• 05/21/2020 3:38 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    This post initially appeared on the Coalition for American Heritage website. ACRA is a founding member of the Coalition alongside other heritage organizations.

    On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order (EO) directing the heads of every federal agency to “waive, suspend and eliminate” all regulations that they consider unnecessary obstacles to economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis. Whatever changes are made will likely remain in place throughout the remainder of Trump’s term in office. These changes could therefore last eight months, or almost 5 more years, if he is reelected.

    What the Executive Order Does:

    • Requires agencies to identify regulations that may inhibit the economic recovery from COVID-19 and, within applicable law, take appropriate action to waive, repeal, or modify them.
    • Directs agencies to consider using temporary enforcement discretion, such as granting extensions of time for compliance or, possibly, issuing warnings rather than citations for minor violations.
    • Directs agencies to review the regulations they have waived or modified directly due to the COVID-19 national emergency and consider whether those actions should be made permanent.
    • Establishes “principles of fairness” that should be followed in agency enforcement and adjudication.

    Potential Impacts of the Executive Order:

    Much of the EO is a continuation of earlier Trump administration policies, which have focused on reducing regulations since the beginning of his term in office. The usual notice and comment process will still apply to regulatory changes except in those areas where agencies can reasonably cite some emergency authority.

    Notable Changes:

    • The EO directs agencies to use pre-enforcement rulings. Businesses could ask an agency to determine in advance if their proposed conduct is allowable.
    • The EO also directs agencies to decline enforcement action if a good-faith effort was made to comply with a requirement or guidance.
    • Expanded use of enforcement discretion is provided for as long as the economic recovery from the pandemic lasts, not just while the national emergency remains in effect.

    Impact on Historic Preservation:

    The Coalition for American Heritage is monitoring how agencies interpret this order, with a special eye on Section 106. If waivers are attempted, we expect that they will be challenged in court. As the situation develops, we’ll keep you posted about the impacts on the preservation field.

    You can help us with this effort! If you hear about agencies starting to use this executive order to waive Section 106, even it is not for one of your own projects, let us know ASAP. We want to be sure mobilize the CRM industry as quickly as possible if this becomes the case, and your experiences in the field can help us put boots on the ground.

  • 05/20/2020 1:09 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    President Trump signed an Executive Order on Tuesday that instructs federal agencies to consideration deregulatory actions that could potentially spur economic growth. From The Hill:

    The order directs agency heads to “identify regulatory standards that may inhibit economic recovery,” highlighting that regulations could be permanently or temporarily lifted.

    “Just as we continue to battle COVID-19 itself, so too must we now join together to overcome the effects the virus has had on our economy,” the order states.

    “Agencies should address this economic emergency by rescinding, modifying, waiving, or providing exemptions from regulations and other requirements that may inhibit economic recovery.”

    ACRA is keeping a close eye on how agencies interpret and implement this executive order, especially since environmental regulations have already been relaxed amid the pandemic. Read the full article in The Hill here, and you can read the full executive order here. Stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for further updates.

  • 05/19/2020 4:11 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Join us for another FREE members-only virtual happy hour on Tuesday, May 26 at 6:00 pm EDT.

    All employees of ACRA member firms, from field technicians to owners, are welcome to grab a drink of their choice and join ACRA President Nathan Boyless and Executive Director Amanda Stratton online. While the primary focus is allowing members to connect during the pandemic, there is no fixed agenda - we can talk about the industry response, get ideas from your peers about continuing to operate in the current climate, or even just vent about the challenges you have experienced. Members who join will also get a special update about the 2020 ACRA Conference.

    Simply sign up here and we will send you a link to join!

  • 05/18/2020 3:48 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The application for forgiveness for Paycheck Protection Program loans is now available. Many ACRA member firms have taken advantage of this program during the current pandemic, and the SBA and Treasury have been continually putting out guidance to help businesses navigate the PPP.

    The application provides the PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculation Form, the PPP Schedule A, the PPP Schedule A Worksheet, and the (optional) PPP Borrower Demographic Information Form. If you received a PPP loan, you must the PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculation Form and the PPP Schedule A to your lender in order to apply for forgiveness.

    Get the forms and instructions for submitting your application for forgiveness here, and stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for further updates.

  • 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.

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