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April 2020

March 2020

COVID-19 MARCH 25 UPDATE FROM ARKANSAS STATE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

By |2020-03-25T22:41:36+00:00March 25th, 2020|Uncategorized|

COVID-19 March 25 Daily Update
White House and U.S. Senate leaders of both parties have reportedly struck an agreement on a $2 trillion stimulus package designed to aid workers, businesses and the health care system that have been strained by the rapidly increasing coronavirus outbreak. A Senate vote is expected today, with a House vote to follow. Stay tuned for further details.
State Chamber member AT&T is doing its utmost to keep everyone connected. Offerings include internet access to limited income households, expanded eligibility to households participating in the National School Lunch Program and Head Start, waiving domestic wireless voice and data overage fees for customers nationwide, offering Webex Meetings to help businesses stay connected, and assisting schools with distance learning tools. For full details, click here.
In other positive news, State Chamber member UAFS has donated more than 70,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) units to State Chamber member UAMS. The much-needed items include gloves, masks and gowns. Read more here.
Michael Pakko, an economist with the Arkansas Economic Development Institute, has released a study titled “Impact of COVID-19 on the Arkansas Economic Outlook.” The study examines Arkansas’s predicted unemployment rate as well as other indicators including personal income and consumer spending. The full study can be accessed here.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said yesterday during his daily press conference that he wants to convene a Special Session this Thursday to deal with the impending financial impact of COVID-19 on the state. The press conference also covered the latest information on the number of COVID-19 cases in the state and other items. To read a summary, click here.
The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) is continuing to provide webinars on relevant topics to help small businesses during this crisis. Upcoming offerings include online information sessions to help small businesses in filling out EIDL applications. Access their event page here to register for a webinar or for additional information.
The U.S. Department of Labor is providing guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, including sections related to paid sick leave and expanded medical and family leave. Learn more here.
The State Chamber/AIA and the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) will hold another podcast from 1:45 – 2:45 p.m. this Thursday, March 26, featuring State Chamber President & CEO Randy Zook and ACHI Director Dr. Joe Thompson. Additional details will follow.
For additional information and resources, check our COVID-19 Coronavirus and Arkansas page here.

MESSAGE FROM SOCIAL SECURITY RE COVID-19

By |2020-03-24T18:44:16+00:00March 24th, 2020|Uncategorized|

All local Social Security offices are closed to the public for in-person service as of Tuesday, March 17, 2020.  This decision protects the populations we serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  However, we are still able to provide critical services.

Please visit our Social Security & Coronavirus webpage to get updates on the latest, including how to get help from the Social Security Administration by phone and online. I encourage you to share this information with your members, colleagues, affiliates, and other interested parties.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey Buckner
Associate Commissioner
Office of Strategic and Digital Communications
(T) 410-965-1804
@SSAOutreach

 

 

 

https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/

ARKANSAS STATE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE COVID-19 UPDATE MARCH 24, 2020

By |2020-03-24T18:17:11+00:00March 24th, 2020|Uncategorized|

COVID-19 March 24 Daily Update
After we sent out yesterday’s COVID-19 update, which included an urgent plea for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our healthcare providers on the front line, we got some good news.
Arkansas State Chamber member Northwest Arkansas Community Collegedonated 12,000 masks and 9,100 gloves to fellow State Chamber members UAMS and Mercy Hospital. Perhaps other two and four-year colleges and trade schools that offer programs for healthcare professions might have similar supplies they might be willing to donate. If so, please email [email protected].
Yesterday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson held his COVID-19 daily press conference and spoke of an anticipated significant revenue shortfall in the coming months. He said he’s planning to call a Special Session of the Arkansas Legislature soon to deal with that. When the Special Session convenes, the State Chamber/AIA will be providing pertinent information to our members with our Daily Legislative Update.
Speaking of the Governor and his Administration, we want to commend him for his daily briefings and the Administration’s efforts on many levels to deal with this burgeoning crisis. Gov. Hutchinson has been a calm, forthright and reassuring influence during this time and we want to thank him for his steady leadership. The State Chamber/AIA has been in regular contact with the Governor, providing input regarding the importance of state businesses and industry in dealing with COVID-19.
The State Chamber/AIA has also been following the Governor’s daily press conferences closely, taking detailed notes and publishing summaries of each day’s press conference on our website. Hereis the summary of yesterday’s press conference. There’s also a link at the bottom of the summary if you want to watch the entire press conference on YouTube.
Also, on the state level, Arkansas is working diligently to provide resources to workers needing to apply for unemployment insurance. Contact can be made by calling a hotline number, 844-908-2178 or by clicking here. Please do not go to workforce centers to sign up for unemployment benefits.
On the federal level, we remain hopeful that the Senate will soon pass and the President will sign a nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill. Stay tuned for future details on that.
Also, on the federal level, one of the organizations that the State Chamber/AIA is affiliated with, the National Association of Manufacturers, has been extremely busy advocating on behalf of business and industry. Below is a recent update from them:
Manufacturers Fighting for, Winning Essential Business Designations
At the urging of the NAM, last week the federal government declared manufacturing an essential industry. The NAM held a teleconference call with the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency officials to discuss the latest developments across the country as states take their own positions on what industries are deemed essential to the workforce. TheIllinois Manufacturers’ Association and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, two of the NAM’s state partners, were critical to winning broad “essential” designations for manufacturers in those states. The NAM continues to help members address the troublesome restrictions in Pennsylvania (see NAM’S letter to the governor here) while working with other state partners in states like Minnesota, North Carolina, Florida and Kentucky—among other places—to help ensure manufacturers’ ability to deliver their essential work.
View federal guidance from DHS here.
Labor Department Announces 30-Day Compliance Window for COVID-19 Relief Bill
The Department of Labor announced that it will issue a non-enforcement policy for 30 days after the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed into law on March 18, goes into effect. The 30-day period will give manufacturers time to come into compliance with the law, and the DOL will focus on compliance assistance rather than enforcement for manufacturers that have acted in good faith to comply.
To learn more about the FFCRA and the new paid leave requirements for businesses with fewer than 500 employees, see the DOL’s announcementhere.
For additional information and resources, check our COVID-19 Coronavirus and Arkansas page here.

Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce Call Notes with Congressional Delegation Regarding Covid-19 Preparations, Updates, and more

By |2020-03-20T19:14:00+00:00March 20th, 2020|Chamber News, Health News|

COVID-19 Call with Congressional Delegation 3/20/2020

The State Chamber/AIA hosted a call this morning with the entire Arkansas Congressional Delegation — Senators Boozman and Cotton and Representatives Crawford, Hill, Westerman and Womack. Arkansas business leaders and chamber of commerce representatives also participated.

Below is a summary of what was covered:

State Chamber President & CEO Randy Zook provided opening remarks and then asked each member of the delegation to speak.

Sen. Boozman – communication is so important. This is a situation not seen since WWII. Two battles, keeping people safe, and keeping the financial structure and the economy going. Liquidity is paramount. Congress is looking to help liquidity. He asked for ideas from the group and asked people to tell the delegation about their needs.
Sen. Cotton – doing everything in Congress and the Federal Reserve to prevent a liquidity crisis turning into a financial solvency crisis. There will not be any unimpacted business. They want to help every business and also help all families. Hopefully, the the COVID-19 cases can be spread out so they do not overload the medical care providers. The Senate hopes to have something done (a Phase III bill) by the end of the weekend.

Rep. Crawford – agreed with both Senators and added that farmers are having issues with general market access compounded by labor problems. Looking to extend H2B visas that already exist. Virtually every business is affected, including independent contractors, 1099 earners, who need relief too.

Rep. Hill – agreed with the Senators’ summary. All his calls other than the health issues have been about liquidity and funding for small businesses. The proposed McConnell draft Phase III bill in the Senate focuses on that.

Rep. Womack – everyone will be impacted, the entire spectrum of the economy. Have great concerns with rural hospitals, agriculture, healthcare and industry. Anxious for Senate negotiations to get done so they can find out what is included and move forward.

Rep. Westerman – he’s getting tons of calls, with liquidity and regulations the most pressing. Examples of regulatory issues are physicals for truck drivers, continuing education and crop insurance needs. The Senate put out a bill last night that the House is trying to dissect.

Zook said that his colleagues in other states were astounded that all members of a delegation would come together for a call like this.

Q&A

What will be considered essential if there is a general shutdown? Is there a list?

Sen. Boozman said all healthcare is essential as well as the food chain. Also need to maintain a supply chain for deliveries.

Sen. Cotton suggested as non-essential any retail consumer businesses except grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies. We also need the supply chain, truckers, and business-to-business operations like power plants, water, sanitation, support businesses, manufacturing and agriculture to continue. He suggested that listeners take a look at the guidelines that have been developed in California and Ohio in regard to this.

Will more COVID-19 tests soon be available and how quickly?

Rep. Hill said UAMS’ in-house testing went live last night and they will be able to do 240 a day. Private labs are providing faster turnarounds of test results in 24 hours. He is more concerned about the turnaround of the test results, not the quantity of tests available, as it takes four days to get the results.

What’s the status of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) availability for manufacturers?

Rep. Westerman said efforts are being made to both produce and purchase more PPE. Some medical providers are trying to buy from businesses. There is a real shortage. Some businesses in his district could retool and make PPE. A couple businesses are able to make hand sanitizer.

Rep. Womack said Glatfelter in Fort Smith, which makes baby wipes, can retool and make face masks. He expects that other manufacturers across the country will be able to retool to make PPE.

