Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) today applauded an announcement by the Biden administration that it will release an additional 22,000 H-2B temporary non-agricultural worker visas, a move that will benefit the seafood processing industries in Virginia and Maryland. The senators had previously called on the administration to make available the maximum number of congressionally-authorized H-2B visas in order to ensure that seafood processors in Virginia and Maryland have the seasonal workforce they need. Following today’s announcement, the senators released the following statement:

“As the harvest season begins on the Northern Neck and the Eastern Shore, we are pleased that seafood processors will be able to hire additional seasonal workers to keep their operations up and running. These businesses – most of them small and family-owned – are essential to the coastal economies in Virginia and Maryland, and so we appreciate that the administration listened to our requests and released these additional visas, ensuring that they will have the workforce they need as the processing season kicks up.”  

The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Visa Program allows U.S. employers to hire seasonal, non-immigrant workers during peak seasons to supplement the existing American workforce. In order to be eligible for the program, employers are required to declare that there are not enough U.S. workers available to do the temporary work, as is the case with the seafood industry, which relies on H-2B workers for tough jobs such as shucking oysters and processing crabs.  

Sens. Warner, Kaine, Cardin, and Van Hollen have long advocated for the seafood processing industry – a community largely made up of rural, family-owned operations.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement today after President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law: 

“By signing the American Rescue Plan into law, President Biden has taken an enormous step in defeating the COVID-19 pandemic and setting our nation on a clear path forward to rebuild from this crisis. Soon, this bold legislation will start delivering urgent relief for Virginians and funding for the Commonwealth’s top priorities.

“The American Rescue Plan will help our nation heal by getting vaccines into arms, expanding COVID-19 testing and tracing, and providing schools with the resources they need to reopen safely. It will also tackle the vast economic challenges related to COVID-19 by putting checks in Americans’ hands, helping small businesses keep their doors open, increasing nutrition benefits for families, assisting struggling renters and homeowners, cutting the child poverty rate in half, and providing funding for state, local, and tribal governments facing drastic budget shortfalls. This bill also includes a record $17 billion in funding to increase affordability and access to broadband – a priority I was proud to secure for the 700,000 Virginians who are still unable to access high-speed internet a year into a pandemic that has further pushed our world online.

“Like any ambitious piece of legislation, the American Rescue Plan is not perfect. I will be the first to acknowledge that the price tag is a significant one. However, this moment is too pivotal to risk doing too little and the future of our country is well worth the investment. I look forward to working to ensure that funding is distributed appropriately, programs are implemented quickly, and Virginians get the help they deserve.”

Through the American Rescue Plan, the Commonwealth of Virginia will receive, among other funding, more than $6,875,000,000 in state and local government funding; $451,000,000 in emergency rental assistance; $2,999,000,000 in education funding; $1,348,000,000 in rural transit funding; and $1,517,221,000 in urban transit funding. Additionally, more than 3,611,000 households in Virginia will benefit from individual stimulus checks. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after voting for the American Rescue Plan, legislation to provide emergency relief to the American people and defeat the COVID-19 pandemic: 

“This legislation will help our country defeat COVID-19 and get back to normal. It includes desperately needed resources to get vaccines into arms; help schools reopen safely; and provide much-needed lifelines to the communities hardest-hit by this virus. 

“I will be the first to acknowledge that this bill is not perfect. I am glad that as the Senate considered this legislation, we made some important changes to target aid where it is most badly needed as millions of Americans remain out of work, state and local governments continue to lay off workers, and small businesses struggle to keep their doors open.

“I’m especially proud that I was able to work with President Biden and my colleagues to add funding to expand access to high-speed internet, which is a necessity, not a luxury, during COVID-19. The $17 billion we secured to help expand broadband infrastructure and affordability represents the largest-ever federal investment of its kind and will be a significant boost to our economy as we work to rebuild and recover from COVID-19.”

According to current estimates, there are approximately 700,000 Virginians who still lack access to high-speed internet, which has become increasingly essential for telecommuting, distance learning, telemedicine, and more amid the COVID-19 crisis. As a former governor and now in the Senate, Sen. Warner has long fought for increased access to broadband in the Commonwealth. In December, Sen. Warner negotiated and passed COVID-19 relief legislation that included $7 billion towards broadband, including $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit to help low-income families maintain their internet connections, $285 million to support broadband access in minority communities, and $300 million in broadband grants modeled on bipartisan provisions Sen. Warner drafted with his colleagues. Sen. Warner has also introduced comprehensive broadband infrastructure legislation to expand access to affordable high-speed internet by investing $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities, and has also introduced bipartisan legislation with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott (R-SC) to establish a $10 billion Broadband Development Fund to prioritize funding for areas that currently lack service, support the deployment of advanced technologies in areas where there is the greatest need, and encourage projects that can quickly provide internet service.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), about 21 million Americans do not have access to 25/3 mbps internet, which is the FCC’s standard for high speed broadband. Of that 21 million, 16 million live in rural areas, while 5 million live in urban areas.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today applauded an announcement by the U.S. Treasury Department opening the application process for the Emergency Capital Investment Program (ECIP), a new initiative designed to support access to capital in minority and low-income communities that have historically been excluded from the financial system and that have been the hardest-hit during the COVID-19 crisis. The funding is available as part of a record $12 billion investment to open up new credit opportunities for Black, Latino and low-income communities that Sen. Warner successfully fought to include in the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill Congress passed in December.  

Even before the pandemic, low-income communities and communities of color faced significant barriers in accessing credit and economic opportunity,” said Sen. Warner. “The economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has only exacerbated those inequalities. Today’s announcement by the Treasury Department is a historic step in helping underserved communities recover and emerge from this unprecedented economic downturn with more opportunities than before.”

Today’s announcement by the Treasury Department opens up $9 billion in capital for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs) in order to expand the flow of credit into underserved, minority, and historically disadvantaged communities, helping small businesses stay afloat and expand operations while providing affordable access to credit for lower income borrowers. Surveys show that Black- and Latino-owned small businesses have been particularly hard-hit during the pandemic. Thousands of minority-owned small businesses have closed for good, in part due to difficulty securing bank loans and accessing assistance such as the Paycheck Protection Program. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that while overall small business ownership in the U.S. dropped 22 percent between February and April 2020, Black and Latino ownership dropped by 41 percent and 32 percent, respectively. Another recent survey revealed that almost 1 in 5 Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs expect to permanently close their doors within three months, compared to 14 percent of white small business owners. 

In order to combat the hemorrhaging of jobs and economic opportunities during the pandemic, Sen. Warner in July teamed up with then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act in order to strengthen the financial institutions that serve communities of color and increase lending to minority-owned businesses and lower-income borrowers. The effort secured endorsements from the Black Economic Alliance, the NAACP, the National Bankers Association, the National Urban League, the Center for Responsible Lending and a host of other advocacy organizations and civil rights groups. Sen. Warner was later able to secure provisions from the bill in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, which was signed into law on December 27, 2020, providing an unprecedented $12 billion in funding for lenders that predominantly operate in underserved communities. 

In addition to the $9 billion in funding that is part of Emergency Capital Investment Program, the Treasury Department last week opened a $1.25 billion grant program for depository and non-depository CDFIs intended to support, prepare for, and respond to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. In addition, the Treasury Department is expected to release $1.75 billion in funding to expand lending, grant making, and investment activity in minority communities by this summer. Together, the three programs will help minority and low-income communities weather the COVID-19 crisis and promote an equitable economic recovery in communities that have traditionally been underserved by the financial sector.  

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) today urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to quickly make available the maximum number of Congressionally-authorized H-2B visas in order to ensure that seafood processors in Virginia and Maryland have the seasonal workforce they need ahead of the seasonal start date on April 1. 

“In the rural and remote coastal regions in our states, even in a time of high unemployment, seafood processors have struggled to find domestic workers,”wrote the Senators in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “Seafood processors are designated as part of the ‘essential, critical infrastructure’ during the pandemic and yet many have been unable to operate at full capacity due to lack of workers. Disruptions to the food supply chain will harm American consumers, the seafood industry, and the U.S. economy. Withholding H-2B visas for seasonal seafood processors will only exacerbate this matter.” 

“On February 24, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had received enough petitions to meet the H-2B cap for the second half of FY 2021,” they continued. “Unfortunately, many small, family-owned businesses in our states were unable to obtain H-2B visas before the cap was met last week. Without these additional visas, our states’ treasured seafood industries, which are crucial to the economies of the Northern Neck and Eastern Shore, will be forced to scale back operations, default on contracts, lay off full-time American workers or, in some cases, close operations completely.”

The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Visa Program allows U.S. employers to hire seasonal, non-immigrant workers during peak seasons to supplement the existing American workforce. In order to be eligible for the program, employers are required to declare that there are not enough U.S. workers available to do the temporary work, as is the case with the seafood industry, which relies on H-2B workers for tough jobs such as shucking oysters and processing crabs.  

