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.
Florida remained in the “full Phase One” of reopening this week, with no new statewide action on how and which businesses can operate.
The 50% capacity limit on restaurants and retail remains. The same applies to libraries, museums, gyms and fitness centers, which joined stores and dining rooms in reopening a couple weeks ago.
When the Governor and Cabinet met Thursday — their first meeting since early February — the pandemic was only briefly mentioned ahead of a moment of silence. Otherwise, the statewide officials attended to other business, including a Florida Forever land buy.
There were noteworthy developments, however.
Another eight counties were approved to resume vacation rentals, the Florida Board of Governors greenlit a plan for state universities to reopen in the fall, and Disney and SeaWorld presented their reopening plans to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings' Economic Recovery Task Force — they were quickly approved and forwarded to the Governor for a final verdict. That approval came on Friday from Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order suspending evictions and foreclosures is set to expire June 2. The order was originally issued in early April and was extended earlier this month. The order only blocks evictions for nonpayment of rent — evictions for other reasons are still permitted.
On Thursday, the Board of Governors approved guidelines for state universities to reopen for the fall semester. The proposal encourages universities to limit class sizes and stagger class times so fewer students come into contact with each other while on campus. The plan also incorporates CDC social distancing guidelines, such as the use of masks. Testing is also emphasized, especially for students who arrive from areas where caseloads remain high. Universities should also be prepared to trace students and isolate those who test positive and live on school grounds.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved Florida’s Pandemic EBT Program for June, which will automatically approve benefits for children who have lost access to free and reduced-price meals as a result of the pandemic. More than 2.1 million children will receive the benefits. The program was authorized under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed by the President in March, which allows states to issue P-EBT as a supplemental benefit for households that have lost access to meals.
The U.S. House voted 417-1 on Thursday to pass a bill that would allow businesses receiving PPP funds to spend up to 40% of the loan on operating expenses other than payroll or a handful of other essential expenses. The PPP currently requires businesses to spend at least 75% of PPP funds on payroll. The legislation would also give recipients of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans an additional six months to apply for forgiveness under the CARES Act.
U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer circulated a revised schedule for the House, adapting to the new proxy remote voting procedures. Under the new calendar, the House is not scheduled to hold floor votes until June 30, unless it needs to vote on COVID-19 relief legislation passed by the Senate. Hoyer projects that the House will vote on legislation from July 20 through the 31st, after which it will recess until Labor Day.
The Treasury Department announced this week that it will set aside $10 billion in round two funding for the Paycheck Protection Program to be lent exclusively by Community Development Financial Institutions, which typically serve low-income communities. The $10 billion is a cumulative total for the second wave of PPP funds. Treasury said CDFIs have already approved $3.2 billion in round two loans, and $7 billion total when round one funds are included.
The IRS began sending out stimulus money by mail to taxpayers who had not provided direct deposit information to the agency. The funds are being delivered as prepaid debit cards in nondescript envelopes, which some may confuse as junk mail. Legitimate cards will be issued by "Money Network Cardholder Services." About 4 million Americans will receive debit cards rather than a paper check.
A ban on travel to the United States from Brazil went into effect Tuesday night after previously being set to go into effect Thursday. The White House said the accelerated timeline was due to rising daily coronavirus deaths in the South American nation. On Monday, the country reported more than 800 coronavirus-related deaths, surpassing daily deaths in the U.S. for the first time since the pandemic began. The President had cut off inbound travel from China, Iran, the UK and Ireland.
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Our GReat client Miami-Dade County is offering a "Back-to-Business box" for small businesses working to reopen. These boxes come with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to assist with safety requirements. Learn more here.
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.