The heavy-hitting headlines coming out of President Biden’s address on his Administration’s efforts to find a path out of the pandemic focused on OSHA’s pending Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) mandating COVID-19 vaccines for certain employers. (More information on that topic, will be available on the PRINTING United Center for Human Resources Support soon.) Action item No. 5 of the six-point Path Out of the Pandemic plan unveiled on Sept. 9 garnered less attention, but is still worthy of review by mid- and small-sized printing companies.
The section entitled “New Support for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19" is aimed at improved and expanded utilization of both the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), for which the plan notes there is still $150 billion in loanable funds available to eligible companies. President Biden has directed the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to do the following:
• Increase EIDL loan amounts to eligible borrowers to $2 million (up from $500,000);
• Ensure that no small business has to repay the EIDL loan until two years after they receive funding;
• Provide an exclusive 30-day application window for EIDL loans to businesses seeking $500,000 or less; and
• Make it easier for small businesses with multiple locations in the hardest-hit sectors such as restaurants, hotels, and gyms — key print customer verticals — to utilize the EIDL program.
To avoid the unintended use of these funds by large companies that occurred earlier in the pandemic, the SBA will work closely with its Inspector General to tighten implementation controls and monitor the program’s operations.
Regarding PPP, President Biden’s action plan calls for streamlining the loan forgiveness process for small businesses that borrowed $150,000 or less. A pre-completed application form is being sent to borrowers in this category from the SBA, so that the loan recipient simply has to review, sign, and send back to the agency. SBA will then work with the lender to complete the forgiveness process. If your company is one of the 2.5 million that the SBA estimates can take advantage of this new process, you may just have received a few hours of your life back from the U.S. government. This new system actually launched on Aug. 4, and SBA estimates more than 820,000 companies have used it “with borrowers spending an average of six minutes on the application and 60% of applicants completing the process on their mobile phones.”
Also included in this section of the plan is a new Community Navigator Program (funded by the American Rescue Plan Act that was signed into law in March 2021), which will be deployed by SBA this fall to connect small businesses in underserved communities with federal, state, and local economic recovery resources.
Printers who have converted some capacity to manufacture personal protective equipment may also be interested in the section of President Biden’s plan entitled “Increasing Testing and Requiring Masking.” Package printers in the pharmaceutical marketplace should note the Administration’s use of the Defense Production Act to procure nearly $2 million worth of COVID-19 test kits (approximately 280 million point-of-care and at-home rapid tests) with a note that this executive action will allow for “sustained production to be able to surge additional manufacturing” in the future. Given that OSHA’s ETS is expected to include a testing opt-out plus the increase in testing of visitors to a variety of venues — from health care facilities to major sports stadiums (to the 30-year high school reunion yours truly will attend next month) — packaged COVID-19 test kits are here to stay in the near future.
Printed masks, too, are not going away anytime soon. President Biden’s plan called for maintaining masking on airplanes, trains, maritime vessels, and intercity buses, with fines doubled for refusal to comply. This mandate has been extended to Jan. 18, 2022. Federal buildings, federal lands, and military bases, too, will continue to mask up. Cloth masks are beginning to be banned by some European airlines, however. (Only surgical grade masks are allowed in flight on at least five airlines, including Air France and Lufthansa.) According to a Sept. 3 article in The Washington Post, U.S. carriers have declined to comment as to whether they would follow the overseas trend. For now, both the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not have mandates on mask materials.
The White House is expected to announce additional steps in the coming weeks to combat the Delta variant and end the pandemic. Meanwhile, on the domestic front, President Biden has vowed “to use every tool necessary” — including novel, hand-in-hand approaches to federal, state, and private sector efforts — “to protect the American people from COVID-19.”
Lisbeth Lyons is the VP, government & political affairs at PRINTING United Alliance. In this article, she addresses President Biden’s “Path Out of the Pandemic” plan released on Sept. 9. In addition to resources available on sgia.org, members can reach out to Lyons with questions specific to how these issues may affect their business: email@example.com.
To become a member of PRINTING United Alliance and learn more about how PRINTING United Alliance subject matter experts can assist your company with services and resources such as those mentioned in this article, please contact the Alliance membership team: firstname.lastname@example.org.