USTelecom Legislative Report – July 29, 2020

This week, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, along with Senate Appropriations Chairman Shelby, introduced the HEALS ACT, which is the Senate GOP’s initial COVID economic stimulus proposal.

As expected, the bill does not include any direct funding for broadband.  However, the legislation does include money for rip and replace of Huawei and ZTE equipment for small carriers and includes extending provisions related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and other tax provisions.

Of potential interest to USTelecom members, please find highlights of the legislation below:

Paycheck Protection Program:

  • Covered operations expenditures. Payment for any software, cloud computing, and other human resources and accounting needs.
  • Property damage costs. Costs related to property damage due to public disturbances that occurred during 2020 that are not covered by insurance.
  • Covered supplier costs. Expenditures to a supplier pursuant to a contract for goods in effect before February 15, 2020, that are essential to the recipient’s current operations.
  • Covered worker protection expenditure. Personal protective equipment and adaptive investments to help a loan recipient comply with federal health and safety guidelines related to COVID-19 during the period between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.
  • Provides a second loan from the PPP for eligible businesses and businesses qualifying originally.
    • Eligibility:
      1. Meet the SBA’s revenue size standard.
      2. Employ not more than 300 or fewer employees.
      3. Demonstrate at least 50 percent reduction in gross receipts in the first or second quarter of 2020 relevant to the same 2019 quarter.
      4. Publicly-traded businesses are not eligible to draw on a second PPP loan.
    • Loan forgiveness.  Borrowers of a PPP second draw would be eligible for loan forgiveness equal to the sum of their payroll costs, covered mortgage, rent, utility payments, covered operations expenditures, covered property damage costs, covered supplier costs, and covered worker protection expenditures incurred before 1/1/2021.

Rip and Replace of Huawei and ZTE Equipment:

Provides $1 billion for the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program to provide carriers serving two million or less customers funds to offset the cost of removing prohibited equipment that pose national security risks to their networks.

Liability Protection:

The legislation would provide relief to American businesses, education institutions, nonprofit organizations, and health care providers in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

  • Creates a “safe harbor” for businesses that heed mandatory government health and safety guidance.  Under the safe harbor, the employer would not be liable under any federal employment law for any claim related to coronavirus exposure.
  • Would limit the prospect of troublesome litigation while preserving the rights of injured individuals to pursue legitimate claims against grossly negligent defendants.
  • The legislation establishes several limitations on damages amounts and allocations.  The legislation restricts the effects of joint and several liability by providing that a defendant “shall be liable solely for the portion of the judgment that corresponds to the relative and proportionate responsibility of that person or entity.”