COVID-19 Legislative Update & Guidance

Advocacy News ,

SEFAA is actively monitoring the news and reports related to COVID-19, along with assessing the potential impact on the multifamily housing industry. We regularly post general information to the SEFAA COVID-19 Resources page. We advise members to reference both pages for the most recent set of updates.

IMPORTANT ORDERS

Stay at Home Orders: On April 1, 2020, Governor DeSantis issued a statewide essential services and activities order. In that order, he referenced the essential services and activities as those listed in the Department of Homeland Security’s Guidance on Critical Infrastructure Workforce as well as the listing of essential businesses under the Miami-Dade County’s order 20-89. Apartment management personnel and maintenance support are considered essential under these orders. Following the Governor’s order, his office released a Frequently Asked Questions document.

Key Highlights of the FAQ:

Q:  Are local authorities allowed to adopt requirements directly on businesses, operations or venues, including buildings, beaches and parks, that may be stricter than the Governor’s Executive Order?

A:  Yes.

Q: Do I need a special permit to leave my house if I am going to an essential service or essential activity?

A: No. Some businesses may wish to provide a letter to employees to clarify that their business is indeed an essential service.

 

Eviction Orders: On April 2, 2020 Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 2020-94 which suspends and tolls any statute providing for an eviction cause of action for non-payment of rent for a period of 45-days. However, it should be noted that Governor DeSantis’ order also clarified that nothing therein relieves a tenant from the obligation to pay rent. We are working closely with our state and national partners to encourage funding for rental assistance programs and other relief for the housing industry.

Government Meetings: The Governor issued Executive Order 20-69, suspending any statute that requires a governing body to have a quorum present in person or meet in a specific place. It also allows governing bodies to meet via telephonic or video means. What does this mean for the apartment industry? It means that government business does not necessarily stop. Although many governing bodies have canceled meetings, and some have closed offices, some will meet using technology. If you are interested in checking what is allowable related to construction or permitting, be sure to check with the local authorities. 

Database of State and Local OrdersYour government affairs team at Ronald L. Book, P.A., subscribes to a state legislative monitoring service that has compiled a database of state and local orders. The database can be found on the SEFAA COVID-19 page or the link below.

VIEW DATABASE OF STATE AND LOCAL ORDERS

Definition of Essential Business: On March 28, 2020 the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, issued an “Advisory Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response.” The memorandum contains an updated “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” advisory list that identifies workers who perform operations and services essential to protecting state and local communities and ensuring continuity in critical functions. On page 15, the guidance calls out “Residential/Shelter Facilities and Services,” specifically identifying as essential:

  • Workers responsible for the leasing of residential properties to provide individuals and families with ready access to available housing.
  • Workers responsible for handling property management, maintenance, and related service calls who can coordinate the response to emergency “at-home” situations requiring an immediate attention, as well as facilitate the reception of deliveries, mail, and other necessary services.
  • Workers performing housing construction-related activities to ensure additional units can be made available to combat the nation’s existing housing supply shortage.
  • Workers supporting the construction of housing, including those supporting government functions related to the building and development process, such as inspections, permitting and plan review services that can be modified to protect the public health, but fundamentally should continue and serve the construction of housing (e.g., allow qualified private third-party inspections in case of the government shutdown).

NOTE: The updated CISA memorandum notes that the list is purely advisory and not a federal directive or standard. It also emphasizes that the list is not exclusive and that individual jurisdiction should add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own requirements. To that end, NAA continues to urge its affiliates to reach out to their state and local governments to ensure that the apartment industry is declared essential during any shelter-in-place declarations. To date, many affiliates have been successful in this advocacy and our hope is that this updated guidance from CISA will aid in those efforts.

FEDERAL RESPONSE TO PANDEMIC

Mortgage Forbearance: On March 23, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) will offer multifamily property owners mortgage forbearance with the condition that they suspend all evictions for renters unable to pay rent due to the impact of coronavirus. The eviction suspensions are in place for the entire duration of time that a property owner remains in forbearance. The forbearance is available to all multifamily properties with an Enterprise-backed performing multifamily mortgage negatively affected by the coronavirus national emergency. Click Here for more information.

CARES Act:  Approved by Congress on March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) was a stimulus package that included numerous provisions to assist businesses and individuals. Law firm and loyal SEFAA partner Barfield, McCain P.A. has put together an Advisory Document for the CARES Act and how it may affect you.

Some highlights include:

Paycheck Protection (for businesses with 500 or fewer employees; includes nonprofits) 

Includes $349 billion for SBA 7(a) loans to small businesses.

  • Covers payroll from 2/15/20 – 06/30/20
  • Covers payroll for individual employees up to $100,000 in annual compensation
  • Applies to businesses with 500 or fewer employees
  • Allowable use of funds: Group health care benefits, payroll, interest payments on mortgage interest obligations, rent, utilities, and interest and any other debt obligations. 
  • Maximum loan is 2.5x the business’s payroll expense for a month, or $10 million, whichever is less.
  • Loan is forgivable if used on payroll, rent
  • Will be administered through SBA approved lenders

Assistance for Businesses:

Employee retention credit for employers subject to closure due to COVID-19: Provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50 percent of wages paid by employers to employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Credit is available to employers whose (1) operations were fully or partially suspended, due to a COVID-19-related shut-down order, or (2) gross receipts declined by more than 50 percent when compared to the same quarter in the prior year. Credit is based on qualified wages paid to the employee. For employers with greater than 100 full-time employees, qualified wages are wages paid to employees when they are not providing services due to the COVID-19-related circumstances described above.

