Legislative Update – March 19

Federal Update

Last week, an $8.3B package was signed by the President providing funds for research, public health programming, and small business loans, among other things.

Congress adopted HR 6201 the Families First Coronavirus Response Act on Wednesday. This bill mandates free testing and directs employers to provide expanded family medical leave and paid sick leave with some exceptions (businesses with over 500 employees, and businesses with under 50 employees). Chamber guidance on HR 6201 can be viewed here.

Pending at the federal level are other proposed stimulus packages and legislation. Most relevant is the possible $1T stimulus package that proposes $250 billion in direct payments and specific funds for private sector resiliency. A vote is not expected in the Senate until next week. This package will likely be the large, sweeping stimulus package being discussed and we will continue to keep you updated on developments. However, as of this morning, it would appear there will be a different bill proposed by House Democrats that has some similarities, but more sweeping impacts and higher price tag than the one developing in the Senate.

State Update

On Monday, the state adopted two measures which appropriate $500 million for COVID-19 relief, which could be matched by the Legislature to expand the action and request up to $1B. This funding will also ensure that public schools continue to receive funding from the state, despite physical closure.

Per the Governor’s formal State of Emergency declaration, the state’s provision against price gouging is in effect. Attorney General Bacerra’s statement can be found here.

The legislature convened until April 13th. While they can reconvene at the direction of legislative leadership should the need arise, the legislative timeline for the remainder of this session is unclear.

On Tuesday, Chamber staff submitted a letter to Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara asking that he weigh-in to provide direction to establish other channels of relief as we learn more about the likelihood of insurance plans covering, or not, claims from the business community. While we are awaiting direction, particularly in regard to business interruption insurance, today we received this notice from the Commissioner regarding a grace period for insurance payments. We will share any further responses or developments with you all.

The state’s Legislative Analyst has produced this publication regarding consideration to the state’s budget.

On Thursday, the Governor issued a “Stay home except for essential needs” Executive Order effective immediately and in place until further notice. The full Executive Order can be viewed here. More information on this policy can be viewed here.

Local Update 

On Tuesday, Council President Georgette Gomez and her colleagues adopted a list of suggestions for City residents and the business community. Among the suggestions were temporary moratoriums on evictions and utility shut-offs for small businesses under commercial leases and residents throughout the City (UT coverage here). The Chamber submitted feedback requesting that the Council consider a clear time limit on the proposal to ensure that a blanket policy is not enacted in perpetuity, creating significant adverse effects on the economy as a whole, that hardship be a requirement to qualify for relief, and that the City work to engage the state for additional funds for those property owners that would be required to absorb the income loss. Council’s vote reflected many of these points and thoughtful consideration of the shared economic burden of our current situation, which we are appreciative of. With an 8-1 vote in favor, Council voted to approve all emergency measures.

On Wednesday, Mayor Faulconer announced directives around small business relief. That announcement included: a $4 million in grants and loans to support small businesses, that will be a part of a larger Business Continuation Fund**; forgiveness periods for certain fees and penalties; and extended timeless for some projects. Chamber President & CEO Jerry Sanders joined the Mayor and Chris Cate for the announcement.

**Businesses can begin applying for the Business Continuation Fund as of Monday, March 23rd. Learn more here.

Resources for Small Businesses
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to California small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) offer up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. Businesses can apply here. Contact Mike Sovacool, Deputy District Director, with questions about EIDLs or other SBA programs via phone (619-557-7250) or email (michael.sovacool@sba.gov). More small business resources and loan guidance related to COVID-19 can be found on the SBA website here.

The City of San Diego’s Small Business Relief Fund will begin accepting applications on Monday, March 23rd. Info can be found here.

Tip: Before applying for any disaster capital (from local, state, or federal funds), make sure your 2019 and prior year financial statements are in order. Then using that information and what we know today, do the best to forecast the impact the COVID-19 public health emergency will have on your sales.

Be sure to check your Business Interruption Insurance policy. This is a common part of your general commercial insurance. In particular, for the food and beverage industry, a government-mandated closure most likely will trigger the insurance.

Additionally, the State Treasurer’s Office has published this list of Federal, State, Local, Private, and Non-profit resources available to small businesses.