In their letter, the Senators also raised concern with reports that USCIS decided to use ‘receipt by’ instead of ‘mailed by’ dates to reject otherwise timely applications for nonimmigrant workers. Noting mail delays due to inclement weather on the East Coast, they asked the DHS Secretary to reconsider this decision and allow these applications to proceed.

Sen. Warner, Kaine, Cardin, and Van Hollen have long advocated for the seafood processing industry – a community largely made up of rural, family-owned operations. Last year, the Senators urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release additional H-2B visas needed to support local seafood businesses in Virginia and states like Alaska, Maryland, and North Carolina. 

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas

Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security                                             

Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Mayorkas:

We are writing on behalf of Virginia and Maryland seafood processors who depend on H-2B temporary, seasonal workers to operate their businesses.  In the rural and remote coastal regions in our states, even in a time of high unemployment, seafood processors have struggled to find domestic workers.  Seafood processors are designated as part of the “essential, critical infrastructure” during the pandemic and yet many have been unable to operate at full capacity due to lack of workers. Disruptions to the food supply chain will harm American consumers, the seafood industry, and the U.S. economy. Withholding H-2B visas for seasonal seafood processors will only exacerbate this matter. 

The Fiscal Year 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act provides the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the authority to lift the existing statutory cap of 66,000 annual H-2B visas.  We urge DHS to promptly make available the maximum number of additional Congressionally-authorized H-2B visas while balancing safety to meet the labor needs of seafood processors in our states.

On February 24, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had received enough petitions to meet the H-2B cap for the second half of FY 2021.  February 12, 2021 was the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before October 1, 2021. 

Unfortunately, many small, family-owned businesses in our states were unable to obtain H-2B visas before the cap was met last week.  Without these additional visas, our states’ treasured seafood industries, which are crucial to the economies of the Northern Neck and Eastern Shore, will be forced to scale back operations, default on contracts, lay off full-time American workers or, in some cases, close operations completely. 

Despite good faith efforts to find local seasonal workers, our seafood industries rely on H-2B workers for tough jobs such as shucking oysters and processing crabs.  Seafood processors have used the seasonal H-2B visa program to supplement their U.S. workforce for decades and have not grown significantly in the numerical requests for visas over time. The April 1 seasonal start date is just weeks away and the seafood processors in our will not be able to operate without their seasonal workforce.

Additionally, we have also received reports that USCIS has decided to use ‘receipt by’  instead of ‘mailed by’ dates to reject otherwise timely applications. A number of our constituents mailed their applications before the deadline but due to inclement weather on the East Coast their applications were delivered after the cap was met. For example, USCIS Forms I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Workers overnighted on February 11, 2021 were not delivered until several days later due to winter storms. Among the employers affected are several seafood companies on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Northern Neck of Virginia. Employers elsewhere in the country using the same shipping methods had their applications receipted before the cap simply due to their geographic location. We ask that you reconsider these decisions and allow these applications to proceed.

We thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter; the viability of many seasonal businesses in our states depend on the H-2B program.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today announced that minority-owned and community-based lending institutions can now apply for grants through the U.S. Treasury Department to support, prepare for, and respond to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding is available as part of a record $12 billion investment to open up new credit opportunities for Black, Latino and low-income communities that Sen. Warner successfully fought to include in the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill Congress passed in December.  

Even before the pandemic, low-income communities and communities of color faced significant barriers in accessing credit and economic opportunity,” said Sen. Warner. “The economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has only exacerbated those inequalities. Today’s announcement by the Treasury Department is one step in helping low-income and minority communities recover and emerge from this unprecedented economic downturn with more opportunities than before.”

Surveys show that Black- and Latino-owned small businesses have been particularly hard-hit during the pandemic. Thousands of minority-owned small businesses have closed for good, in part due to difficulty securing bank loans and accessing assistance such as the Paycheck Protection Program. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that while overall small business ownership in the U.S. dropped 22 percent between February and April 2020, Black and Latino ownership dropped by 41 percent and 32 percent, respectively. Another recent survey revealed that almost 1 in 5 Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs expect to permanently close their doors within three months, compared to 14 percent of white small business owners.

In order to combat the hemorrhaging of jobs and economic opportunities during the pandemic, Sen. Warner in July teamed up with then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act in order to strengthen the financial institutions that serve communities of color and increase lending to minority-owned businesses and lower-income borrowers. The effort secured endorsements from the Black Economic Alliance, the NAACP, the National Bankers Association, the National Urban League, the Center for Responsible Lending and a host of other advocacy organizations and civil rights groups. Sen. Warner was later able to secure provisions from the bill in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, which was signed into law on December 27, 2020, providing an unprecedented $12 billion in funding for lenders that predominantly operate in underserved communities.

Today’s announcement by the Treasury Department releases an initial tranche of $1.25 billion in grant funding for eligible community development financial institutions (CDFIs) in order to expand the flow of credit into underserved, minority, and historically disadvantaged communities, helping small businesses stay afloat and expand operations while providing affordable access to credit for lower income borrowers. Additional funding will be made available in the coming months, as part of the largest single investment into minority-owned and community-based lending institutions in the nation’s history.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of the bipartisan, bicameral spending bill to fund federal programs crucial to Virginia and keep the federal government open through 2021. The legislation also includes comprehensive measures to help Americans amid the ongoing economic and public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following today’s Senate passage, the bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature. 

“For nine long months, folks waited for Congress to deliver critical relief as they watched COVID-19 further devastate their communities. Today, despite that unacceptable delay, relief is officially on its way,” said Warner. “I’m proud to have worked with a bipartisan group of colleagues to help get this legislation into shape and in the hands of House and Senate leaders. And while I know that this bill is not perfect, I’m glad to know that it will help American families weather this winter and get through the holidays.”

“While this relief should have been passed much earlier, I’m pleased to see families, small businesses, hospitals, schools, and more get the assistance they need,” Kaine said. “This legislation makes critical investments in unemployment assistance, food aid, housing assistance, and other areas to directly help those struggling amid the pandemic. Though we still have more work to do to help Americans get back on their feet, I’m relieved Congress was able to come to this bipartisan compromise and fund these priorities before the holidays.” 

The following list includes some of the priorities Warner and Kaine advocated:

