Government Affairs

An Update on the HEALS Act

As we reported in ACPA TODAY last Wednesday, Senate Republicans released details of the HEALS Act, the latest COVID-relief and recovery package whose funding level is set at $1.2 trillion.

The Senate did not vote on the legislation, instead releasing it to serve as the initial negotiation position for the Republican members and the White House.

Friday marked the expiration of the additional $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits, and as we’re seeing in media reports, this is a major sticking point.

Senate Republicans and members of the Trump administration object to the extra $600, saying it’s like paying Americans not to work, stating two-thirds of Americans have received more money in unemployment benefits than they did from their former jobs. Republicans attempted to pass a one-week extension of the $600 benefit as the two parties continue to negotiate a new stimulus package but could not get enough votes in the Senate to pass it on to the House.

House Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are demanding the extra $600 weekly payment remain in place through January 2021, a key part of the HEROES Act they passed in May.

At this writing, the two sides have still not reached a compromise, but their goal is to strike a deal by mid-month. Although the details have yet to be worked out, here’s a look at how the bill, as proposed, would affect the cement and concrete industry:

  • Improvements to the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to hire those on unemployment insurance; it would now cover 65% of wages up to $30,000 (Currently 50% of the first $10,000).
  • Reforms to the Paycheck Protection Program so that recipients can also claim the Employee Retention Credit.
  • Liability protections for businesses, schools, and other entities.
  • A 100% deduction on business meals through 2021.
  • A 50% credit for employee testing and cleaning of workspaces.
  • $2 billion for the Department of the Treasury to improve taxpayer services.
  • $10 billion in funding for the Airport Improvement Program to help airports maintain operations as they are facing a significant drop in passengers.

 Other key highlights include:

  • An additional round of $1,200 stimulus checks to taxpayers.
  • A cut in federal unemployment supplemental from $600 to $200 for sixty days.
  • $105 billion for schools to reopen with two-thirds of funding tied to them reopening.
  • $16 billion for more coronavirus testing.
  • The proposal does not provide additional revenue to state and local governments.

 (Source: PCA’s “This week in Washington” and independent outlets.)

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House Passes Key Funding Measures

The House of Representatives last Friday approved a funding package (H.R. 7616) for the Departments of Transportation, Energy, Labor, and the Army Corps of Engineers. The vote was 217 to 197, according to PCA’s “This Week in Washington.”

The Senate is significantly farther behind the House as the Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to advance any funding bills for FY21. Congress must agree on appropriations bills funding the federal government prior to the fiscal year expiring on September 30. Currently, it is unlikely that Congress will reach consensus on appropriations prior to this deadline. Therefore, a short-term Continuing Resolution will likely be necessary to keep the federal government from shutting down.

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ACPA and Coalition Partners Oppose Motor Carrier Insurance Increase

ACPA and a coalition of more than 60 other stakeholder organizations sent a letter Monday to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation leaders and members strongly discouraging them from including any increase in the existing minimum liability coverage for motor carriers.

The letter, addressed to Chairman Roger Wicker (MS) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (WA), says an “increase in insurance requirements is wholly unnecessary, would do nothing to improve highway safety, and would have a severe negative impact on truckers, farmers, and manufacturers by significantly increasing their operational costs.”

The opponents of the proposed increase also say the change is entirely unnecessary. They cite research required by MAP-21, commissioned by the FMCSA and conducted by the Volpe National Transportation Center, which studied the issue in detail. “In 2014, Volpe released its report, which explained, ‘The vast majority of CMV-caused crashes have relatively small cost consequences, and the costs are easily covered with the limits of mandatory liability insurance {emphasis added}.”

ACPA’s advocacy efforts cover a wide range of issues related to funding and policy, as well as actions to encourage inter-industry competition, stop or reverse onerous regulations, and other measures to support Association members. Click here to read the complete letter.

