Happy Friday from my kitchen table! It has been a whirlwind of a week in the realm of advocacy and public policy. Our entire team has been working remotely on daily phone calls with Federal and State officials, advocating for policies that will help small business and employees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the passage of the CARES Act today, options for immediate financial relief is on its way to both businesses and employees who have been negatively impacted in the last few weeks.
ENFORCEMENT AND FEES FOR TEMPORARY SIGNS IN TUCSON AND SAHUARITA SUSPENDED
The Tucson Metro Chamber has actively lobbied the jurisdictions throughout the region asking for the regulations, enforcement and collection of fees for temporary signs during the time of the pandemic be suspended. Temporary signs are typically defined as A-Frames, banner, stake, quill and posts. The City of Tucson administratively suspended the enforcement of temporary signs and Sahuarita's Mayor Murphy signed a proclamation on March 26 suspending their enforcement. Pima County, Marana and Oro Valley are all actively looking at either administratively or by proclamation taking similar action.
FACING COVID-19, STATE LEGISLATURE PASSES "SKINNY" BUDGET AND RECESSES
On Monday, the Arizona Legislature passed what has been referred to as a “skinny budget” which, for the most part, continues ongoing agency funding from last year and makes additions for caseload and inflation growth. The $11.8 B abbreviated budget is meant to ensure agencies stay open and the state doesn’t overspend as revenues, which have been higher than expected for most of the fiscal year, but are expected to decrease in the wake of the outbreak.

The Legislature also included a $50 million package to cushion the economic impact of COVID-19. The aid package also included relaxing eligibility requirements and time limits for TANF assistance and creates leeway for the Department of Economic Security to pay developmental disability care providers who are providing services in alternative ways. Upon passage of the budget, the Legislature adjourned until April 13, though that date may slide later into April.

Of note: While February statewide general fund revenues were down about 1.3 percent over last year and $42 million under forecast, it was due to income tax processing, not COVID-19. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee warned that revenues will likely decrease with the pandemic in full effect. Year to date, collections are up by 8.3 percent and are $49 million above forecast.

Click HERE to see an updated list of the Chamber’s priority bills.
CONGRESS PASSES $2T CARES ACT  "PHASE III" RELIEF PACKAGE 
Directly impacting small business, the bill provides new small business loans with loan forgiveness provisions – $850 billion worth – for loan programs for distressed businesses, with some strings attached to try to prevent them from laying off workers or ripping off taxpayers. Small business owners are able to take a loan for up to 2.5x average monthly payroll, not to exceed $10M, and has the serious likelihood to be forgiven if a few standards are met. This makes the initial loan essentially a grant, offering a bridge for small business.

There were minimal changes to the paid sick and family leave provisions from the Phase II bill, which included capping the maximum amount of payments and clarifying that workers who are rehired are eligible for paid FMLA leave. We will provide more information as the 800+ page bill is reviewed.

The CARES Act also finances direct payments to most Americans, along with a major increase in unemployment benefits. All U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples) would get a $1,200 ($2,400 for couples) "rebate" payment. They are also eligible for an additional $500 per child. Payments start phasing out for earners above those income thresholds and would not go to single filers earning more than $99,000; head-of-household filers with one child, more than $146,500; and more than $198,000 for joint filers with no children. Those who find themselves unemployed will get an extra $600 per week for up to four months, on top of state unemployment benefits to make up for 100 percent of lost wages.

Specific details on provisions within the bill are forthcoming and will be emailed to affected companies.
GOVERNOR ISSUES MULTIPLE EXECUTIVE ORDERS TO FIGHT COVID-19
Governor Ducey has issued multiple Executive Orders in the past two weeks, in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 and to hasten response by authorities. All issued Executive Orders can be found HERE . Some of the more applicable orders to the business community are the following:
·         Expand Licensing Opportunities
·         Ensure Hospital Preparedness
SBA DISASTER LOANS AVAILABLE TO EVERY SMALL BUSINESS
Every small business (<500 employees) in Arizona is eligible to apply for a Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan currently. These loans:
·        Offer up to $2 million for small businesses to address working capital needs
·        3.75% interest rate for small businesses; 2.75% interest rate for private, non-profits
·        Payments can be deferred for up to one year, although interest begins accruing upon initial disbursement of funds
·        Terms can be extended to 30 years

To qualify for the loan program:
·        Business must demonstrate economic injury, which is defined as loss of revenue to be able to operate and pay for normal business expenses
·        Businesses that have credit available elsewhere may not qualify, though SBA is considering expanding use of hardship exceptions given the unprecedented circumstances

Business owners should apply online in the Disaster Loan Application Portal at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/ . The electronic loan application will be screened by the processing center when it is received. 
 