  • Assistance for out of work Virginians: Extends federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, preventing hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Virginians from losing benefits over the holidays. The senators were cosponsors of the legislation that provided the model for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), through which more than 9 million Americans are currently receiving benefits. More recently, the Senators called on leadership to extend and add additional weeks of federal employment benefits to both PUA and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs. Additionally, it gives states the option to offer additional weekly financial relief for Americans with a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent employment income who are not able to claim their full benefit, modeled after Senator Warner’s legislation.
  • Stimulus checks: Includes a stimulus payment for low- and middle-income Americans; with $600 for individual filers and $1,200 for joint filers, with an additional $600 for each qualifying child in the household. Early in the crisis, Senator Kaine called for stimulus efforts to include direct payments to households. 
  • Vaccines: Includes over $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and an additional $8.75 billion to support vaccine distribution, particularly for states and localities, to slow the spread of the pandemic and take a step towards a future where COVID-19 is managed.
  • Emergency housing aid and protections: Creates a new $25 billion emergency rental assistance fund to prevent evictions during the pandemic, which will be delivered through state and local governments. Earlier this year, the Senators joined their colleagues in introducing legislation to provide emergency housing assistance for those facing potential evictions. The bill will also extend the CDC eviction moratorium to allow time for implementing the emergency housing aid.
  • Relief for hard-hit small businesses and nonprofits: Provides targeted relief for small businesses struggling with the effects of the pandemic. This includes a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans for small businesses and nonprofits that experienced a substantial revenue decline in 2020, as well as other funds for small business relief. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is directed to provide guidance to ensure priority access for underserved communities, such as minority-owned businesses. The bill also includes grants for small businesses and nonprofits in sectors likely to continue to see substantial drops in revenue in 2021, particularly in the live entertainment sector. This aid will ensure that Virginia’s small businesses are able to stay afloat during the pandemic, keep workers on payroll, and return to job creation as COVID-19 is controlled. The Senators have been strong supporters of providing relief to small businesses, cosponsoring the Heroes Small Business Lifeline Act, which included many of the provisions in the final bill, and the Save our Stages Act, on which the live entertainment grants are modeled. 
  • Targeted relief for underserved communities: Provides the largest single investment in our country's history for minority-owned and community-based lending institutions. Largely drawn from Senator Warner’s Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, the provision provides $12 billion to community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs) to build capital and unlock affordable access to credit for underserved and minority neighborhoods, which have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19.
  • Education Stabilization Fund: Provides $82 billion to provide emergency support to K-12 schools and higher education institutions. The legislation includes provisions of Kaine’s Coronavirus Relief Flexibility for Students and Institutions Act that allow colleges to use emergency stabilization funds to cover lost revenue and better target funds designated for colleges hardest hit by COVID-19 by requiring an application to demonstrate need. 
  • Broadband: Includes $7 billion towards broadband, including $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit to help low-income families maintain their internet connections, $285 million to support broadband access in minority communities, and $300 million in broadband grants modeled on provisions Senator Warner drafted with bipartisan Senators. Additionally, the bill includes an extension of the deadline to use Coronavirus Relief Funds so that state and localities interested in using the money for broadband expansion have more time, as Senator Warner called for.
  • Support for child care providers and families: Includes $10 billion in flexible funding for the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to help support child care providers and ensure that working parents have access to child care during the pandemic. The bill also includes $250 million for Head Start programs.
  • Public health data modernization: Includes Senator Kaine’s Saving Lives Through Better Data Act, which will improve the nation’s public health data systems at CDC and through grants to state and local health departments to expand and modernize their systems, promoting more seamless communication, which can save lives when we’re faced with public health threats such as COVID-19. The omnibus authorizes $100 million for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2025.
  • Telehealth: Includes Senator Kaine and Senator Schatz’s Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act of 2019, which creates a grant program to evaluate, develop, and expand the use of distance health education models such as ECHO to increase access to specialty care in rural and medically underserved populations. The omnibus authorizes $10 million for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026. The funding bill also permanently expands coverage of and payment for telehealth to treat mental health care, which is in line with Senator Warner’s CONNECT for Health Act, which Senator Kaine is a cosponsor.
  • Ends surprise billing: Includes a provision to end surprise billing, something Senators Warner and Kaine have long advocated for. 
  • U.S. Postal Service: Converts the CARES Act $10 billion loan into direct funding for USPS without requiring repayment. These funds will be used for operational costs and other expenses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Warner is a cosponsor of the Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act, which would provide USPS with significant direct funding. 
  • Veterans: Provides $104.4 billion in funding for the VA, an increase of $12.5 billion over FY20 levels. This funding increase provides $2.7 billion more than the previous fiscal year for health care delivered at VA facilities nationwide. The bill provides robust funding in several areas important for Virginia veterans, including $815 million for critical VA Medical and Prosthetic research, an increase of $1.18 billion over FY20 levels for electronic health record modernization, nearly $2 billon in support of programs to prevent veteran homelessness and $312.6 million for suicide prevention.
  • Infrastructure: Includes funding for key projects that were championed by Warner and Kaine to benefit Virginia’s infrastructure:
    • Includes a provision pushed for by Senators Warner and Kaine to allow for the construction of a new Long Bridge on the Potomac River, which will double the capacity of the rail crossing between Virginia and D.C. The current two-track Long Bridge is the only rail bridge connecting Virginia to Washington, D.C., and it is at 98 percent capacity during peak hours, which means it is one of the most significant rail chokepoints along the East Coast. The new Long Bridge program will double the capacity of the Potomac River rail crossing by adding a second two-track bridge adjacent to the existing bridge and including a new bike-pedestrian shared use path spanning the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Potomac River. Senators Warner and Kaine introduced the Long Bridge Act of 2020 in August to allow for this construction.
    • Includes the full federal funding of $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to fund critical capital investment and safety projects. In addition, the bill provides $14 billion in emergency relief for public transit agencies to continue operations during the pandemic, ensuring access to transportation for frontline workers and civil servants.
    • Includes a one year extension of Community Development Block Grant funds to the City of Norfolk and other localities to build climate resilient infrastructure projects. Senators Kaine and Warner joined Senator John Hoeven in introducing S.4017 in June, which would also have provided an extension for the NDRC program.
    • Includes $87.5 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program—an increase of $2.5 million from FY 2020. The Chesapeake Bay Program coordinates Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration and protection efforts, and the majority of its funds are passed through to the states and local communities for on-the-ground restoration.
    • Authorizes federal funds to cover 65% of the costs associated with construction projects to address close to $1.5 billion of flood control needs in the City of Norfolk.
    • Grants a critical cost adjustment to allow work to continue on the Deep Creek Bridge inChesapeake to address traffic concerns.
    • Authorizes over $102.7 million in federal funds for construction of the North Landing BridgeReplacement project.
    • Provides up to $9 million for the Federal Aviation Administration to continue its remote tower system pilot program at smaller airports, including the Remote Air Traffic Control Tower at Leesburg Executive Airport.
  • Great American Outdoors Act: With Senator Warner’s Great American Outdoors Act now law, the FY21 omnibus affirms funding for several deferred maintenance projects in Virginia:
    • George Washington Memorial Parkway – A $207 million project to restore 7.6 miles of northern section of the GW Parkway and implement critical safety measures. The Senators have long advocated for federal funding for this project for several years as seen here and here.
    • Shenandoah National Park – A $27 million project to pave and restore nearly 50 miles of Skyline Drive and various overlooks. Shenandoah will also receive nearly $3.5 million to remove unnecessary buildings and restore greenspace within the park.
    • Colonial National Historical Park – A $16.5 million project to restore nearly 5 miles of shoreline along the York River.
  • FBI Headquarters: Provides no funding for a new FBI headquarters and includes language that encourages General Services Administration (GSA) to provide a new prospectus, particularly after the Trump Administration abruptly abandoned plans to develop a new campus headquarters for the FBI. Earlier this year, Senators Warner and Kaine opposed an attempt in an earlier Republican COVID-19 relief package that would have provided $1.75 billion for construction of a new FBI HQ in its current downtown D.C. location.  
  • Miners’ Benefits: Extends the funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund until the end of 2021 by extending the tax on mining companies that helps fund the program. Both Kaine and Warner introduced the Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Solvency Act calling on Congress to extend the excise tax through the end of 2030.
  • Shipbuilding & MILCON funding: Provides $23.27 billion for shipbuilding for 10 battle force ships including full funding for a second Virginia-class submarine, which Senators Warner and Kaine personally advocated for. The bill also appropriates $237 million for 6 MILCON projects in Virginia, including:
    • Humphreys Engineer Center, Training Support Facility (Army) - $51m
    • Norfolk, E-2D Training Facility (Navy) - $30.4m
    • Norfolk, Corrosion Control and Paint Facility (Navy) - $17.671m
    • Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Access Control Point Main Gate with Land Acquisition (Air Force) - $19.5m
    • Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Story, Operations Facility and Command Center (Def-Wide) - $54.5m
    • JEB Little Creek-Story, NSWG Facilities (Def-Wide) - $58m
  • Federal contractors: Senators Warner and Kaine also pushed to extend a provision from CARES (3610), which allows contractual adjustments for a paid leave program, allowing contractors to keep employees on the payroll if federal facilities close due to the pandemic – an important provision for our defense industrial base and cleared national security workforce. 
  • Foster care and homeless youth: Includes key provisions of Senator Kaine’s bill with Senator Murray and Senator Portman, the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act, to remove barriers to financial aid for students experiencing homelessness or students formerly in foster care by easing the application and determination for becoming eligible for aid. The bill also includes language allowing foster youth to remain in the system until October 1, 2021, regardless of their age—a move that Senators Warner and Kaine called for in a recent letter to the administration.
  • Funds Childhood Disease ResearchProvides $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program to conduct pediatric cancer and disease research. The Senators worked to enact the legislation authorizing this program, named for 10-year-old Gabriella Miller of Loudoun County, who passed away from cancer in October of 2013.
  • Supporting working students and families: Includes key provisions of Senator Kaine’s bill with Senator Baldwin, the Working Students Actto reduce the “work penalty” that many students who work while attending school face. Currently, students who work while attending school often are eligible for less financial aid due to their work income. The appropriations bill enacts a 35% increase for working students and 20% increase for families to the income protection allowance (IPA), shielding more of their income from reducing their financial aid.
  • Student Loan Repayment: Extends an important change to existing tax policy allowing employers to use pre-tax dollars to help pay down employees’ student debt until 2025 – a provision modeled after Senator Warner’s bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act to help more than 44 million Americans with student loan debt.
  • Ashanti Alert: Includes $1 million in federal funding to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. Following the abduction of 19-year old Ashanti Billie, who did not meet the criteria for an Amber or Silver Alert, Senator Warner secured unanimous passage of this national alert system through the Senate on December 6, 2018, and has been a leader in the fight to implement the Ashanti Alert nationwide ever since.
  • Nutrition: Provides $13 billion in nutrition assistance, including a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through June 30, 2021 for all SNAP participants. Excludes unemployment compensation from being counted as income for the purposes of calculating SNAP benefits and eligibility. Provides $400 million for food banks through The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
  • Farmers: Provides $13 billion for direct payments, purchases, and loans to producers who have suffered losses due to the pandemic, including funds to support the food supply chain through food purchases, donations to food banks, and support for local food systems. Additionally, it includes $5 billion for supplemental payments to row crop producers; $3 billion for supplemental payments to cattle producers and contract growers of livestock and poultry, dairy farmers, and producers who were forced to euthanize livestock or poultry; $225 million for producers of specialty crops; and $1.5 billion to purchase food for distribution to those in need.
  • Timber Harvesting/Hauling: Provides up to $200 million to support timber harvesting and timber hauling businesses impacted by COVID-19. 
  • Dairy: Provides up to $400 million for a Dairy Product Donation Program, modeled after the 2018 Farm Bill pilot program to facilitate the donation of dairy products and minimize food waste. 
  • Textiles: Allows USDA to make payments to users of upland cotton and extra-long staple cotton.
  • Fisheries: Provides $300 million in assistance to help fisheries mitigate COVID-19 related impacts. 
  • Water Utility Bill Assistance: Provides $638 million for a new program to help low-income families cover the costs of drinking water and wastewater utility bills by making funds available to states and Tribes. These localities will provide dollars to owners or operators of public water systems or treatment works to reduce arrearages and rates for low-income households.
  • Appalachian Regional Commission: Includes a record $180 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission, an increase of $5 million from FY20.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine cosponsored the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2020, legislation that would establish a $120 billion revitalization fund to help independent restaurants deal with the long-term structural challenges facing the industry because of COVID-19 and support the reemployment of 11 million workers.

