Congressional action during COVID-19

Departments - Legislative Landscape

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June 3, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress was forced to act quickly and provide immediate relief for those that have been most impacted. The National Association of Landscape Professionals has been engaged with Congressional offices to support these efforts. To date, three COVID-19 related stimulus packages have been passed.

The first package, passed March 6, provided $8.3 billion in relief.

Key programs included:

  • Funding to federal, state and local agencies to combat COVID-19
  • Providing waivers for Medicare telehealth restrictions
  • Investments in vaccine research

The second package, passed on March 14, the Families First Act provided $192 billion in relief. Key programs included:

  • 14-day paid sick leave for those impacted by COVID-19
  • Extended paid family medial leave for those impacted by COVID-19
  • Payroll tax credits for employers
  • Increased funding for food stamps
  • Funding for COVID-19 testing

The third package, passed on March 25, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) provided $2 trillion in relief. Key programs included:

  • Paycheck Protection Program
  • Main Street Lending Program
  • Direct payments to individuals and families
  • CDC/DHS funding
  • Aviation industry bailout
  • Student loan suspension
  • Unemployment expansion

**A Supplemental to the CARES Act passed on April 20 provided an additional $450 billion in relief mainly toward replenishing PPP along with additional funding for hospitals and testing devices.**

Congress is now looking to the next round of coronavirus relief in the face of new figures form the Department of Labor that show that unemployment climbed to 14.7% in April and is expected to reach 20% or higher in May.

As U.S. unemployment nears 20%, Congress will try to pass another stimulus that may take more time than before.

The House may vote on a Democratic stimulus plan that is seen as a Democratic marker for negotiations with the White House over the next economic stimulus package. House Members are also expected to vote on rules change that would allow proxy voting for Representatives who are unable to travel to Washington due to health concerns.

The Democratic stimulus package is likely to contain: additional aid for state and local governments; additional stimulus payments to individuals; a further expansion of unemployment benefits; funding for the U.S. Postal Service and student loan forgiveness for health care workers. The bill will not include President Trump’s request for changes to the payroll and capital gains tax.

As fiscal conservatives grow concerned and partisan bickering amplifies, the next stimulus will likely take more time and involve debates over some major partisan issues including:

  • Funding for states
  • Funding for remote and absentee voting
  • Increasing access to food programs
  • Employment payroll tax deduction
  • Infrastructure funding
  • Additional industry “bail outs”

House Republican Leader McCarthy (CA) is calling for hearings and an analysis of the impact of the previous stimulus bills before proceeding with a new package. Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has expressed similar sentiments.

NALP is monitoring negotiations closely and will keep you updated. NALP will be specifically focusing on:

  • More access to capital for those businesses that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19
  • Incentives for homeowners, businesses and local governments to invest in landscape services via tax credits or grants
  • Limiting liability for companies where a transmission of COVID-19 has occurred

NALP will continue to represent the landscape industry on Capitol Hill and look for opportunities to support programs that benefit the landscape industry and the customers we service.

Editor’s note: This article was written on May 8, 2020. You can contact Bray at andrew@landscapeprofessionals.org for the most current information.