FOR ALL APPLICATIONS THE FOLLOWING ITEMS MUST BE SUBMITTED:
·        Loan application (SBA Form 5), completed and signed (this is electronic/online in the portal)
·        Tax Information Authorization (IRS Form 4506-T), completed and signed by each applicant, each principal owning 20 percent or more of the applicant business, each general partner or managing member; and, for any owner who has more than 50 percent ownership in an affiliate business. Affiliates include, but are not limited to, business parents, subsidiaries, and/or other businesses with common ownership or management
·        Complete copies, including all schedules, of the most recently filed Federal income tax returns for the applicant business; an explanation if not available
·        Personal Financial Statement (SBA Form 413) completed, signed, and dated by the applicant, each principal owning 20 percent or more of the applicant business, and each general partner or managing member
·        Schedule of Liabilities listing all fixed debts (SBA Form 2202 may be used)
 
All of these forms are available in the Disaster Loan Application Portal. For program questions or assistance in completing the application online, businesses can contact Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955.
SUPERVISORS EXTEND COVID-19-RELATED BUSINESS RESTRICTIONS TO 4/10
The Pima County Board of Supervisors today voted to extend the term of restrictions for some businesses in unincorporated Pima County to April 10, 2020, as part of the Board’s effort to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in the community.

The Board, using its emergency powers March 19, ordered all restaurants in the unincorporated County to cease on-premises dining but allowing take-out service, and closed numerous types of businesses, including bars, bowling alleys, yoga studios, and gyms ( click here for a full list ). Tuesday’s action extends that order to coincide with the term for  school closures set by Gov. Doug Ducey
2020 CENSUS COUNT IN FULL SWING
There is now less than one week until Census Day. By now, most households should have received at least one invitation to respond to the 2020 Census. Responding to the census is important because it helps inform funding for key public services for your community like education programs and schools, hospitals and healthcare, roads and bridges, and emergency and disaster response. If you have not yet completed the Census by mail, you and your employees can go HERE to complete the process.

Participating in the Census is critical to the future success of our community!
U.S. DEPT. OF LABOR PUBLISHES GUIDANCE EXPLAINING PAID SICK LEAVE AND EXPANDED FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE
The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division issued their first level of   guidance   on how the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will affect employers and employees. In the text, the DOL makes it clear that they will be issuing further guidance and regulations related to the exemptions for employers with fewer than 50 employees, as well as health care providers—which will we share with you as soon as it becomes available.

The guidance—provided in a   Fact Sheet for Employees , Fact Sheet for Employers  and a  Questions and Answers   document—addresses critical questions, such as how an employer must count the number of their employees to determine coverage, how small businesses can obtain an exemption, how to count hours for part-time employees, how to calculate the wages employees are entitled to under this law, and more. To view the official guidance from the DOL please   click here .
PIMA COUNTY ADJUSTS IMPACT FEES
We have been working with Pima County Department of Transportation staff on an update to their impact fees, alongside Metropolitan Pima Alliance (MPA). Pima County only assesses impact fees for transportation, whereas other jurisdictions also assess fees for public safety, parks and other services. During our initial discussions, staff presented the Land Use Assumptions (LUA) and Infrastructure Improvement Plan (IIP) which ultimately included a proposed fee schedule based on those new assumptions. The fees for Commercial/Retail were proposed to increase to $6,915.00 per 1,000 sq. ft., an approximate 40% increase from the current rate of $4,963.00 per sq. ft.

As part of our discussions with staff, we stressed the changing dynamics of the retail sector. Online sales during the most recent holiday season totaled $122 billion and we have seen percentage shifts of online sales increase from 12% to 15-16% over the past five years. While the economy has improved, we still need to advocate to lessen the burden on a retail sector that has experienced significant shifts.

We are pleased to announce that our collaborative negotiation with MPA has resulted in a proposed  REDUCTION  in the general commercial retail rate to $5,442.00 per 1,000 sq. ft. This is an approximate 10% increase to the current rates over a 10-year period. We would like to thank Pima County staff, our partners at MPA and member stakeholders for their transparency throughout the process and willingness to listen to our arguments and concerns. The public hearing and final adoption is scheduled for July 2020 and fees would officially go into effect Jan. 1, 2021. This would mean that any development submitting plans prior to Jan 1, 2021 would pay the current fee at the time. Fees are typically not invoiced until certificate of occupancy, which typically occurs at the culmination of the building permit process.

We are still discussing the retail categories with staff and there will be additional stakeholder meetings before the July public hearing but their proposed fee reduction is a very positive step in the right direction .
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