“Virginia’s independent restaurants have been especially hurt by the coronavirus emergency and require much-needed relief,” the Senators said. “This bill can help save restaurants across the Commonwealth by offering the critical assistance needed to cover costs of operations and supporting staff. We’re glad this effort has bipartisan support to help millions of restaurants from closing their doors for good.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the restaurant industry has lost over 6.1 million jobs – the most of any industry and double the figure from the next most affected industry. Without further action from Congress, over 11 million independent restaurant workers are at risk of permanently losing their jobs. Restaurants are facing months of massive revenue losses because of social distancing, rising costs of supplies, new expenses for personal protective equipment, and a decrease in the public’s willingness to dine out.

The National Restaurant Association estimates that more than 237,000 restaurant employees in Virginia have been laid off or furloughed since March – representing at least 78 percent of the 305,000 employees that were working at Virginia’s eating and drinking places in February.

The Senate bill was led by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and was cosponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Doug Jones (D-AL), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV).

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) issued the following statement today in response to the release of the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act – the proposal put forward by the White House and Senate Republican leaders as a starting point for bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on another COVID-19 relief package:

“The Democratic House passed the HEROES Act ten weeks ago. Since then, the health and economic crisis has continued unabated. Millions of Americans are facing eviction or foreclosure; state and local governments are drowning in red ink; and 30 million Americans relying on unemployment to survive are facing the expiration of expanded benefits this week. Instead of taking urgently needed steps to address these problems, the White House and Senate Republican leaders have put forward a bill that fails to match the scale of the crisis or the needs of the American people. Instead, their proposal focuses on liability protections for businesses, as though that is our country’s most urgent challenge right now, and bizarrely includes money for a new FBI building in Washington, D.C. that has no connection to the current crisis and which the FBI neither wants or needs, having already spent millions planning for a new headquarters building in Virginia or Maryland.

“In our conversations with the Administration and our colleagues from both parties, we will be strongly advocating for a bill that funds critical priorities like healthcare and testing, rental and mortgage assistance, broadband access, child care, K-12 and higher education, job training, election security, hunger assistance, and help for communities of color that have been disproportionately hard-hit by the effects of COVID-19. The American people simply cannot afford for the Senate to waste any more time in addressing these urgent crises, and we are eager to work with anyone, Republican or Democrat, who is ready to do something about these serious challenges.” 

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act on May 15 by a vote of 208 - 199.

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are introducing the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, legislation to make a new, $17.9 billion investment in low-income and minority communities that have been especially hard-hit by the COVID-19 crisis. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) will introduce companion legislation in the House.

The legislation would provide eligible community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) with capital, liquidity, and operational capacity, to expand the flow of credit into underserved, minority, and historically disadvantaged communities, helping small businesses stay afloat and expand operations, while providing affordable access to credit for lower income borrowers. The Senators are seeking to include the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act in any upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation to help hard-hit communities weather and recover from the economic blow of the pandemic.

“We know that Black and Latino Americans are disproportionately suffering from the dual health and economic effects of COVID-19, putting many low-income and minority neighborhoods at risk of sustained economic damage that will last far beyond the current crisis. Steps like PPP loans, expanded UI, and one-time stimulus payments helped to soften the blow in some places, but not enough. Jobs that supported these neighborhoods are disappearing overnight, and if we don’t act now, we could see a hemorrhaging of already-limited economic opportunities from these communities that will take generations to recover,” said Sen. Warner. “The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act directs billions in new investments to help low- income and minority communities withstand this unprecedented economic downturn and emerge stronger with increased access to capital and new economic opportunities.”

“Even before the pandemic, communities of color and low-income communities were facing deep- seated challenges and structural inequities in accessing capital and economic opportunity,” said Sen. Booker. “Now, as the Coronavirus crisis exposes and exacerbates these inequities, it’s past time we act boldly, by investing in the families, businesses, and communities that have been most impacted and providing them with the resources they need to recover and rebuild.”

“We are in the midst of multiple crises in our country: a public health crisis, which is disproportionately impacting people of color in America; and the resulting economic crisis that is causing financial hardship for our small and minority-owned institutions. As we work to secure additional funding for the survival of businesses across the country, I am proud to work with my colleagues on this next step in not only lifting up the hardest hit communities, but ensuring they thrive in the coming months,” said Sen. Harris.

“Since long before they were hit with the recession created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Black families and business owners have struggled to gain access to capital and banking services necessary to build and maintain strong communities and opportunities for growth. The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act would mean billions in resources for the institutions that serve the underfunded and underbanked and provide minority and low income neighborhoods with the resources they need to help them not just weather the storm but thrive over the long-term,” said Sen. Schumer. “If our Republicans colleagues are serious about addressing inequity and getting aid to those who need it most, they should stop focusing on providing immunity to big corporations and make sure our truly small and minority owned businesses, and the institutions that truly seek to serve them, have access to the resources and funding they need to survive and thrive.”

“As Chairman of the House Financial Service Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, my focus has been squarely on address the inequities faced by unbanked and underbanked communities, and communities of color that continue to be discriminated against to this day, including in banking and financial services. The COVID19 pandemic has laid bare the vulnerability of these communities, and the urgency of addressing the failures of the financial system that leave these communities behind. Achieving a balanced and sustainable economic recovery requires inclusion of, and investments in minority banks, community development financial institutions, and those banks and lenders that reach marginalized communities,” said Rep. Meeks.

A summary of the bill is available here. Text of the bill is available here.

“The compounding effects of COVID-19 will put many low-income and minority neighborhoods at risk of sustained economic damage,” said David Clunie, Executive Director, Black Economic Alliance. “The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act seeks to mitigate economic damage and break down some of the economic barriers Black communities face by strengthening the financial institutions that serve communities of color so they can boost operational capacity and increase lending to Black businesses and lower-income borrowers. By improving access to capital and providing new economic opportunities, this legislation will help Black Americans emerge stronger from the economic downturn that is harming Black communities disproportionately. BEA is proud to have helped shape this billWe are grateful to Senators Schumer, Warner, Harris, and Booker and Rep. Meeks for their leadership, and we look forward to swift passage of this proposal.”

“In this critical moment, our communities are in dire need of being supported and uplifted,” said Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP. “The disproportionate impact and strain COVID-19 has placed on low-income neighborhoods has been devastating, and the relief Jobs and Neighborhood Act will provide is sorely needed. I am encouraged by the organizations, elected officials and community leaders that continue to step up and fill in the gap amid this turbulent time; and the NAACP will continue to lead in this fight.”  

 “Underserved communities require specific actions to inject resources that impact families and businesses. The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act as Senator Warner proposes must be pointed to these communities as the data proves that there is a disproportionate impact from COVID-19. Therefore, we must itemize the need to repair, restore, and regenerate economic vitality in these communities,” said Kenneth Kelly, Chairman, National Bankers Association.

“The pandemic has illuminated the barriers faced by Black borrowers, business owners and their employees like nothing else in recent memory,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League. “The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act is a step toward not only reclaiming the economic ground that has been lost over the last few months, but revitalizing the Black communities that still lag behind because of systemic racism and lack of opportunity. The National Urban League recommends passage of this legislation.”

“This bill provides critical support for  CDFIs and MDIs and is a good step toward expanding the flow of credit into underserved and historically disadvantaged communities. This is especially important for communities of color, which have been hit hardest by the current crisis. This legislation will enable business owners of color to survive and expand operations,” said Ashley Harrington, Director of Federal Advocacy and Senior Counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending. “This is a commonsense approach to help local economies, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Senators Warner, Harris, and Booker and Congressman Meeks in further strengthening this legislation and in getting it passed into law.”

