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Update: President Trump Signs Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020

Update: Today President Trump signed into law the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 ("FA"). The House passed the law on May 27 and the Senate approved on June 3. The legislation provides more flexibility to small businesses who received loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”).

Maturity of PPP Loans

To start, the FA establishes that all PPP loans granted after the enactment of the FA will carry a 5-year minimum maturity term. For already existing loans, the FA allows for lenders and borrowers to mutually agree to modify the 2-year maturity term of the existing loan and implement the new 5-year minimum.

Extended Covered Period

Further, the FA extends the deadline to apply for a PPP loan to December 31, 2020. The covered period for which PPP loan recipients may spend the loan is also extended. Originally, small businesses had 8 weeks to spend the PPP loan money. Under the FA, small businesses may spend the PPP loan money during a 24-week period or until December 31, 2020, whichever occurs first. A business that has received a loan prior to the enactment of the FA may elect to spend their loan within the 8-week spending period that coincides with origination of their loan or extend it through the new 24-week covered period.

Payroll vs Nonpayroll Uses

Prior to the FA, recipients of a PPP loan were required to use 75% or more of the loan on payroll expenses in order to be eligible for loan forgiveness. The FA reduces that amount and requires recipients to spend at least 60% of the loan amount on payroll expenses in order to be eligible for loan forgiveness. This allows a recipient of a PPP loan to use up to 40% of the loan amount on non-payroll expenses like mortgage, rent, and utility payments.

Full-Time Equivalent Safe Harbor

The PPP requires loan recipients to restore its full-time employee count or employee wages to its February 15, 2020 level by June 30, 2020 in order to receive the full amount of loan forgiveness. Because many businesses are still facing difficulties in restoring operations to their February 15, 2020 levels, the FA extended the date to restore the loan recipient’s full-time employee count or employee wages to December 31, 2020.

Further, the FA provides a new exemption from a proportional reduction of loan forgiveness due to a reduction in full-time employees. This exemption is conditioned on the PPP loan recipient documenting, in good faith, one of the following two findings. First, a loan recipient can document an inability to rehire individuals who were employees on February 15, 2020 and document an inability to hire similarly qualified employees for unfilled positions by December 31, 2020. Second, a loan recipient can document:

“an inability to return to the same level of business activity as such business was operating at before February 15, 2020, due to compliance with requirements established or guidance issued by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration during the period beginning on March 1, 2020, and ending December 31, 2020, related to the maintenance of standards for sanitation, social distancing, or any other worker or customer safety requirement related to COVID–19.”

Extended Deferral Period

Under the initial CARES Act, a deferral period of not less than six months and no more than one year was allowed for loan payments of principal and interest. Under the FA, the deferral of payments of principle and interest extends until the lender receives the total forgiveness amount of the loan, which is determined by the CARES Act. Additionally, if a PPP loan recipient fails to apply for forgiveness of the loan, then the recipient must begin payments of interest and principle within 10 months of the end of the newly established 24-week covered period.

It is anticipated that President Trump will sign the FA into law but, until then, the CARES Act and the PPP remain in effect leaving the above-mentioned changes unimplemented.

For questions regarding the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020, please contact your primary BMD attorney.

UPDATE: Governor Dewine Signs HB 606 Granting Short Window of Immunity from COVID-19 Personal Injury Lawsuits

The Ohio General Assembly, in Am. Sub. H.B. No. 606, is in the final stages of passing a law that will prohibit lawsuits seeking damages from COVID-19. This includes injury, death, or loss to person or property if the lawsuits are based, in whole or in part, on the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of the coronavirus, unless the defendant in the lawsuit acted intentionally or recklessly. In circumstances where this immunity does not apply, H.B. 606 prohibits such claims being aggregated and brought as a class action.

Revised Department of Labor FFCRA Guidance, Effective September 16, 2020

In response to attacks on the legality of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule regarding the Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA” or the “Act”), which took effect in April 2020, the Department of Labor issued new guidance on Friday, September 11th to formally address ongoing questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 legislation.

FCC Adds $198 Million to Strengthen Telehealth for Rural Healthcare Providers

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has added an additional $198 million in funding to its Rural Health Care Program. These funds will be used to increase broadband services and telecommunications to bolster telehealth/telemedicine services for rural healthcare providers. Funding for rural healthcare providers was initially capped at $605 million in 2020, but the added funds will now allow the FCC to provide over $800 million to eligible providers.

Finding Opportunity in Adversity: Optimism for the Construction Industry

Looking for good news? If so, you are not alone. Aside from the collective mental, physical and emotional human toll imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, entire sectors of the economy have been ravaged, and old, familiar ways of doing business have been disrupted. Although deemed essential, the construction industry has not been immune to interruption and uncertainty during these unprecedented times. Amid new health and safety concerns, coupled with financial uncertainty, progress on projects has slowed, and the start dates for a number of new projects slated to begin in 2020 have been deferred. However, resilience has always been a trademark of contractors, subcontractors and other industry professionals. Reports indicate that while the construction industry lost more than one million jobs February through April, at least 600,000 of those jobs had been gained back by the end of June.

Yard Sign Do’s and Don’ts: How to Avoid Legal Challenges to Municipal Sign Codes this Election Season

As the nation heads into the tail end of the 2020 general election, municipalities will inevitably face challenges as they seek to regulate the seasonal proliferation of yard signs on residential property. While the matter may seem trifling, a seemingly benign yet content-based sign ordinance can result in significant legal exposure for municipalities that have not heeded recent Supreme Court decisions on content neutrality.