• 05/15/2020 3:54 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation approved Emergency Situation Procedures the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will use to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response undertakings.

    The ACHP authorized the procedures under 36 C.F.R. § 800.12(a) of the regulations implementing Section 106 for projects that respond to COVID-19 under the national emergency declared by President Trump on March 13, 2020; major disasters declared by President Trump for states; and other COVID-19 emergencies or disaster declarations that have already been issued by the President, a tribal government, or the governor of a state, or may be issued by any of them.

    “This agreement is an important achievement in adapting the Section 106 review process to meet the unprecedented challenges federal agencies are facing during this crisis,” ACHP Chairman Aimee Jorjani said. “The ACHP proudly and efficiently supports this whole-of-government response to assist agencies in carrying out their vital roles in protecting the public during the emergency.”

    FEMA anticipates the vast majority of emergency/disaster response undertakings will have no potential to affect historic properties, such as procurement and storage of supplies, commodities, and equipment; reimbursement for administrative actions including supplies and staff; and collection and storage of medical waste, or pose no or limited potential to affect historic properties such as modification of existing facilities. However, in certain rare circumstances, where existing facilities are insufficient, new construction of temporary medical facilities, shelters, or emergency operations centers may affect historic properties.

    In developing the Emergency Procedures, FEMA consulted with the ACHP, State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations. The ACHP remains in contact with the consulting parties to assess whether further refinements to the procedures might be warranted moving forward.

  • 05/15/2020 3:41 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Organizations around the world are evaluating the long-term effects of the Coronavirus on conferences and other in-person activities. ACRA’s annual conference is our premier yearly event, and an incredible amount of resources go into organizing and hosting conference elements every year. The committee seeks to concurrently present an incredible experience for our attendees and provide a notable component of the organization’s sponsorship package, all within a fiscally sound framework.

    As of now, ACRA’s 2020 Conference in San Antonio is still scheduled to take place September 24-27, but we need your feedback! Please consider taking this short poll to help the conference team make a decision on our 2020 event. The poll should only take one to two minutes to complete, but the data you provide is invaluable. Replies are being accepted through May 24, 2020.

  • 05/14/2020 3:04 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Your Congress in Action is a new series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. This information is sourced from the Coalition for American Heritage, news articles, and more. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    • The SBA put out new guidance and FAQs regarding the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and one particular aspect they have clarified concerns the good-faith certification that is required as a part of a borrower's loan request: borrowers that received an original principal amount of less than $2 million will be deemed to have made the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request in good faith. More details on the guidance are available here.
    • Congressional Democrats have put forth a draft CARES 2 bill focused on aiding state and local governments, expanding testing, and tax policies to counter the economic devastation caused by the pandemic. The House could vote on the bill and a plan for proxy voting as early as Friday. Infrastructure is not a priority in the package, although some groups are pushing the idea. Infrastructure in CARES 2 is focused on broadband. More information on the CARES 2 bill is available in our blog post here.
    • Senator McConnell has expressed doubt as to whether another pandemic relief bill is needed, and has indicated that any Senate action would not occur until at least June. He also wants to pass a bill that would protect employers from lawsuits if employees get infected by coronavirus while on the job.
    • Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) published an editorial blasting “the steps recommended in a new report by the Nuclear Fuel Working Group, an industry-stacked panel the president created though an executive order in July 2019.” Their recommendations involve creating a categorical exclusion from NEPA for uranium mineral exploration and development. Rep. Grijalva is especially concerned about lifting a moratorium on uranium development around the Grand Canyon.
    • The Coalition for American Heritage, of which ACRA is a founding member, joined the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Action for a letter regarding the CARES 2 bill, which was covered in both the Architect’s Newspaper and Architectural Record. See the full letter in our post here.
    • Rep. Ed Case (D-HI) and Re. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced a bill to study the viability of creating a national heritage area at Ka‘ena Point in Hawaii.
    • Secretary Bernhardt has extended the appointments of William Perry Pendley at BLM and David Vela at NPS, despite the threat of lawsuits over violations of the Federal Vacancies Act.
    • Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a bill, HR 6745, to prohibit implementation of a rule defining “waters of the U.S.”
    • Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced bipartisan draft legislation, S. 3591 and S. 3590, that would authorize $19.5 billion for Army Corps of Engineers flood protection, ecological restoration and other projects, as well as Environmental Protection Agency wastewater treatment and drinking water programs, more than double the funding the last water package provided. The bill sets a two-year goal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) to complete its feasibility studies for potential projects. It also allows other federal agencies to review categorical exclusions the Army Corps currently has, and if necessary, create new categorical exclusions.
    • NOAA published a Federal Register notice to solicit public comments on Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary nomination and its consideration to remain on the inventory of successful nominations for an additional 5 years. More information and commenting instructions can be found here. Here is a quick excerpt on the proposed sanctuary:

      The cultural significance of Chumash heritage makes this proposed national marine sanctuary the only one of its kind. The Chumash once lived in villages west of current tidal lines and on Point Conception. The ocean has submerged the homes of the Chumash ancestors. Protecting these submerged ancient villages from future industrial encroachment will ensure the resting places of the ancestors remain undisturbed.

      The intent behind the five-year review is to ensure that the inventory contains nominations that are relevant and meet the needs of the local community and the nation. NOAA will accept public comment through June 15 and will also host a virtual public meeting on May 27 to gather input on the nomination. Cultural heritage professionals are encouraged to comment.
  • 05/13/2020 1:59 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), created as a part of the CARES Act to help small businesses weather the pandemic, has been utilized by many ACRA firms. Since the PPP was created very quickly to meet demands, the Small Business Administration has been continually working to put out guidance to help businesses navigate the program and answer questions that arise.

    The SBA put out new guidance and FAQs regarding the PPP today, and one particular aspect they have clarified concerns the good-faith certification that is required as a part of a borrower's loan request:

    SBA, in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, has determined that the following safe harbor will apply to SBA’s review of PPP loans with respect to this issue: Any borrower that, together with its affiliates, received PPP loans with an original principal amount of less than $2 million will be deemed to have made the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request in good faith.

    SBA has determined that this safe harbor is appropriate because borrowers with loans below this threshold are generally less likely to have had access to adequate sources of liquidity in the current economic environment than borrowers that obtained larger loans. This safe harbor will also promote economic certainty as PPP borrowers with more limited resources endeavor to retain and rehire employees.

    Borrowers with loans greater than $2 million "may still have an adequate basis for making the required good-faith certification, based on their individual circumstances in light of the language of the certification and SBA guidance." All PPP loans in excess of $2 million will be subject to review by the SBA to for compliance with program requirements.

    You can view the full FAQ document here.

    Additionally, the a few weeks ago the IRS announced that companies who receive PPP loans will not be able to deduct expenses related to the forgivable loans (such as wages, which are normally deductible). Usually, forgiven debt counts as taxable income, but this is not the case with the PPP. The guidance put forth by the IRS was done in an effort to prevent a "double tax benefit."

    However, lawmakers have since indicated to the IRS that this guidance was not within the intent of the program. From The Hill:

    But Grassley, Wyden and Neal said that while the CARES Act was being written, lawmakers had expressed to Treasury that they did not intend to deny deductions for ordinary and necessary business expenses.

    They said that if they had intended for the loan forgiveness to be tax-neutral, they wouldn’t have included the provision that makes the forgiveness tax-exempt and that the IRS guidance effectively renders that section meaningless. They also argued that the IRS interpretation of the tax code section in denying the deductions was flawed.

    The Treasury Department has stated that they have taken the lawmakers' views into consideration and will be following up. However, Congress is also pursuing a legislative fix - Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced legislation clarifying that businesses can deduct expenses paid by forgiven PPP loans, and Representative Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) has indicated that she plans to introduce similar legislation in the House.

    Read the full article from the Hill here. ACRA will continue to provide updates on the PPP and other relief packages/programs that are pertinent to CRM firms. Stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for the most up to date information.

  • 05/13/2020 11:52 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Last week we announced the new ACRA Healthcare Program, a brand new benefit just for ACRA member firms! Whether you are a small firm finally able to offer a healthcare option to your employees or a large firm interested in enrolling your temporary and part-time employees, this program is beneficial to firms of all sizes.

    We recognize that you may have some questions about the specifics of the program. Join us for a FREE webinar on Wednesday, May 20 at 1:00 pm EDT to learn more about the ACRA Healthcare Program, how it works, and how you could potentially save money on your healthcare costs.

    Registration is limited, so reserve your spot now! A link to the webinar will be emailed to you following registration.