“The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs supports the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act. We believe it is a positive step to ensuring that small businesses most impacted by the pandemic will receive funding- through CDFIs and minority lenders- to assist with restoring and rebuilding communities,” said Donna Gambrell, Chair, and Calvin Holmes, Vice-Chair, The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs.

“The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act has the potential to dramatically increase the flow of responsible investment capital into communities of color. This could be a game changer for community development institutions that are helping underserved communities emerge from the current economic crisis,” said Noel Andrés Poyo, Executive Director, National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders.

“This legislation proposed by Sen. Mark Warner (VA) works to provide the needed capital investments in Black communities that will help families in crises due to the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. These resources will strengthen businesses, increase employment and provide access to affordable credit for many hardworking residents in our country’s most underserved communities,” said Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman, Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC).

“Prosperity Now has been honored to work with Senators Warner, Booker, Harris and Congressman Meeks on their Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, a comprehensive plan to capitalize and strengthen Minority-Owned Banks and CDFIs, which are fundamental to our communities and their recovery from COVID-19. A key value of this legislation is that it would also prepare us for and respond to the next economic crisis. We fully endorse this bill,” said Doug Ryan, Senior Fellow, Prosperity Now.

“The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) applauds Senator Warner and the other co-sponsors for recognizing the critical role that CDFIs and Minority Depository Institutions play in providing capital to underserved borrowers and communities, and for providing them with the resources needed to meet the scale of the challenge that is facing the country as we recover from both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. There is little doubt that the communities served by CDFIs and MDIs are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and this legislation provides a thoughtful means of ensuring that scarce federal resources get to the businesses and residents of those communities,” said Maurice Jones, President and CEO, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

“The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act’s support of minority-owned and minority-led lenders is a great step forward for promoting access to capital for underserved communities and the country at large. We look forward to bipartisan passage and working with all stakeholders to ensure its intent is realized,” said Aron Betru, Managing Director, Milken Institute Center for Financial Markets.

“The current global pandemic has made plain that our financial system is stronger and more dynamic when community development financial institutions grow and thrive.  We applaud the work of Senators Warner, Booker, Harris and Congressman Meeks in advancing the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act to strengthen the efforts of community-based lenders by providing them with additional tools to continue reaching those most deeply affected by this crisis,” said Cathie Mahon, President and CEO, Inclusiv.

“Black and Brown communities have been disproportionately impacted by the health and economic effects of the pandemic. More than 40% of black businesses already have shut down. We need urgent investments to change this trajectory, empower a banking system that reaches deep into our minority communities, and help us reach the urgent goal of economic justice. This legislation provides vital support to community and minority-owned banks. Eliminating the racial wealth gap would add more than $1 trillion to our country’s GDP, benefitting all communities. This isn’t a political issue, and I’m hopeful leaders across both parties will come together to drive real change forward, without delay,” said Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Vista Equity Partners.

“The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act recognizes the critical role CDFIs play in serving communities struggling against persistent racial and economic inequality.  In particular, the Opportunity Finance Network applauds the inclusion of $1 billion in immediate CDFI Fund grants to strengthen CDFIs to do more in the challenging months ahead,” said Jennifer A. Vasiloff, Chief External Affairs Officer Opportunity Finance Network.

“The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act will inject vital resources into families, businesses and communities that have been hardest hit by COVID and the economic crisis. By prioritizing investments that increase and leverage the capacity of minority lenders and CDFIs, the Act will significantly advance economic opportunity among America’s most underserved people and places,” said Bill Bynum, CEO, Hope Credit Union.

“Over the past four months, we have watched in awe as CDFIs and MDIs across the country have mobilized any and all available resources at their disposal to mitigate the devastating effects of COVID- 19. We have seen their willingness and ability to ensure that the communities they serve weather this crisis, restart and recover quickly, and build back stronger and with more resilience. The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act would provide the necessary capital and operating support so that these community-based lenders can significantly grow their efforts to meet the incredible need across urban, rural, and Native communities,” said Jennifer Pryce, President & CEO, and Frederick “Bart” Harvey, Chairman of the Board, Calvert Impact Capital.

“This initiative is exactly what is needed to help low-income and communities of color rebuild. CDFIs have long been committed to racial and economic justice. This set of programs will provide the tools for CDFIs to help small businesses survive and thrive and communities to recover,” said Jeannine Jacokes, Chief Executive Officer, Community Development Bankers Association.

“The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act will put resources and financial mechanisms into the communities where they can do the most good. Senators Warner, Booker and Harris, and Congressman Meeks, have introduced a measure that, if enacted, will catalyze growth and opportunity for underrepresented groups by unleashing the potential of small businesses in minority communities too often left behind by broader economic growth,” said David Grain, Founder and CEO, Grain Management.

“The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act will help get needed funds into communities hardest hit by the crisis, by supporting community development financial institutions and minority depository institutions – those with the on-the-ground expertise and track record to get the job done,” said Professor Michael S. Barr, Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy, Frank Murphy Collegiate Professor of Public Policy, Roy F. and Jean Humphrey Proffitt Professor of Law, University of Michigan.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) in a bipartisan letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Jovita Carranza urging the administration to ease paperwork requirements for small businesses seeking loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The letter, signed by 44 senators, specifically requests that the loan forgiveness application for loans under $250,000 to be no longer than one page in length.

The letter can be found HERE or below: 

 

Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Administrator Carranza:

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been critical for helping small businesses remain viable and keeping Americans employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we would like to make you aware of a serious problem with the PPP Loan Forgiveness Application. We have received feedback from a number of businesses and lenders that the forgiveness application is difficult to understand and to complete. We ask that the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) urgently revise the application so that it is no longer than one page for any loan under $250,000.

When Congress created the PPP, its purpose was clear: get immediate funding into the hands of small business owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic so their employees could stay on the payroll and maintain benefits and so that businesses could resume normal operations as soon as it was safe to do so. Given the innumerable challenges that small business owners face, PPP loans were designed to be forgiven to prevent small business owners from incurring additional debt, provided employees were kept on payroll.

The text of the CARES Act, which was approved unanimously by the Senate, specified three criteria that the PPP forgiveness application was required to include:

1.     Documentation verifying the number of full-time employees on payroll and their respective pay rates;

2.     Documentation verifying payment of mortgage, lease, and utility payments for which the business owner sought PPP funds; and

3.     A certification that the information presented in the forgiveness application is true and correct.

While the Small Business Administrator was also given the ability to require additional documentation necessary to verify proper use of PPP funds, we believe it is beyond the program’s intent to require the information solicited in the 11-page forgiveness application that the SBA recently released. We appreciate the interest in appropriately auditing the use of government money. However, the loan forgiveness application – which understandably needs more information for loans worth significantly more than $250,000 – is three times longer than the original application for the PPP. Many of our constituents and the financial institutions who processed their PPP loan applications have reported that the existing forgiveness application will be difficult to complete and could cost business owners several thousand dollars in professional tax advice.

The Administration’s intentions to scrutinize PPP loans above $2 million is an appropriate oversight of taxpayer resources. Failing to streamline the loan forgiveness application for loans that are worth a mere fraction of that will not only leave millions of small business owners without the relief that they were promised by Congress, but it will also introduce a needless complication to our nation’s economic recovery.

We look forward to continuing to work with you and the Administration in supporting our country’s small businesses and their employees during this difficult time. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and all 47 Senate Democrats in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Jovita Carranza calling for urgently needed improvements to streamline and simplify the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness application process to ensure the smallest and most underserved businesses are able to fully take advantage of the program.

Senate Democrats write that small businesses and lenders alike have voiced concerns about the complexity and high cost-burden of the forgiveness application process for PPP loans, particularly for very small and underserved businesses, including microbusinesses, sole proprietorships, rural, and minority-owned small businesses. In addition, the complex process contributes to barriers to entry for new borrowers and could heighten existing hurdles to inclusion, with recent survey data indicating that close to a fifth of minority business owners did not apply for assistance from programs like PPP because they saw the application process to be overly cumbersome and long.

To avoid the chaos that borrowers and lenders experienced in the early weeks of the PPP program, Senate Democrats request that the Administration streamline the forgiveness application now, especially for smaller loans, as many borrowers near the time to apply for forgiveness, and provide adequate resources to ensure a smooth and reliable process.

Senate Democrats’ letter to Secretary and Mnuchin and Administrator Carranza can be found here and below: 

June 12, 2020

The Honorable Steven Mnuchin

Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20220         

The Honorable Jovita Carranza

Administrator

U.S. Small Business Administration

409 3rd Street SW

Washington, D.C. 20416

Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Administrator Carranza:

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) represents the largest small business relief effort in our nation’s history. We were pleased to have passed into law the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, which builds upon and improves this vital program. While these fixes are an important step forward in making PPP work better for small businesses and nonprofits, much work remains to see the program work more efficiently and fairly, particularly for small dollar borrowers. As the program enters its next phase and borrowers begin to seek forgiveness of their loans, there is an immediate need for significant improvements to the forgiveness application process, which is tremendously cumbersome and overly complex, especially for very small businesses, sole proprietors, and underserved borrowers. 

