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.
One month after Florida took the first steps toward reopening, the state entered “Phase Two.”
Governor Ron DeSantis outlined the next phase, effective Friday, during a press conference at Universal Studios in Orlando, which itself began welcoming back guests this week. He followed it up with an executive order released Wednesday. The Governor’s Office also issued Phase 2 FAQs.
Phase Two allows bars, pubs, movie theaters, auditoriums, bowling alleys, arcades, tanning salons, and tattoo parlors to reopen.
Those businesses must adhere to the same rules imposed on restaurants and retail stores when they first reopened last month — a 50% capacity limit and strict adherence to social distancing guidelines. At bars, for instance, drinks may be served only to seated guests.
Another similarity: Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties were excluded. The three South Florida counties still account for more than half of the state’s cases of the new coronavirus.
Phase Two also allows gyms, which reopened in Phase One, to operate at 100% rather than half capacity.
DeSantis’ plan leaves the door open for casinos to reopen, though facilities must create and submit plans to local officials and the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation for approval before they may reopen.
DeSantis announced that the state will receive nearly $252 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse costs associated with the COVID-19 response. The funds are allocated for COVID-19 expenses incurred from March 13 through April 30. Florida has spent $336 million on response and the FEMA money has a 75% federal cost-share.
On Monday, DeSantis signed an executive order extending the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through July 1. The order was originally issued in early April and was extended in May. The order only blocks evictions for nonpayment of rent — evictions for other reasons are still permitted.
Courts & Justice
Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady issued an administrative order adding Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma to the COVID-19 Workgroup responsible for steering the state through the coronavirus pandemic. In the order, Canady noted that the mission of the Workgroup in advising him on emergency matters would be helped by adding a representative of the law enforcement community.
Small Business Relief
The Senate passed and the President signed into law the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, which gives businesses more time and flexibility to spend funds they receive through the PPP and still be eligible for loan forgiveness. The PPP loan forgiveness period has been extended from eight weeks to 24 weeks after a loan is issued or through December 31, whichever comes first. Businesses can apply for forgiveness if they hire back furloughed employees by December 31, instead of the original June 30 deadline. PPP borrowers may spend up to 40% of those funds on expenses other than payroll, above the earlier 25% limit. Businesses with forgiven PPP loans may defer their payroll tax payments, which the CARES Act had prohibited, and borrowers may defer principal and interest payments on PPP loans until the Small Business Administration compensates lenders for any forgiven amounts.
Finance & Tax
The IRS issued guidance to Qualified Opportunity Funds and their investors on the pandemic. The IRS guidelines state taxpayers who sold property for an eligible gain and who would have had 180 days to invest in a QOF to defer that gain, may have additional time to make the investment and deferral.
The IRS, along with the Treasury Department, also announced this week that 159 million stimulus payments have been delivered to taxpayers.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued “temporary and targeted flexibility” for credit card lenders during the pandemic, allowing them to provide certain disclosures electronically instead of in writing without obtaining “E-Sign” consent from consumers who apply for new credit card accounts or balance transfers.
As part of “Operation Warp Speed,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services entered into a contract with Emergent BioSolutions to improve manufacturing capacity for a potential COVID-19 vaccine as well as therapeutics. The task order is worth approximately $628 million and falls under an existing contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
HHS also announced another $250 million in funding for U.S. health care systems. The funding, authorized by the CARES Act, comes after a $100 million funding wave released in April. The allocation list shows Florida has received a combined $17 million from the funding pool.
The Federal Housing Administration announced a temporary policy that provides guidance for lenders to obtain FHA insurance endorsements on mortgages where the borrower has requested or obtained a COVID-19 forbearance. The policy is a reversal of FHA’s usual policy, which deems mortgages in forbearance as ineligible for FHA insurance.
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COVID-19 Task Force
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