AHC Latest News- May 1, 2020

The following is from the American Horse Council:

May 1, 2020
Special COVID-19 Issue

Copyright © 2020 American Horse Council

The AHC News is provided to you as a benefit of your AHC membership, and we hope you find the articles informative and useful. While the AHC does grant permission for newsletter articles to be passed on, we hope you will encourage those you are sharing the articles and information with to join the AHC so they can stay informed and up-to-date!

Permission to pass on the AHC News articles to your members, readers, or others is granted on the condition that it is forwarded in its original form or directly linked with the AHC logo and a link to the AHC website.

Don’t forget to read all the way to the bottom of the newsletter as there’s some great stuff down there.

Resources for Horse Owners

State Guidelines Create Patchwork of “Re-Open” Plans

Since the Administration released its Guidelines for Opening Up America Again on April 17, 31 states have initiated plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions, often adopting a tiered approach segmented by region and economic sector.  While the voluntary, state-based approach invites diverse re-open plans, two states – New York and Texas – illustrate different strategies to get back to business.   On Tuesday, April 28, New York Governor Cuomo outlined a 12-step program to reopen.  The plan requires that each of the state’s ten regions demonstrates “a 14-day decline in the hospitalization rate” before initiating a phased re-opening.  The plan further provides that “phase one will include opening construction and manufacturing functions” with low risk of infection rates.  The plan provides that phase two will open certain industries based on relative risk levels that the business might present for potential infection of COVID-19.  Importantly for racetracks and horseshows, the plan states that “regions must not open attractions or businesses that would draw a large number of visitors from outside the local area.”  Because COVID-19 restrictions are currently set to expire on May 15, it’s possible that some regions begin to initiate the first phase during the next two weeks.

In Texas, the “stay at home” restriction expired on Thursday, April 30.   According to Governor Abbott, beginning Friday, May 1,  “all retail stores, churches, restaurants, movie theaters, and malls are permitted to reopen.” The governor states that these “services must limit their capacity to 25 percent of their listed occupancy.”  Unlike New York, the Texas plan also sets a hard date for Phase Two, set to begin May 18.  Under this scenario, the state will ease restrictions on health clubs and hair salons.  While the plan offers little detail about sporting events at this time, it does stipulate that athletic activities involving four or fewer participants can resume, so long as there is no physical contact.  It’s also worth noting that the PGA announced in mid-April its intent to resume tournaments in Texas, without spectators, beginning in mid-June.

Consistent with the PGA’s decision to conduct events without spectators, on Wednesday, April 29, Churchill Downs stated that it would re-open its stable area on May 11.  The racetrack also announced that it will conduct the Spring Meet, originally scheduled to open on March 17, without spectators.  On April 25, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) stated that it would continue to suspend “all USEF owned and named events, selection trials, training camps, clinics and activities” through May 31, 2020.  USEF also states that “this suspension includes points, scores, money won, qualifications, or rankings toward any USEF award programs, USEF owned and named events, or selection to a US team including USEF National Championships.”  It concludes by saying that “upon the expiration of this suspension, competitions must comply with requirements issued by USEF for operating sport horse competitions in this environment.”

While specific states and industries begin to outline plans to re-open, the process remains fluid and will be driven by new federal policies, among other factors.  For example, Congress is discussing inclusion of civil liability protections within the context of the next economic relief package to expedite a ramping up of business activity.  AHC will continue to share information related to re-opening sectors of the economy and the horse industry as events develop.

Details: Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org.

Resources for Small Businesses

SBA Kicks Off Second Round of Emergency Loans, Expands Eligibility for Paycheck Protection

Since Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Health Care Enhancement Act (aka, CARES Act 2.0) last Friday, on Monday, April 27, the SBA began to continue processing applications for the Paycheck Protection and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs.  Demand for PPP has not subsided since having initially run out of funds totaling $350 billion on April 16.  As of Tuesday, April 28, SBA reported that it had approved approximately 476,000 loans worth $52 billion.  Because Congress allocated an additional $310 billion to keep the program afloat, it’s possible that lending institutions could disburse currently available funds during the next several days.