We appreciate your acknowledgment in the recent Senate Small Business Committee hearing that the Administration will be updating the forgiveness form to reflect the critical changes required by the recently passed bill, and that this rewrite is an opportunity to improve the forgiveness process. We want to encourage the Small Business Administration and the Department of Treasury to significantly streamline and simplify the forgiveness process to ensure the smallest and most underserved businesses are able to fully take advantage of the program without having to make inordinate investments of time or limited resources.   

Since the release of the forgiveness form and instructions a few weeks ago, we have heard significant concerns from small businesses and lenders alike about the complexity of the process especially for the smallest businesses. The 11-page form that must be completed to secure forgiveness is especially burdensome, time-consuming, and costly for very small and underserved businesses, including microbusinesses, sole proprietorships, rural, and minority-owned small businesses. We are especially concerned that so many of these very small and underserved businesses will feel compelled to hire accountants and attorneys to complete the forgiveness form in a manner that provides comfort that the loans will be forgiven. This is not just an issue for existing borrowers. It contributes to already existing barriers to entry for new borrowers. For example, recent survey data indicated that close to a fifth of minority business owners did not even try to apply for assistance from programs like PPP that they could have greatly benefited from because they saw the application process to be too difficult and long.  The lengthy and complicated forgiveness form only adds to the already significant hurdles for inclusion of all small businesses in the program.  

While we understand clearly the need to uphold accountability and ensure taxpayer money is properly spent, this process should not be so complex so as to require already struggling small businesses to spend significant resources on services to complete a government form or worry that if they do not, their application will be rejected. To avoid the chaos that borrowers and lenders experienced in the early weeks of this program, we request that the Administration consider streamlining the forgiveness application, especially for smaller loans, and provide adequate resources to ensure a smooth and reliable process that small businesses and nonprofits can have faith in. We also request that before the Administration releases a final, updated form that you engage directly with Congress for input to ensure the form upholds Congressional intent within the CARES Act and follows through on the requests within this letter. 

To achieve these results, we request the Administration consider the following:

  • Create a process for streamlined forgiveness for low-dollar loan amounts. This should include an easy-to-use form that requires a simple attestation on fund use and minimal documentation. This would significantly reduce burdens and provide as much flexibility as possible for very small businesses seeking to access forgiveness. 
  • Issue guidance providing lenders with some form of reasonable safe harbor protection when certifications are made by borrowers in the forgiveness process for low-dollar loan amounts. 
  • Develop a comprehensive suite of approved online tools and resources to help small businesses and nonprofits navigate the forgiveness process, including “how to” videos, online reporting calculators that have the validation of the government, and easy-to-use materials to empower resource partners like the Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and Minority Business Development Agency’s Business Centers in assisting with the completion of the forgiveness form.  
  • Stand up a well-staffed help line for borrowers or lenders to easily reach someone to talk through any challenges they encounter with the forgiveness forms or process.  

The need for the Administration to update and revise the forgiveness form to reflect the changes included in the recently passed bill and create a more simplified process also presents an opportunity to collect additional information from program participants that complete the forgiveness process. We were pleased that the initial form includes an option for applicants to provide demographic data, for example. An updated, streamlined forgiveness form should continue to collect this information, ideally including a demographic reporting section on the first page to ensure as much information as possible is gathered to provide much more clarity on whether PPP assistance has reached communities of color. 

In this public health and economic emergency, we must do all we can to make sure our small businesses have the support and assistance they need to weather the crisis. Small businesses should not need to spend precious resources on an accountant or attorneys to finalize their forgiveness application. The government should simplify the process such that these experts are not necessary or assist in providing this much-needed support. That must be especially the case for our very small and underserved businesses, including in communities of color, that oftentimes lack the resources of other businesses and in many cases, have faced long-standing economic and process fairness challenges even before COVID-19. We have a chance to improve the PPP forgiveness process now for these small businesses to ensure the program works as intended. 

We appreciate your immediate attention to this request and thank you for your continued work to mitigate the impact that this public health crisis is having on the backbone of our economy, our American small businesses. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Doug Jones (D-AL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today introduced the Paycheck Security Act to cover the wages and benefits of employees of affected businesses and non-profits until the economic and public health crisis is resolved. 

“Without aggressive action to help workers keep their jobs and businesses stay open, we risk an economic disaster that could take decades to repair,” said Sen. Warner. “Right now nearly 39 million Americans are out of work due to the coronavirus. This is hitting working class folks particularly hard, with 40 percent of all workers making under $40,000 out of work right now. We need to be thinking big and helping people who have lost their jobs. Our proposal will create a national paycheck security program for American workers and help businesses keep their lights on during the darkest days of this crisis. Paycheck security means the federal government would help cover the payroll expenses for rank-and-file workers who have been furloughed or laid off because of the coronavirus, so that families can avert financial calamity and workers can stay connected to employers and health benefits while we get through this crisis.” 

“This unprecedented crisis demands an unprecedented legislative response,” said Sen. Sanders. “We cannot continue to allow tens of millions of Americans to lose their jobs, income, and health insurance during this horrific pandemic.  In order to avoid another Great Depression, Congress must act boldly and aggressively to ensure that every American worker receives their paycheck and health insurance until this crisis is over.  The Paycheck Security Act we are introducing today will provide the urgent financial assistance that working families and small businesses desperately need to pay their bills and make ends meet.”

“As Americans continue to struggle through the health and economic crisis we’re facing, Congress needs to continue to provide relief to workers and small businesses – the lifeblood of our economy. The Paycheck Security Act would direct economic relief to American workers who are suffering by helping employers maintain their payroll,” Sen. Jones said. “Our legislation is exactly the type of big, bold approach that we need to take, given the scale of this crisis. If we can provide the resources that businesses need to tide them over until it is safe to re-open, we can keep more folks safe and help keep workers on the payroll and receiving vital benefits like health insurance. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to include this in the next relief package, so that we can continue to help the people in Alabama and throughout our country who need it most.” 

“Instead of allowing businesses to go into free fall and trying to pick up the pieces later, we’re proposing a guardrail at the edge of the precipice. Our plan gives workers the steady comfort of a consistent paycheck from an employer they can go back to when the crisis abates. And we’re offering business the ability to hold onto those workers, so they can start up again as easily as possible. If we fail to take aggressive relief measures now, we’ll kneecap our future recovery,” said Sen. Blumenthal.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, nearly 39 million workers have filed for unemployment. More than 20 million people lost their jobs in the month of April alone, the most in a single month on record. An estimated 27 million people have already lost their employer-provided health insurance coverage, and millions more could lose coverage before this crisis is over. The unemployment rate is likely close to 20 percent, and could exceed the depths of the Great Depression in the coming months. 

The pandemic has also devastated small businesses and sole proprietors. A recent study found that more than 100,000 small businesses have already closed permanently as a result of the health and economic crisis.  Another recent surveyshowed that 52 percent of small businesses expect to go out of business within the next six months.  Allowing millions of small and independent businesses to fail will have a devastating impact on the economy and will make the road to recovery longer and harder.

Other countries have avoided the massive job losses seen in the United States primarily because their governments have adopted programs to keep workers on payroll and attached to their employers until this crisis is over. ThePaycheck Security Act would avert mass layoffs, stem catastrophic unemployment levels and prevent irreversible business losses with a refundable tax credit big enough ($90,000 annually per employee) to rehire and pay laid off and furloughed workers and restore their health care benefits. It will also provide small and mid-sized businesses with the funds they need to pay for rent, mortgages, utilities and other operating costs until they can reopen safely and sales begin to recover.

“I am supportive of this strong proposal which builds upon the Paycheck Protection Program and Employee Retention Tax Credit,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

“Our country is facing a once-in-a-lifetime economic crisis with nearly 1 in 5 Americans unemployed. The response must meet the moment. In addition to significantly expanding payroll support, we must support small businesses that are being crushed and need cash to cover bills and replace inventory when they reopen. Without additional help many small businesses will not survive this crisis and it will take far longer to climb out of this economic ditch. This legislation would keep more employees on payroll and deliver critical help to the smallest, most vulnerable businesses,” said Finance Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

A more extensive summary of the bill is available here. Bill text can be found here

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) urged Senate leaders to ensure that nonprofit organizations like regional chambers of commerce, state restaurant associations, and groups representing law enforcement are able to receive the financial relief they need during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. In a letter, the Senators asked Senate leaders and leaders on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship to expand eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which currently excludes worthy non-profits that are listed under section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code.

