Our state and federal lobbying teams continue to closely monitor developments associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. Please reach out to us with any questions regarding the information presented below.
Phase One of the state’s reopening plan began Monday. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan allows restaurant dining rooms and retail stores to reopen at 25% capacity. It also allows health care facilities to resume elective surgeries. Bar closures and the ban on short-term vacation rentals remain in place.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation launched a website where the public can report businesses that are not complying with the rules.
Originally, DeSantis’ plan excluded Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, the hardest-hit counties in the state. However, on Friday, the Governor announced that Palm Beach County would enter into Phase One on Monday, May 11. He made it official upon the issuing of his Executive Order 20-120 on Saturday.
In that same executive order, the Governor declared that barbershops, hair salons and nail salons would be allowed to reopen on May 11. Masks and gloves will be required, and shops will only be allowed to book by appointment.
In a bit of housekeeping to the numerous executive orders issued by the Governor during this health crisis, on Friday, the Governor penned an executive order (20-114) extending the state of emergency declaration he issued March 9. It will now run through July 7, though it could be extended further.
Also this week, Florida campgrounds started reopening. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Forest Service said most campgrounds, primitive campsites and trailheads located on state forests will reopen with limited capacity. A comprehensive list is available on the Forest Service’s website. The reopening does not include restrooms, except at open campgrounds, nor does it include recreation and day-use areas.
On Thursday, DeSantis and the Florida Housing Finance Corporation announced they would make $5 million in unused disaster recovery funds available for the current fiscal year to provide housing assistance through the State Housing Initiatives Partnership, or SHIP. The money will be distributed to local government housing offices.
Courts & Justice
The Florida Supreme Court on Monday issued a new emergency order expanding the types of court proceedings that must be held remotely and extended the suspension of jury trials through July 2. The order allows non-jury trials for criminal, juvenile delinquency, and termination of parental rights cases to be held remotely as long as all parties consent.
Also this week, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice extended a prior emergency order banning visitors from juvenile detention centers and juvenile residential commitment programs through May 15.
The Florida Department of Health launched a smartphone app Thursday to gather data on the coronavirus spread. It is a mobile version of the Community Action Survey website the department launched a month ago. Survey responses are used to help the department track the virus and allocate resources to the areas with the greatest need. App users to go back and change their responses if they experience a change in symptoms.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced that the Health Resources and Services Administration had awarded $583 million to 1,385 health centers to expand testing for the new coronavirus. The disbursement included 47 Florida facilities, which received a combined $28.6 million. HHS also extended the deadline for healthcare providers to accept the terms and conditions for Provider Relief Fund from 30 days after they receive a payment to 45 days.
The Internal Revenue Service said Americans who have not yet received their stimulus payment have until Wednesday to sign up for direct deposit in order to accelerate deliver. The IRS also provided a state-by-state breakdown of where economic impact payments have been sent. As of Friday, more than 9 million payments had been delivered in Florida, totaling more than $15.1 billion.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about how the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and Regulation B apply to loan applications submitted through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The Securities and Exchange Commission eased crowdfunding requirements for smaller, established companies that have previously sold securities through a Regulation Crowdfunding offering. Relief includes allowing financial statements to be certified by a company’ principal executive rather than by an accountant, and lifting the 21-day moratorium on sales after an offering statement is published. Earlier closing will also be permitted.
The Securities and Exchange Commission published FAQs to explain how extensions and other compliance relief measures will apply to disclosure and filing requirements.
The Small Business Administration announced that it is extending the “safe harbor” to May 14 for companies to return PPP funds if they can’t make the required certification that the loan is “necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.” The agency will provide additional guidance on how it plans to review these certifications before May 14.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development expanded the acceptable uses for $380 million in supplemental administrative fee funding it has made available to public housing authorities. The funding can now be used to purchase cleaning supplies, moving families to health units and childcare expenses, among other things.
The Federal Housing Finance Administration extended several relief measures for loan originations until at least June 30. Between now and then, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can continue to accept alternative appraisals on purchase and rate term refinancings; alternative methods for verifying employment before loan closing; documentation from borrowers rather than inspections in order to allow renovation disbursements; and expanded powers of attorney and remote online notarizations to help with loan closings.
The U.S. Department of Education sent $1.4 billion to Historically Black Colleges and Universities this week. Several Florida schools were included in the allocation list. Most of the money heading to Florida will be directed to Florida A&M University, which is set to receive $29.4 million.
WE ARE GRATEFUL FOR YOU
ICYMI, this week is #NationalNursesWeek! So we couldn't go without giving our client the Florida Nurses Association a warm GR shoutout. The Association's mission is to advance the profession of nursing and promote a healthy Florida, and we couldn't be more GRateful for them today, and every day.
COVID-19 Task Force
GrayRobinson's COVID-19 Task Force is aimed at helping businesses and local governments address evolving legal and regulatory challenges and emerge stronger from the pandemic. Keep up with our Task Force updates here.