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* The coalition included: Agricultural Retailers Association, American Beekeeping Federation, American Concrete Pavement Association, American Concrete Pipe Association, American Concrete Pumping Association, American Dairy Coalition, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Forest and Paper Association, American Pipeline Contractors Association, American Sheep Industry Association, Associated Equipment Distributors, Colorado Motor Carriers Association, Concrete Foundations Association, Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute, Consumer Brands Association, Distribution Contractors Association, Georgia Motor Trucking Association, Hawaii Transportation Association, Kansas Motor Carriers Association, Livestock Marketing Association, Maine Motor Transport Association, Mid-West Truckers Association, Minnesota Trucking Association, Missouri Trucking Association, Motor Carriers of Montana, Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, National Asphalt Pavement Association, National Association of Small Trucking Companies, National Aquaculture Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Grain and Feed Association, National Precast Concrete Association, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, National Stone Sand and Gravel Association, National Utility Contractors Association, Nevada Trucking Association, New Hampshire Motor Transport Association, New Jersey Motor Truck Association, New Mexico Trucking Association, NFIB, North American Miller’s Association, North American Renderers Association, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Petroleum Marketers Association of America, Pet Food Institute, Power and Communication Contractors Association, Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute, Rhode Island Trucking Association, Southwest Movers Association, South Carolina Trucking Association, South Dakota Trucking Association, Tennessee Trucking Association, Texas Trucking Association, Tilt-Up Concrete Association, Towing and Recovery Association of America, Truck Renting and Leasing Association, United Dairymen of Arizona, United Fresh Produce Association, United States Cattlemen’s Association, Vermont Truck & Bus Association, Western States Trucking Association, Wyoming Trucking Association.

Follow this link to see ACPA’s government affairs repository.

Senate Introduces COVID Relief Bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday announced the Senate Republicans’ fourth phase of COVID-19 relief funding, the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools or HEALS Act.

The bill includes the following provisions (with comparisons to the Democrats’ latest stimulus bill, the HEROES Act, shown in parenthesis). The information comes from the Policy Resolution Group, a public affairs and communications firm:

  • Unemployment support–$200/week through Sept. 30, the payment equal to 70% of wages, capped at $400. (HEROES: $600/week through Jan. 2021.)
  • State and Local Aid–$0, but expands allowable uses of CARES funds. (HEROES: $1 trillion.)
  • Direct Payments–Same level as CARES, with additional support for dependents. (HEROES: $1,200 per person, with a $6,000 maximum and a $75,000 phase out.)
  • Liability Shield–Creates a single federal cause of action for COVID exposure with a broad safe harbor, preempting all state claims. (HEROES: Publicly oppose.)

Commenting on the bill today on the Senate floor, Leader McConnell says, “For months, our legislation has helped cushion the pain of this crisis from coast to coast. But our nation is not finished with this fight. More Americans are dying every day. Millions and millions are unemployed. And the institutions of American life cannot stay totally shut down until our race for a vaccine hits the finish line.”

“Our nation needs to smartly and safely re-open while keeping up the medical battle,” he says, adding, “We need to get kids safely back to school and adults safely back to work without losing ground in the healthcare fight.”

The Senate is expected to debate the bill in the days ahead, all with the goal of reaching a compromise and passing a bill prior to August 7, the final day Congress plans to be in session prior to the August recess.

The bill was introduced by Leader McConnell and several Committee and Subcommittee Chairs: Lamar Alexander, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Roy Blunt, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies; Susan Collins, THUD Appropriations Subcommittee and Senate Aging Committee; Lindsey Graham, Senate Judiciary Committee; Chuck Grassley, Senate Finance Committee; Marco Rubio, Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship; and Richard Shelby, Senate Appropriations Committee. Also introducing the bill were Senators John Cornyn and Mitt Romney.

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Follow this link to see ACPA’s government affairs repository.


Congress Approves ACPA-supported Great American Outdoors Act

With bipartisan support, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 310-107 last Wednesday to pass the Great American Outdoors Act.

The bill, supported by ACPA, creates a dedicated fund for addressing the National Park Service’s $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog and permanently funds the Land & Water Conservation Fund at $900 million a year.

As we reported in ACPA TODAY, the American Concrete Pavement Association and other members of the HMG, along with other organizations, advocated for passage of the bill. As we also reported, the bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 73 to 25 last month. President Trump is expected to sign this bill into law.

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Follow this link to see ACPA’s government affairs repository.

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