    • Waiver of loan application and processing fees
    • Streamlined application and approval process;
  • Most importantly, the Paycheck Protection Program has a loan forgiveness feature:
    • This effectively turns some of the loan into a grant that does not need to be repaid
    • Loan forgiveness equivalent to the sum spent on qualifying expenses
      • Payroll
      • Rent
      • Utilities
      • Mortgage interest payments;
    • To qualify for loan forgiveness, borrowers must:
      • Maintain their pre-crisis level of full-time equivalent employees (or face a reduction in forgiveness proportional to the reduction in headcount);
      • Because some businesses have already been forced to make staffing reductions in response to shrinking markets and lost revenues, the legislation includes a provision that allows those companies to qualify for loan forgiveness if they have re-hired back to pre-crisis levels by June 30, 2020;
    • Borrowers do not need to show economic harm, but do need to certify that:
      • The current economic conditions created by COVID-19 necessitate a loan to support ongoing business operations;
      • The funds will be used to maintain payroll and other covered expenses;
For more information, click here.


Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, small business owners in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories are eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000.

This advance will provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. Funds will be made available within three days of a successful application. This loan advance will not have to be repaid.

Apply for the Loan Advance here.



Transportation

Drivers with expiring credentials as of March 1

The CDL waiver and Notice of Enforcement policy allow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) to exercise its enforcement discretion to not take action in certain cases when a Commercial Learners Permit, CDL or Medical Certificate is expired.

Waiver in Response to the COVID-19 Emergency – For States, CDL Holders, CLP Holders, and Interstate Drivers Operating Commercial Motor Vehicles can be found here.

Notice of Enforcement Policy Regarding Expiring Driver’s Licenses and Medical Examiner’s Certificates During Covid-19 National Emergency can be found here.

 


 

Other Useful Information

On March 28, the U.S. Department of Labor added to the guidance for workers and employers explaining paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Find out more information here.

Safety Guidance

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed interim guidance to help prevent worker exposure to COVID-19. More information available here.