While the demand for funds remains high, the Administration has continued to issue guidance clarifying eligibility for certain segments of the horse industry.  On Friday, April 24, SBA clarified that “businesses receiving legal gaming revenues,” including racetracks, would be eligible for PPP so long as they meet the “500 employee or less” threshold and other requirements.  To view a copy of the Interim Final Rule for racetracks, please go to the following link: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/Interim-Final-Rule-on-Requirements-for-Promissory-Notes-Authorizations-Affiliation-and-Eligibility.pdf.  Also on April 24, the Treasury released guidance stating that farmers who file an IRS Form 1040, Schedule F can qualify for Paycheck Protection.  This is good news for many breeding farms and other agricultural operations.  To view a copy of the Treasury FAQ clarifying Schedule F eligibility for PPP, please see the following:  https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/How-to-Calculate-Loan-Amounts.pdf.  To deliver relief for many recreational riders, federal regulators have provided some clarity for seasonal businesses.  On April 27, SBA issued an Interim Final Rule stating that seasonal employers can use an “alternative base period” to calculate payroll costs that more closely aligns with their operations.  To view a copy of the Interim Final Rule granting payroll calculation flexibility for seasonal businesses, please see the following:  https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/Interim-Final-Rule-Additional-Criterion-for-Seasonal-Employers.pdf.

While federal policy makers continue to specify eligibility requirements for Paycheck Protection, the horse industry and its allies advocate for additional, expanded relief measures.  AHC, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and other partners are pushing for more resources for agriculture lenders to distribute PPP loans.  With respect to eligible entities, AHC is working directly with AFBF to explore ways to extend the program to trade associations and other non-profits who file as 501(C)(5) operations.  Also, AHC and other equine groups have joined the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) to secure participation for 501(C)(6) groups, which includes many trade and professional associations.  AHC will continue to keep members informed of next steps on Paycheck Protection and other economic relief measures.

Details:  Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org.

Administration Suspends Entry of New Immigrants Into the U.S., With Some Exceptions

On April 22, President Trump announced that the Administration would suspend entry of certain “immigrants” into the country for a period of 60 days, citing economic conditions arising from COVID-19.  Fortunately for members of the horse industry and broader agricultural community who may continue to rely on guest workers under the H-2B and H-2A programs, the restriction will not add to delays for their guest workers who have not yet entered the country and still plan to do so.  While the executive action is relatively narrow in scope by focusing on candidates for a “green card,” subject to other exceptions, the Administration has left the door open for possible expansion of the ban to other classes of workers.  The order provides that “within 30 days of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and Secretary of Homeland Security … shall review non-immigrant programs (emphasis added) and … recommend … other measures appropriate to stimulate the U.S. economy.”

Federal agencies have different rules for foreign nationals based on the amount of time they have access to the U.S.  Federal law defines an “immigrant” as a foreign national who has the right to reside permanently in the United States and work without restrictions.  However, the government grants temporary access to the U.S. for “non-immigrants,” which includes guest worker visa holders who traditionally support breeding farms, racing operations and other segments of the horse industry.

The Administration’s decision to focus on foreign labor and contemplate further restrictions adds uncertainty to the guest worker visas programs.  As you recall, Congress authorized a substantial increase in the cap on H-2B guest worker visa-holders within the context of Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 spending legislation.  In early March, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would release 35,000 supplemental H-2B visas pursuant to the spending law.  On April 2, however, DHS announced on its Twitter feed that the agency continues to review the H-2B rule, thereby delaying possible release of the supplemental visas.

To view a copy of the presidential order, go to the following link;  https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspending-entry-immigrants-present-risk-u-s-labor-market-economic-recovery-following-covid-19-outbreak/.

Details: Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org.

Resources for Non-Profits

Our focus this week is on Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy Centers,  and we’d like to urge centers to use the great resources compiled by AHC member, PATH International.

In these confusing days with an abundance of information that everyone is receiving, the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) has created a web page to gather information specific to equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT). Here you will find COVID-19 resources, including sample documents for re-opening business, the PATH Intl.-generated COVID-19 bulletins to share information to care for not only our businesses but also our equine partners, and webinars that have been created by PATH Intl. professionals to help us all navigate the current situation. Information on new webinars are placed in the COVID-19 bulletins as well as PATH Intl. social media channels. 


Resources for Equine Associations

The United Horse Coalition has developed a “mutual aid” spreadsheet which state horse councils and equine associations are welcome to use and adapt to your needs to facilitate neighbors helping neighbors. People can post things they need and people can post resources they can provide.  Contact UHC@horsecouncil.org for a free copy!

Details: Ashley Harkins @ UHC@horsecouncil.org

On a lighter note…..

Get your Hats and Mint Juleps ready and check out the virtual Kentucky Derby!

And check out the industry’s latest ambassadors – Whiskey & Lulu at home with Arnold.