    Register for the Webinar Now

  • 05/12/2020 12:29 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    UPDATE: House Leadership have unveiled the $3 trillion CARES 2 draft bill. The legislation includes $1.5 billion for broadband hotspots and $10 billion in grants to small businesses that have suffered financial losses as a result of the pandemic. The draft bill also proposes a second round of direct payments to citizens. More information on the CARES 2 draft is available from the Washington Post and Politico.

    While this bill is expected to pass the House on party lines on Friday, the Senate is not expected to immediately take up the legislation. 

    House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) indicated that House Democrats are prepared to introduce their draft of the CARES 2 bill, which is the latest round of emergency coronavirus relief measures.

    The bill is expected to primarily expand on programs and funding initially established in the first CARES Act. Focus would continue to be on hospitals, small businesses, and families hit hard by the pandemic.

    The Hill identified 8 focus areas of the bill:

    • State and local help
    • Rent and mortgage assistance
    • Cash payments
    • Help for workers and businesses
    • Broadband
    • Testing, tracing, treatment
    • Postal service
    • Nutrition programs

    Infrastructure is not expected to be broadly addressed in CARES 2 - the only significant infrastructure provisions are addressing the expansion of broadband service to rural, low-income and other vulnerable communities.

    The business provisions of the bill focus on replenishing the funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Additionally, lawmakers seek to amend the guidelines of the popular program to ensure that smaller businesses in under-served areas are able to access the funds. If you have not yet applied for a PPP loan, ACRA has published guides to understanding the program and its requirements.

    Read the full details of the anticipated CARES 2 bill in the article on The Hill, and stayed tuned to the ACRAsphere for further updates.

  • 05/08/2020 3:37 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The following post was authored by Cinder Miller, Vice-President of Operations at Gray & Pape.

    As states prepare to begin the phases of re-opening, many CRM firms are grappling with their responsibilities regarding keeping employees safe both in the office and the field. Both employee and employers are concerned about the potential for exposure. As employers, we have the responsibility to ensure work place safety. As discussed at the last ACRA Happy Hour, at Gray & Pape, one of the tools we are using is a daily employee self-assessment and certification form.

    On the first day back, we ask employees to self-certify that they are healthy as defined in the form. Then, every day when they come into the office, they have to sign in. By signing in they are re-certifying EVERY day that they are still healthy. We ask them to store the forms every day locally. We have a COVID officer at each of our brick and mortar locations, that person is in charge of making sure that everyone who comes to the office that day signs in. The form is posted electronically so that you don’t actually touch a pen, you just write your name.

    Does this mean that we can guarantee that an employee does not have COVID-19? No. It means that we asked them if they were sick, they said no, and we trusted them. We have reserved the right to take their temperature. This is a MUCH more complex process and requires more space and privacy than we have in most of our offices. Also, given the large number of asymptomatic carriers, taking temperatures is not a fail safe. But it would likely decrease the chance of transmission.

    On the form, we are leaving in the part about travel for now as we have a few international projects, but that section will surely change this summer.

    You can download a sample copy of the form here, and feel free to pose your questions in the comments below!

  • 05/06/2020 4:06 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    We are pleased to announce a brand new member benefit - the ACRA Healthcare Program!

    This creative and proven insurance alternative is open only to ACRA member firms and their employees. Both large and small firms alike will find this program useful, and participants save on average 60% per month on healthcare costs.

    Even if you have a traditional insurance program for your full-time employees, the ACRA Healthcare Program will be of use to you - part-time and temporary employees (such as field technicians) are eligible to enroll in this program, which makes this an important recruiting tool.

    Members get access to the ACRA Healthcare Program simply by having an active membership - there is no additional cost to providing firm employees with the option to enroll.

    Members can visit our members-only benefit page to learn more about the program and get the enrollment link. If you are interested in becoming an ACRA member to take advantage of this program, click here to join!

    Learn More About the ACRA Healthcare Program

  • 05/05/2020 3:23 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    CRM Health and Safety Programs in the 21st Century

    May 28, 2020 | 2:00 - 3:30 PM (EDT) | Register Now

    Modern consulting practices require operating with safety as the cornerstone of company culture. This not only maintains a healthy, vibrant workforce but it also has a positive impact on business development efforts. Clients and prime contractors increasingly expect a demonstrated high-level of health and safety compliance as a prerequisite to continued business relationships.