“We’ve heard from many 501(c)(6)s that have been impacted by COVID-19 and are concerned that they will be unable to carry out their missions,” wrote the Senators. “Many 501(c)(6)s are struggling because of significant declines or uncertainty in their membership dues resulting from COVID-19, and many have had to cancel major events that they rely on for funding. 

They continued, “Throughout this pandemic, Congress has recognized that a whole of society effort is needed to combat COVID-19 and to mitigate its devastating economic impacts. Local chambers, for example, have been valuable partners in helping small business owners get up-to-date information about the assistance programs passed under the CARES Act. Law enforcement associations here in Virginia have provided vital information and training for their members related to COVID-19 as they keep our fellow citizens safe. Education associations have supported teachers and school leaders with webinars and other professional development resources as they abruptly transitioned to serving students through remote instruction.”

Virginia’s significant number of 501(c)(6) organizations include regional chambers of commerce, tourism and hospitality associations, medical associations, certified public accountant societies, state legal societies, state restaurant associations, groups representing law enforcement, among many others. According to some estimates, the Commonwealth has the third highest number of 501(c)(6) employees across the nation.

In their letter, the Senators also highlighted the essential role that many of these organizations are fulfilling during this challenging crisis. Specifically, the Senators requested that this PPP expansion be eligible for 501(c)(6) organizations that do not engage in substantial federal campaign or lobbying activities and can demonstrate economic hardship.

Text of the letter is available here or below.

 

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Chairman Rubio, and Ranking Member Cardin:

With your leadership, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) to create the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a powerful program to support small businesses and some non-profits as they deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we have concerns that PPP’s eligibility criteria have shut out some worthy non-profits that are listed under section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code. 

We’ve heard from many 501(c)(6)s that have been impacted by COVID-19 and are concerned that they will be unable to carry out their missions. Many 501(c)(6)s are struggling because of significant declines or uncertainty in their membership dues resulting from COVID-19, and many have had to cancel major events that they rely on for funding. We’re hopeful that as you consider modifications to the PPP, you will expand the program to include 501(c)(6) non-profits that do not engage in substantial federal campaign or lobbying activities and can demonstrate economic hardship. 

501(c)(6) organizations include regional chambers of commerce, tourism and hospitality associations, medical associations, certified public accountant societies, state legal societies, state restaurant associations, groups representing law enforcement, among many others. Many of these 501(c)(6) organizations are filling an essential role on the front lines of our nation’s COVID-19 response, providing their members with services and guidance necessary to help them through this challenging time. 

The Commonwealth of Virginia has a significant number of 501(c)(6) organizations and Virginians employed by them. According to some estimates, Virginia has the third most 501(c)(6) employees in the country. We’re proud of the work these Virginians do to support their communities and local businesses and do not believe they should be excluded from the PPP, which might be the deciding factor in whether their organization can keep its doors open. 

Throughout this pandemic, Congress has recognized that a whole of society effort is needed to combat COVID-19 and to mitigate its devastating economic impacts. Local chambers, for example, have been valuable partners in helping small business owners get up-to-date information about the assistance programs passed under the CARES Act. Law enforcement associations here in Virginia have provided vital information and training for their members related to COVID-19 as they keep our fellow citizens safe. Education associations have supported teachers and school leaders with webinars and other professional development resources as they abruptly transitioned to serving students through remote instruction.

Thank you for taking this important consideration into account as you work to help our economy and communities cope with the economic impacts of COVID-19. We look forward to continuing our work together as we pursue bipartisan approaches to managing and overcoming this crisis. 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was joined by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ranking Member of the Banking Committee, and fellow Committee members Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Doug Jones (D-AL) in pushing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to make sure that minority and low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities get proper access to the critical assistance made available under the CARES Act and the recently enacted Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (PPP Enhancement Act).

“As you know, the public health and economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak have been particularly disproportionate and severe for LMI and minority communities. Congress took important first steps to help address the acute impact being felt in these communities by passing the PPP Enhancement Act. This legislation includes important set-asides for community and mission oriented lenders,” the Senators wrote in a letter today, urging Mnuchin and Powell to take several steps to make funds available to minority depository institutions (MDIs) and mission-oriented leaders like community development financial institutions (CDFIs).

“MDIs and CDFIs are effective gateways to serving LMI communities and minority households and communities with high concentrations of minority populations. Data indicates that MDIs tend to serve communities in which a higher share of the population lives in LMI census tracts and a higher share of residents are minorities, compared with non-MDI banks,” the Senators noted. “In addition, MDIs tend to originate a greater share of their mortgages for properties in LMI census tracts and to minority borrowers when compared with non-MDI community banks. Compared with non-MDIs, MDIs also originate a greater share of SBA 7(a) loans to borrowers in LMI census tracts and to borrowers in census tracts with higher shares of minority residents. Similarly, CDFIs have demonstrated a strong track record of success in reaching LMI and minority communities. Getting critical dollars into these communities quickly can mean all the difference for these hard-hit communities.”

The full text of today’s letter is available below, and a copy of the letter is available here.

 

April 27, 2020

The Honorable Jerome H. Powell

Chairman

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20551 

The Honorable Steven Mnuchin

Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Chairman Powell and Secretary Mnuchin:

Thank you for your ongoing work to help stabilize the U.S. economy and provide assistance to businesses and workers during the unprecedented health emergency caused by the onset of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  We appreciate your continued efforts to implement the various economic support programs Congress enacted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  As the Federal Reserve and Treasury move forward with these efforts, we believe it is critical to ensure that minority and low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities get proper access to the critical assistance made available under the CARES Act and the recently enacted Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (PPP Enhancement Act).

As you know, the public health and economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak have been particularly disproportionate and severe for LMI and minority communities.  Congress took important first steps to help address the acute impact being felt in these communities by passing the PPP Enhancement Act.  This legislation includes important set-asides for community and mission oriented lenders.  In order to help better achieve the goals of the PPP Enhancement Act and increase the flow of credit directly into minority and LMI communities, we urge you to take the following steps:

(1)         allocate a significant portion of the $30 billion in new funds made available under the PPP Enhancement Act for minority depository institutions (MDIs) and mission-oriented lenders like community development financial institutions (CDFIs); 

(2)         provide these institutions with direct access to the Federal Reserve’s Paycheck Protection Program Lending (PPPL) Facility;

(3)         to the extent practicable, modify the settlement timeline for the PPPL Facility from T+1 to T+0 (or same day settlement) to ensure adequate liquidity for these institutions; and

(4)         indemnify these institutions from any put-backs or invalidation of guarantee from the SBA absent lender fraud.

In addition, we strongly urge you to work through the regional Federal Reserve Banks in order to conduct advance outreach to these institutions with the goal of facilitating uptake of the PPPL Facility.  This includes providing the training and tools necessary to quickly access and utilize these important programs. 

MDIs and CDFIs are effective gateways to serving LMI communities and minority households and communities with high concentrations of minority populations.  Data indicates that MDIs tend to serve communities in which a higher share of the population lives in LMI census tracts and a higher share of residents are minorities, compared with non-MDI banks.  In addition, MDIs tend to originate a greater share of their mortgages for properties in LMI census tracts and to minority borrowers when compared with non-MDI community banks.  Compared with non-MDIs, MDIs also originate a greater share of SBA 7(a) loans to borrowers in LMI census tracts and to borrowers in census tracts with higher shares of minority residents.   Similarly, CDFIs have demonstrated a strong track record of success in reaching LMI and minority communities. 

Getting critical dollars into these communities quickly can mean all the difference for these hard-hit communities.  We appreciate your continued efforts to help sustain the American economy during these challenging times and look forward to working together to help minority and LMI communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Thank you for your consideration.   

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Virginia Beach, VA - Yesterday, Congresswoman Elaine Luria and Senator Mark Warner joined a tele-townhall hosted by the Eastern Shore Chambers of Commerce (ESCC). During the town hall, both elected officials and members of the Chambers of Commerce fielded questions from constituents regarding the Coronavirus epidemic and its impact on the local economy, specifically looking at tourism, seasonal businesses, and those in retirement.  

“With a booming tourism industry that runs on a seasonal schedule, many constituents had questions about the stay-at-home order what their government is doing to help them,” said Congresswoman Elaine Luria. “I appreciated this opportunity to discuss how to the CARES Act will provide support to the tourism industry and small businesses. I was thankful to be joined by Senator Warner as we learn how to best serve the Commonwealth.” 

“I want to thank the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce and the Eastern Shore Tourism Council for hosting us on a call today so that we could hear directly from small businesses and non-profits struggling with the economic downturn in light of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Senator Mark R. Warner. “I was grateful for the opportunity to share a little more about the relief provisions included in the CARES Act, and to listen to leaders in Eastern Shore about what Congress must do next to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.” 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the SIMPLE Plan Modernization Act, a bipartisan bill to provide small business employers and employees greater flexibility and access to the popular SIMPLE plans as an option for retirement savings. The legislation has the backing of the AARP.  