For eligible employers with 100 or fewer full-time employees, all employee wages qualify for the credit, whether the employer is open for business or subject to a shut-down order. The credit is provided for the first $10,000 of compensation, including health benefits, paid to an eligible employee. The credit is provided for wages paid or incurred from March 13, 2020, through December 31, 2020.

Modifications for net operating losses: The provision relaxes the limitations on a company’s use of losses. Net operating losses (NOL) are currently subject to a taxable-income limitation, and they cannot be carried back to reduce income in a prior tax year. The provision provides that an NOL arising in a tax year beginning in 2018, 2019, or 2020 can be carried back five years. The provision also temporarily removes the taxable income limitation to allow an NOL to fully offset income. These changes will allow companies to utilize losses and amend prior year returns, which will provide critical cash flow and liquidity during the COVID-19 emergency.

Modification of credit for prior year minimum tax liability of corporations: The corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT) was repealed as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but corporate AMT credits were made available as refundable credits over several years, ending in 2021. The provision accelerates the ability of companies to recover those AMT credits, permitting companies to claim a refund now and obtain additional cash flow during the COVID-19 emergency.

Modification of limitation on business interest: The provision temporarily increases the amount of interest expense businesses are allowed to deduct on their tax returns, by increasing the 30-percent limitation to 50 percent of taxable income (with adjustments) for 2019 and 2020. As businesses look to weather the storm of the current crisis, this provision will allow them to increase liquidity with a reduced cost of capital, so that they are able to continue operations and keep employees on payroll.

Visit FAA's page for a detailed overview of the impacts of this package on the multifamily industry.

REMINDER: It's important for businesses to have the latest Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) poster on display at their sites by April 1. If you are unsure if you have met this requirement, please confirm with your Human Resources department.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

Two loan programs are also available for those with impacts. 

Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

  • The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program is currently available to small business owners located in all Florida counties statewide that experienced economic damage as a result of COVID-19. These short-term, interest-free working capital loans are intended to “bridge the gap” between the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business has secured longer-term recovery resources, such as sufficient profits from a revived business, receipt of payments on insurance claims or federal disaster assistance.
  • The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program is not designed to be the primary source of assistance to affected small businesses, which is why eligibility is linked pursuant to other financial sources.
  • Loans made under this program are short-term debt loans made by the state of Florida using public funds – they are not grants. Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loans require repayment by the approved applicant from longer-term financial resources.
  • This is an interest-free loan for one year. Applications are currently open, and if you intend to apply, do so quickly.  Click here for an online application.

U.S. Small Business Administration’s Emergency Loan Program

  • Loans are available to small businesses that have been financially impacted as a direct result of the Coronavirus.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million can help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred.
  • Loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. 
  • Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses.
  • SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years and are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.
  • Click here to learn more and access the loan application.

NAA Click & Lease Program

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the NAA Click & Lease Program will be updated on April 2, 2020 to include the following changes to your lease forms. The Release Notes, which are accessible when logged into your NAA Click & Lease Program, include copies of these upcoming forms. Should you have any questions about these changes, please contact NAA. As always, we recommend you and your local legal counsel review all new and/or updated forms before implementing them into your leasing operations.

  • Notice of Temporary Waiver of Late Fees
    Allows operators to waive late fees incurred by residents who, as a result of COVID-19, are experiencing loss of wages, unemployment, or medical expenses.
  • Payment Plan Agreement (COVID-19 Pandemic)
    Allows a resident who, as a result of COVID-19, are experiencing loss of wages, unemployment, or medical expenses to pay rent and other sums at a later date.
  • Virginia Only – Rent Payment Addendum (General)
    The Virginia Apartment Management Association has provided NAA with a Rent Payment Addendum that can be used for any situation, not just COVID-19 related situations.

TAKE THE SURVEY!

Emergency Business Damage Assessment Survey: Governor DeSantis announced the activation of the Business Damage Assessment survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on Florida’s local business operations. The survey, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will evaluate businesses affected by COVID-19 and the impacts the virus has had on the local economy so actions to implement appropriate relief programs can begin.

TAKE THE SURVEY

NEED HELP?

Disaster Distress HelplineThe Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a Disaster Distress Helpline, which provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Safety Products & Resources: If you are a property or company in need of safety products/sanitation supplies for personnel use, please contact us at info@sefaahq.org or 800-627-7921 and we may be able to provide you with a referral.  

CONTACT INFORMATION

If you have an additional resource to share, please email us at marketing@sefaa.org

If you have COVID-19 related questions specific to the multifamily industry operations that are not addressed above, please email NAA at cv19questions@naahq.org.  

Finally, for urgent health issues related to COVID-19, we recommend the following options:

  • Contact the 24/7 CDC-INFO Call Center at  800-232-4636
  • Contact your county health department
  • Consult a healthcare provider as soon as possible
  • Call ahead and tell them before you visit that you think you may have coronavirus so they can take precautions to prevent exposing other people


NOTE: Because SEFAA cannot offer or provide legal advice, we ask that you please consult your attorney if you have any specific questions or concerns relating to this issue or your company’s policies and procedures being in compliance with the law. The contents of this communication are provided for informational and reference purposes only.