    Join us for CRM Health and Safety Programs in the 21st Century on Thursday, May 28 at 2:00 pm EDT. This webinar will assist firms in making sure their corporate programs are structured to meet today’s expectations by:

    • Adopting measures that mitigate risk; preserve facilities, property, equipment and the natural environment; and protect the safety and health of our people — employees, clients and the end users of our projects;
    • Practicing active safety leadership and training our professionals to design processes and projects in a manner that reduces strategic and localized risks and impacts;
    • Continuously improving and updating systems and procedures to adhere to ever-changing occupational safety, health and environmental laws and licensing requirements across all levels of government; and
    • Tracking safety performance metrics and maintaining a high level of transparency with employees, stakeholders and clients during this process.

    The webinar will be led by Kimberly Morrell. In addition to being the SH&E Representative for AECOM’s East Coast cultural resources department, Ms. Morrell is a Senior Archaeologist with almost three decades of experience. She has overseen the exhumation and reburial of nearly 3,000 historical interments in connection with cemetery relocation projects, and has taught annual workshops on this topic at the Society for Historical Archaeology conference since 2009. Ms. Morrell is a Safety Trained Supervisor® and has completed a broad spectrum of related training such as Confined Space Entry, 40-Hour HAZWOPER, and 30-Hour Construction Safety.

    Reserve your spot now!

    Register for CRM Health
    and Safety Programs
    in the 21st Century

  • 05/04/2020 3:55 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    As a part of our partnership with NAEP, ACRA members are eligible to receive the member price for NAEP webinars. See below for information on an upcoming webinar on NEPA regulations, and access the discount code here.

    The National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) has multiple upcoming webinar opportunities open to ACRA members, including one this Thursday, May 7. Read below to find out more and register.

    Staying Connected During Crisis: Public, Employees, and Customers
    Presented by Theresa McClure & Laura Thorne
    May 7, 2020 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM PT

    Law, regulation, and agency guidance on environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) require public participation, as do many related environmental regulations. We also accept public engagement in general as a matter of good governance so as to include our citizenry in decisions affecting their lives and communities. At its core, public engagement in environmental reviews rests on some of our country’s most deeply held values of free speech and liberty.

    Today environmental professionals find themselves grappling with how to comply with the conflict between requirements for public meetings and health-related orders barring assembly. Arrangements for community gatherings made only a few months ago have been postponed or canceled. Planning for future outreach is uncertain. Further, while there has been a huge shift to online meetings, a continuing “digital divide” leaves many people unable to join electronic forums.

    While staying engaged with the public is important during this time, agencies and companies must also make an equal effort to stay connected with their customers and employees. Social media aside, how do you not only shift the delivery of services where needed but also ensure that the efforts are meaningful and meet the changing needs of the customer?

    Questions addressed during the webinar:

    • How are agencies adapting to current restrictions on public interactions and what can we do to keep current and pending projects on track?
    • What can or should we do to provide meaningful and productive public engagement with future environmental reviews?
    • What are companies/agencies doing to change the way they connect with employees and customers?
    • How to leverage unique opportunities in such a challenging time to go above and beyond for your customers?

    Coastal Restoration and Resilience
    Presented by Bridget Callahan Lussier, Niek Veraart, & Amanda Bassow
    May 28, 2020 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM PT

    The webinar will provide insight into coastal restoration and resiliency planning, ecological and socioeconomic considerations, and effective monitoring to measure success. Case studies will be described to illustrate approaches, challenges, and successes.

    Ms. Lussier’s will provide an overview of approaches to strengthen coastal resilience using natural infrastructure, with an emphasis on techniques appropriate for the Southeastern U.S. and Caribbean. The nature-based approaches absorb shock from climate and weather threats while providing benefits for fish and wildlife. Examples will include living shorelines, mangrove, coral reef, salt marsh, oyster reef, dune, and other coastal habitat restoration projects that increase coastal resilience.

    Mr. Veraart’s presentation will focus on coastal resiliency planning and the socioeconomic considerations necessary for sustainable decision-making.

    Ms. Bassow will discuss how the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is applying lessons learned from the Sandy program to its resilience grantmaking nation-wide. She will focus on the recommendations coming out of an initial evaluation of the Sandy program, as well as the status of on-going monitoring to track a core set of ecological and socio-economic metrics.

Become an ACRA member to get exclusive benefits including vendor discounts, premium access to online learning opportunities, and much more.

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