We hope all of our members are staying safe and healthy and as productive as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of the health crisis, the content of our Friday Five emails has shifted to feature the top five COVID-19 news items and resources of the week.
Acts of COVID kindness
As we all band together to get through the challenging days ahead, the Maryland Chamber would like to highlight the good deeds being done in our communities. Here’s one great example of an act of “COVID kindness”:
Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) announced in a press release on April 1, 2020, that they have partnered with Comcast and Verizon to provide broadband access and Chromebooks to students through their Excellence in Education Foundation for PGCPS. To support these efforts, PGCPS is “encouraging local partners, businesses, nonprofits and churches to help” in creating “free wireless hotspots around the county to ensure students’ continuity of learning.” PGCPS is working with community partners to continue education for its students during this crisis.
If you know of a Marylander or Maryland business or organization that is stepping up in the face of adversity to help others during the pandemic, please reach out to Kimberly Reach at email@example.com to share your story.
1. Concerns with the Treasury Department’s guidance on the Paycheck Protection Program
On Tuesday evening, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued guidance on the SBA Paycheck Protection Program, created by the recently enacted CARES Act. The program authorizes up to $349 billion in loans to small businesses that keep their employees on the payroll during the COVID-19 crisis, and provides small businesses with funds to pay up to eight weeks of payroll costs, including benefits and other expenses.
Unfortunately, the guidance poses several challenges for our nation’s 5,000 community banks, which will not be able to adequately meet the imminent demand for loans from this new program. These challenges include unreasonably short loan terms and restrictions on the use of loan proceeds. For example, the guidelines provide that no more than 25 percent of loan proceeds may be used for expenses other than payroll.
In response to the new guidance, a coalition of bankers’ associations wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza to express these concerns, among others. Copies were sent to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chairman Marco Rubio, Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Benjamin Cardin, House Small Business Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez, and House Small Business Ranking Member Steve Chabot.
To read the letter, click here.
The Maryland Chamber joins with this coalition in strongly recommending that Sec. Mnuchin and Administrator Carranza make changes to the guidelines. The Maryland Chamber has been in touch with Senator Van Hollen, and will partner with experts at the Maryland Bankers Association to bring you the most up-to-date information on these challenges as they unfold.
2. Resources from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Maryland Bankers Association
Yesterday, the Maryland Chamber hosted an “Understanding the CARES Act & Partnering with Local Banks” webinar.
Special thanks goes to Stephen McAllister of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Kathleen Murphy of the Maryland Bankers Association for answering our members’ pressing questions and giving us a thorough overview of:
Also, please be sure to visit the following websites, which were highlighted by our presenters:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist and its Small Business Resources page
The Maryland Bankers Association’s Coronavirus-Related Resources page
3. MDCC template for essential worker designation and guidance from the MD Department of Commerce
As a result of Governor Hogan’s stay-at-home directive, which went into effect on Monday evening, many Marylanders have asked the Maryland Department of Commerce what to do if they are pulled over by a police officer while traveling to an essential job. The Department of Commerce’s response to this question is as follows:
“While Maryland state troopers will help enforce the expanded executive order, law enforcement will not make traffic stops simply to ask drivers where they are going (to determine if their travel is essential or not). If during the course of his/her regular duties, such as a traffic stop or crash investigation, the trooper develops information indicating the individual was engaged in non-essential travel, enforcement action can be taken in consultation with the state’s attorney’s office in that jurisdiction. Currently, there is not a state-issued ‘Letter of Clearance’ or similar document for essential business employees to carry with them. While it is not necessary for drivers in Maryland to have documentation about their purpose of travel, having it may help resolve questions. We strongly recommend that employers draft and print their own letters containing the following items.
It is recommended that employees carry this with them when traveling to and from work during this unprecedented time.”
As a courtesy to our members, the Maryland Chamber has developed a template for an “essential employee designation” letter for business owners to provide to their employees. Please note that this template is meant to serve only as an example or guide for business owners—and should not be viewed as an official document.
4. Join the MDCC COVID-19 Working Group
Do you want to play an important role in helping our business community recover from the COVID-19 crisis? If so, please consider joining the Maryland Chamber’s COVID-19 Working Group. The goal of the group will be to share updates, questions and challenges as the COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve. We will also rely on this group to vet policy solutions and recommendations for the near, mid- and long-term as it relates to economic resilience and recovery, as well as ongoing labor and employment challenges.
Our virtual meetings will be held on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Our first meeting was held yesterday, and we’re off to a strong start in compiling a list of state and federal policy recommendations to get our businesses back on track in the near future. Agendas with additional materials and more information will be distributed in advance of each call, as needed.
If you have any questions or would like to join the group, please contact Ashley Duckman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Advocating for 501(c)6 organizations
We are pleased that President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act a week ago, so that American families and businesses can stay afloat throughout this unprecedented pandemic and economic shutdown. With direct payments to American families, $367 billion in loans for small businesses, $500 billion for larger industries, and expanded unemployment benefits for our workers, it’s the largest economic rescue package in our nation’s history—and we’re thankful for all that it will do to keep our economy moving.
However, while the new law provides assistance to Section 501(c)3 organizations and certain other nonprofits, it does not assist Section 501(c)6 organizations, including local, county and regional chambers of commerce.
Our state’s chambers play a vital role in working toward the betterment of our small businesses, workforce development programs and Maryland’s economy. And even though the CARES Act omitted 501(c)6 organizations, there is still hope: Congress is considering taking up additional legislation, including a phase 4 (and perhaps even a phase 5) relief package, so it’s not too late to make sure we are accounted for.
Last week, at the Maryland Chamber, we reached out to our U.S. senators in the Maryland congressional delegation. As a result, Senator Cardin scheduled an emergency call of chamber leaders late last week to discuss the implications of the CARES Act. Speaking up makes a difference, whether it’s a letter-writing campaign or calling your senator or representative’s office. No act is too small.
We urge you to continue to call upon our leaders in Congress to include 501(c)6 organizations in any future legislative packages they consider. Thank you for your time and consideration, and for joining with us to protect the livelihoods of local, county and regional chambers of commerce in Maryland.
Click here to view up-to-the-minute COVID-19 resources on the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s COVID-19 resources page.