The Main Street Employers coalition today endorsed legislation scheduled to voted on in the House of Representatives tomorrow.  The bill, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, was introduced by Representatives Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Chip Roy (R-TX) and would help restore confidence and energy to a program badly in need of both – the Paycheck Protection Program.  As the letter states:

Congress launched the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help employers keep their workers on payroll and, once it was safe to do so, enable them to quickly return to work.  The PPP is arguably the most successful COVID-19 response to date, providing more than $500 billion in loans to more than 4 million employers nationwide. 

As many states continue to impose lockdowns and other restrictions on their businesses, the PPP is needed more than ever, but negative press coverage and rapidly changing SBA guidance are causing many employers to rethink their participation.  Many are returning their PPP loans while others are choosing to forego applying for the program.   In just the past two weeks, demand for loans has slowed to a crawl while the total PPP lending has declined — employers are giving PPP funding back faster than it can be lent out.   

The Phillips/Roy bill would address these concerns by making key adjustments to the PPP program, including eliminating the unnecessary 75/25 rule that blocked participation for so many employers.  The House is scheduled to take up the legislation under its “Suspension Calendar” Thursday, May 28th with the expectation that it will receive strong bipartisan support.  The Senate will have to consider the bill next week when it reconvenes.

In another letter to Congress, the S Corporation Association joined a US Chamber-led effort signed by more than two-hundred trade groups in support of temporary, targeted liability protections for employers as they begin to reopen their businesses.  According to the letter:

We ask that you quickly enact temporary liability protections for: (1) businesses, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions that work to follow applicable public health guidelines against COVID-19 exposure claims; (2) healthcare workers and facilities providing critical COVID-19-related care and services; (3) manufacturers, donors, distributors, and users of vaccines, therapeutics, medical devices, as well as PPE and other supplies (such as hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies) that are critical to the COVID-19 response; and (4) public companies targeted by unfair and opportunistic COVID-19-related securities lawsuits. In addition to being temporary, we believe that these liability protections should be limited in scope and preserve recourse for those harmed by truly bad actors who engage in egregious misconduct.

The need for liability protections and relief is clear. Several governors and state legislatures have already implemented COVID-19-related liability protections for key sectors in their states, but a uniform national response is necessary. Now is the time for Congress to take strong action to stop a growing wave of lawsuits from getting in the way of what we all want and need: healthy citizens and a strong economy.

The concerns raised by the letter are neither idle nor theoretical.  Every day, news reports describe trial lawyers filing class action and other suits against employers for doing nothing more than reopening their businesses.  Like the virus that preceded them, these suits are dangerous and they will impede the restoration of workers’ jobs and the full functioning of the economy.

As the letters demonstrate, we care getting close to the time when America’s businesses can safely reopen, but to help make sure it’s a success, they are going to need resources, workers, and protections from frivolous and predatory lawsuits.  The faster Congress can provide adopt these reforms, the faster we can all get back to work.