SBA and other help loans: How soon can we expect the money to arrive?

Rep. Hill said Gov. Hutchinson signed an emergency declaration Tuesday, so loans can go through the SBA. Arkansas’s senators have worked with another senator on language in the new Senate bill. He said disaster loans through SBA are now available. The Senate proposal will expand the 7A loan process regarding amounts, re-financing existing debt, and move more quickly. The new bill will also modify express loans up to $1 million and can refinance certain loans and extend deadlines. It will also apply to non-profits and the self-employed. Private and public non-profits, including chambers of commerce, would be covered.

Sen. Boozman said everyone is working hard to get this bill together and Randy Zook’s comment that this is hitting the sweet spot is very helpful. Zook said AEDC has a COVID-19 section on their website that has about $16 million in loans available.

Rep. Hill said private and public non-profits will be eligible as long as they are not supported by government resources.

Any chance or consideration of reducing or eliminating the collection of Unemployment Insurance (UI) taxes?

Sen. Boozman said everything is on the table. Their emphasis is on liquidity and getting money out as quickly as possible.

Will refunds on tax returns that are already filed arrive quickly?

Sen. Cotton said yes. The postponement of all payments required is designed to help liquidity, as is getting the refunds out quickly.

Can the delegation speak about how all businesses can be seen as dealing with the crisis in regard to both the public and employees?

Sen. Boozman said communication is key to dealing with the challenges that we face. The unknown is the time frame and how long this will go on. It’s a worldwide problem. Healthcare is planning for the worst. The federal government is doing a great job as are state and local governments. We all need to work together. He emphasized the need for everyone to communicate with the Congressional Delegation.

Rep. Womack asked Sen. Boozman how long the Senate will take on the new bill and when can the House expect to come back to vote?

Sen. Boozman said it’s a $1 trillion measure, but that’s not the issue. It’s the policy. The Senate is working on it expeditiously and can hopefully get it finished in the next day or two.

Rep. Hill said all businesses and families are on the front line of defeating this virus. The government can only provide recommendations and care and protection for the medical community. He emphasized the need to follow CDC guidelines. The push is for the next two to three weeks in order to bend the curve down. Everyone has a responsibility.

Rep. Womack expressed appreciation for everyone being on the call and said there would be more to come.

ep. Westerman said that a month ago we had one of the strongest economies ever seen, so the underlying strength is there. We just need to get through this. He thinks the economy will come roaring back when this is all over. The full weight of the federal government is being applied to fight this virus. He likened the virus to a foreign invader and expressed his appreciation for the call.

Rep. Crawford also expressed his appreciation for the call and the feedback. He said that the Congressional Delegation is ready to be a resource on whatever help is needed and don’t hesitate to call.

Randy Zook said the people we represent are very grateful for this call.
####

Arkansas Unemployment Insurance Program Overview RE: Covid-19

By |2020-03-20T19:04:45+00:00March 20th, 2020|Chamber News|

 

1. The Division of Workforce Services began the process of modifying existing claims filing procedures to address a sudden surge in the number of workers who will need to file unemployment insurance claims and to simply the claims filing process.

2. These changes include offering additional ways for affected workers to file their unemployment claims. Any affected worker may file their unemployment insurance claim:
 Online at www.ezarc.dws.arkansas.gov
 By telephone by calling their nearest Arkansas Workforce Center directly or by calling
1- 855-225-4440.
 In person by visiting their nearest Workforce Center. (sites are on the ADWS and AEDC website.

3. We are asking for your patience and understanding as we are experiencing delays in the EZARC online application system. Currently the hub is being saturated from all States, DC and Territories due to the COVID-19. This is unprecedented times but everything possible is being done to respond to all transactions. States are being asked to only enter a Social once and not several times.

4. By Monday, March 23, 2020, a Temporary Claims Processing Hotline will be available for affected workers who require assistance in filing their unemployment claims. The Temporary Claims Processing Hotline can be reached at 1-844-908-2178 or 501-534-6304. This hotline will ensure that ADWS can continue to provide timely and responsive services to our customers while minimizing the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19 by our customers and ADWS staff. These changes will result in enable Arkansans to file unemployment insurance claims, register for work, and seek job placement assistance in a timely manner while dispensing with the need for those customers to physically report to an Arkansas Workforce Center to file or manage their unemployment insurance claims.

5. To reduce service delays, individuals who have general questions regarding the unemployment insurance program are encouraged to visit www.dws.arkansas.gov first, in lieu of calling ADWS.

6. ADWS will continue to monitor federal legislation and the COVID-19 Pandemic and continue to reassess and refine program operations to best achieve the Unemployment Insurance program’s mission to provide rapid and accurate service to affected Arkansans.

ezarc.dws.arkansas.gov
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