Notebooks, pencils and friendly ghosts have hit the shelves as stores across America begin to display back-to-school merchandise and Halloween decorations. The collective groans that summer just started is the time-honored response, but retailers have good reason for trying to be the first to attract consumers. Last year, $26 billion was spent on back-to-school for K-12 kids and just under $9 billion on Halloween. Despite (or maybe due to) uncertainty, the National Retail Federation‘s annual survey estimates that back-to-school spending will increase to $33.9 billion this year.
By the time pumpkins are carved, schools will better understand the challenges of the new year and the country will have a clearer picture of how Election Day may unfold. In the meantime, Congress has plenty to do including negotiating and passing another COVID-19 relief package and funding the government past Sept. 30.
Republicans Release COVID-19 Relief Package
Senate Republican leadership released their proposal for the next COVID-19 relief package, called the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act this week.
The proposal includes:
- $105 billion in education funding
- A second stimulus check of $1,200 per individual and $500 per dependent child
- $190 billion in additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
- Eligibility for a second PPP loan for small businesses that have fewer than 300 employees or that experienced an at least 50% loss in revenue
- Reduction of the enhanced unemployment benefits to $200 a week during a transition period in which state unemployment systems will be updated to calculate a benefit amount of 70% of wages, not exceeding $500 per week
- Liability protection for businesses, universities, schools and hospitals
- Increased flexibility of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for state and local governments
This proposal differs significantly from the House-passed Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act that included $1 trillion for state, local, territorial and tribal governments, $100 billion in emergency rental assistance and an extension in enhanced unemployment benefits of $600 per week through January 2021.
White House officials and Democratic leadership are facing increased pressure to negotiate a compromise agreement as prior pandemic relief programs begin to expire. The federal government eviction moratorium expired on July 24, enhanced unemployment benefit will expire on July 31 and PPP applications are currently due by Aug. 8.
Supreme Court Will Consider FHFA Cases
The Supreme Court will consider a combined case on the constitutionality of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) single-director structure and the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac net worth sweep during the next session which begins in October.
The announcement came shortly after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) case that the single-director structure of the CFPB is unconstitutional since the president can only remove the director for cause instead of at will. There was disagreement by some whether the ruling could be applied to other agencies with similar structures, such as the FHFA.
Notably, the FHFA has announced the agency will defend the constitutionality of the current structure, while the CFPB did not. The case will provide needed clarity for investors as FHFA continues to move toward releasing Fannie and Freddie from conservatorship.
SBA Releases Small Business Data for PPP Loans
In response to pressure for increased transparency around the $630 billion in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Small Business Administration (SBA) released business names, addresses, NAICS codes, zip codes, business type, demographic data, nonprofit information, name of lender, jobs supported and loan amount ranges for loans of $150,000 and above. For all loans below $150,000, the SBA withheld business names and addresses.
IRS Provides Relief for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Projects
The IRS provided relief for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) projects through an extension of deadlines to Dec. 31, 2020, for certain items scheduled to be performed and requirements to be met between April 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020. This includes
the last day to meet the 10% test (incur at least 10% of reasonably expected expenses for a project), the last day to incur the minimum rehabilitation expenditures with respect to the building and the deadline for a low-income building that has suffered a casualty loss to complete restoration.
Between April 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, owners of qualified low-income housing projects are not required to perform certain income recertifications or reduce the eligible basis in a building because of the temporary closure of an amenity or common area due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and state agencies that have jurisdiction over the projects are not required to conduct compliance-monitoring.
Additionally, between April 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, owners and operators of projects, issuers, and state agencies may treat medical personnel and other essential workers providing services during the COVID-19 pandemic as if they were displaced individuals and may provide emergency housing for these persons.
House Passes Congressional Review Act Resolution on OCC’s CRA Regulations
The House passed a resolution to nullify the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC’s) new
Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) regulations along party lines. The resolution was introduced by House Financial Services Committee Chair, Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions Chair, Gregory Meeks (D-NY) utilizing the Congressional Review Act. This Act allows Congress 60 working days to review regulations from the time of publication. The resolution needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president to be enacted, but further action is not expected.