Congress established SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) retirement plans in the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 to encourage small businesses to provide their employees with retirement plans. However, retirement plans among small employers continue to be less commonly offered than those provided by medium and large employers. While these smaller businesses had access to tax-favored retirement savings plans, including traditional 401(k)s, those plans are more expensive to administer.

“The changing nature of work has redefined the employee-employer dynamic, making it harder for small businesses to offer traditional safety net protections for workers,” said Sen. Warner. “We should make it easier for small business owners and their employees to begin saving for their retirement. This legislation is one step towards helping the American workforce prepare for the future.”

“In my home state of Maine, the vast majority of businesses are eligible to sign their employees up for SIMPLE Plans.  Financial advisors from Presque Isle to Portland have shared their concerns that neither employees nor their employers are in a good position to save for retirement,” said Sen. Collins. “We must give small businesses and employees a better opportunity to save for retirement, and this legislation will provide such an opportunity.”

Businesses with 100 or fewer employees may currently create SIMPLE retirement savings accounts for their employees, so long as the employers do not have another employer-sponsored retirement plan.

The proposed legislation would increase the contribution limit for SIMPLE plans. Increasing the limit would achieve two basic goals: 1) Motivate more small business employers to offer a retirement savings benefit to their employees and 2) Allow small business employees to save even more each year on a tax-deferred basis. 

The SIMPLE Plan Modernization Act would: 

  1. Raise the contribution limit for SIMPLE plans from $12,500 to $15,500 (halfway between current SIMPLE plans and traditional 401(k)s) for the smallest businesses (1 to 25 employees), with a corresponding increase in the catch-up limit from $3,000 to $4,500.
  2. Give businesses with 26 to 100 employees the option of the higher contribution limits, and, in order to continue to encourage them to transition to 401(k)s when they can do so, increase their SIMPLE plan mandatory employer contribution requirements by one percentage point if they elect the higher limits. 
  3. Allow for a reasonable transition period for employers who hire additional employees above 25.
  4. Make the limit increases unavailable if the employer has had another defined contribution plan within the past three years (to encourage businesses that already have qualified plans to retain them).
  5. Modernize SIMPLE plan form filing requirements and modify the transition rules from SIMPLE plans to traditional plans to facilitate and encourage such transitions.
  6. Direct Treasury to study the use of SIMPLE plans and report to Congress on such use, along with any recommendations.

Sen. Warner has been a leader in finding solutions to the 21st century generational and technological changes that have led to perhaps the most dramatic transformation in the American economy in decades. He has introduced legislation that encourages employers to invest more in quality skills training for their workers. In addition, he has proposed a bill that would test-drive programs that provide contingent workers with “portable benefits” that have many of the social insurance protections typically offered to workers through traditional full-time employment.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued a report that for the first time in years provided a snapshot of the contingent and alternative worker population.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Contingent Worker and Alternative Work Arrangement Supplement (CWS) to the Current Population Survey (CPS)  is considered the gold standard of measuring who is doing what in the American workforce, but data about the size and scope of the contingent workforce had not been collected since 2005 after its funding was eliminated. Since then, the federal government had struggled to keep up with an explosion in new technology and changes to the nature of work that have increased the range of opportunities for workers to pursue flexible arrangements. In the Senate, Sen. Warner led the charge in restoring funding to help collect this data and requesting the Department of Labor to relaunch the survey that culminated in this report.

 “The federal government and the general public have lacked for many years reliable data to help paint a clear picture of our contingent workforce and their future. Without this crucial information, policymakers and experts are in the dark about the size and needs of this population, making it harder to find common ground on solutions that will help them navigate our intricate labor market. For this reason, I urged the federal government to re-establish these best practices and issue this report, which will help provide us with a direct understanding of what this part of our workforce looks like.

“Today’s news show that contingent workers play a significant role in our economy, with tens of millions of Americans - more than one in ten workers - identified as independent contractors, temps, and contract-firm workers. An while the data shows that there’s been a downward shift in the number of people who rely on contingent work as their main job, we still don’t know how many of them do so in order to supplement their income. Without this crucial piece of data, it will be tough for us to make an accurate assessment of the best way to help this dynamic segment of workers receive more training and resources, access a system of portable benefits they can carry from job to job, and file their taxes and claim deductions and credits. I will continue pushing the federal government and outside experts to fill-in these gaps and provide a full picture of this part of our workforce, and expect to seek more information on the tax challenges of these workers in the near future.”    

For years, Sen. Warner has been urging the federal government to collect better, more complete data on the number and type of workers who are part of the contingent workforce economy. Estimates of the contingent labor force range from a few percentage points to nearly a third of the American labor force engaging in some type of independent work arrangement. 

Last year, Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan legislation to test and evaluate innovative portable-benefits models for independent workers. He is also the author of bipartisan legislation aimed at increasing the availability of job training to lower- and moderate-income workers, in an effort to stay on top of the rapidly changing technology and skills requirements for today’s workforce.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, released the following statement after the Senate voted 67-31 to pass S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act:  

“The bipartisan Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act that the Senate passed today will provide meaningful relief to Main Street. It will roll back unnecessary and burdensome regulations on credit unions and small community banks while ensuring that larger banks remain subject to the rules I helped put in place after the financial crisis. This bill is the result of years of tough negotiations between Democrats and Republicans and will help small lenders provide mortgages and other credit to hardworking Virginians and small businesses. While this bill does not include everything Democrats wanted nor everything Republicans wanted, I’m proud of my colleagues for putting differences aside, finding common ground, and passing this bipartisan legislation. The House of Representatives should move swiftly to take up and pass this sensible, bipartisan bill.”

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance and Budget Committees, issued the below statement after the Senate voted along party lines 51-48 to approve the budget-busting GOP plan to cut taxes for corporations and the richest Americans:

“This is the worst piece of legislation we have passed since I arrived in the Senate.”

Nonpartisan analyses released yesterday confirm the final Trump-Republican tax bill will hike taxes on millions of middle-class Americans in order to pay for massive cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. By 2027, under the Trump-Republican tax bill, families earning under $75,000 would pay more in taxes than they do today – while the top 1 percent would enjoy the largest tax breaks, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).

And the Tax Policy Center estimated that 53 percent of American households will face tax hikes in 2027 while the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers will get an average tax cut of nearly $200,000. The top one percent of taxpayers are expected to receive 83 percent of tax benefits.  

On top of this, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that the true cost of the final, unpaid-for GOP tax bill is roughly $2.5 trillion, adding to our $20 trillion national debt. 

The bill now heads back to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass and be sent to the President for his signature without a single Democratic vote.

 

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WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the bipartisan Commonsense Reporting Act of 2017 to streamline and modernize employer reporting requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). This legislation would strike a balance between ensuring the Treasury Department has the necessary data to determine availability of affordable coverage, while cutting down on unnecessary paperwork and administrative costs for businesses.

The ACA requires employers and insurers to report information about health insurance coverage to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at the end of the tax year. The legislation directs the Treasury Department to implement an alternative, prospective reporting system that is more workable and less burdensome for employers than current regulations.

“This legislation couples important data collection with the flexibility and efficiency employers need to continue implementing the law,” said Sen. Warner. “It’s time to find common ground with serious legislative efforts that provide more affordable, accessible, and quality health care to all Americans, regardless of where they purchase their coverage. Americans deserve better – hopefully this is the first step of many bipartisan solutions.” 

“I have heard from hundreds of employers in Ohio that have spent hundreds of administrative hours attempting to comply with the reporting requirements in the Affordable Care Act. This added time and resources has not improved the quality of health insurance employers offered but only further discouraged employers from offering health insurance and hiring more workers. This bipartisan bill will help streamline the reporting process by allowing employers to report information to the IRS prospectively, easing the burden for employers and employees,” said Sen. Portman.

The Commonsense Reporting Act streamlines this process by establishing a voluntarily system which would allow employers to report pertinent information before open enrollment begins, to minimize the administrative burden at the back-end, and limit the collection of unneeded information.

The Commonsense Reporting Act has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, America’s Health Insurance Plans, Retail Industry Leaders Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association, American Rental Association, American Staffing Association, National Association of Convenience Stores, National Association of Health Underwriters, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, National Business Group on Health, National Federation of Independent Business, National Grocers Association, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation, NATSO for America’s Truck and Travel Stops.

A summary of this legislation can be found here. The full text is also available here

 

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Warner & Kaine Reintroduce Small Business Legislation, The Marketplace Fairness Act

"Small businesses are being forced to compete on an uneven playing field. Local, brick-and-mortar business collect sales taxes from their customers – but many large, online vendors do not."

Apr 28 2017

"Small businesses are being forced to compete on an uneven playing field. Local, brick-and-mortar business collect sales taxes from their customers – but many large, online vendors do not."