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By Gary Thill
As the federal government extended its stay at home guidance until May 1, and the economic and health severity of the coronavirus pandemic sets in, roofers nationwide are left with questions surrounding the $2.2 trillion “phase 3” relief package. Other industry leaders are calling for additional measures to help contractors directly.
Already, the economic impacts of the coronavirus are being felt, according to new survey results from NRCA. More than 40 percent of roofers said the coronavirus is having a significant and steadily increasing effect on their businesses and nearly 17% said they had begun laying off workers as a result. In another survey, the Association of General Contractors of America said 27% of contractors are laying off workers and 55% are being told to delay or cancel projects due to the pandemic.
On the face of it, the small business portion of the package offers much needed relief. The Paycheck Protection Program provides $350 billion in U.S. Small Business Administration loans to small businesses under 500 employees and nonprofits for the purpose of maintaining existing workforce. It also includes $17 billion for the SBA to cover six months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.
The U.S. Treasury Department's PPP Fact Sheet offers the following guidance:
But roofers need clarification on several aspects of the program, according to Duane Musser, NRCA’s vice president of government relations. Musser said he’s working 12-hour days just trying to make sense of the legislation and fielding questions from roofers. He said a town hall on the subject drew more than 3,000 callers.
“We are in completely uncharted territory here,” he said. “I’ve been working in DC for 30 years, and there’s never been anything like this in terms of legislation, because we’ve never had a situation like this.”
Musser said the biggest question facing roofers is how the seasonal nature of some businesses affects their eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program funds. “There’s just a lot of questions about the very specific things that need to be done by employers,” he said. “You need to look at the specific requirements and see how it applies to your situation.”
Musser said the SBA is expected to have more guidance on applying for the loans, and the qualifications for doing so, in the coming weeks.
While most agree the relief package is a good start, the Associated General Contractors of America called for more measures to help firms cope with the economic fallout. “The industry will not be able to truly recover until federal officials pass measures designed to stimulate new demand for construction, make contractors whole for losses because of the coronavirus and protect employee retirement and health plans,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s CEO.
Meanwhile, roofers are also wondering how to address “phase 2” legislation, The Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Generally, the act provides that employers with 500 employees or less must provide the following to all employees employed for at least 30 days:
Musser said the size and speed at which the relief legislation came down has made it difficult for him and his team to make sense of it — let alone roofers themselves. “What normally would have taken months or even years to pass was done in one week. And what would normally take weeks, months or even years to rollout is being done in a few days,” he said. “Because of the need for speed and the severity, it’s new for everyone involved. So it’s very challenging.”