After days of negotiations, marked by rapidly shifting proposals, the fate of a new coronavirus relief and economic stimulus bill was unresolved at ENR press time. Engineering and construction groups favor legislation providing more funds and policy changes. If Congress doesn’t act, they fear that lack of a deal will harm contractors and workers.
Brian Turmail, an Associated General Contractors of America spokesman, said, “Absent new federal relief measures—including liability protections, new infrastructure investments and relief for state and local construction budgets—many more construction workers will lose their jobs as firms struggle to survive.” Jeff Urbanchuk, an American Council of Engineering Cos. spokesman, said, “America’s small businesses, including thousands of small and midsize engineering consultancies and the professionals they employ, are looking to Washington for certainty.” For the Associated Builders and Contractors, key items include more funds for the Paycheck Protection Program’s forgivable small-business loans. Kristen Swearingen, an ABC vice president, calls PPP “a vital lifeline” for construction.
Negotiatons between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were underway when President Donald Trump suddenly called off talks Oct. 6. Sean McGarvey, North America’s Building Trades Unions president, said he was “appalled” by the action.
Trump soon shifted, endorsing more funds, but only for PPP, airlines and payments to individuals. Pelosi favored a broad $2.2-trillion plan, a $200-billion cut from an earlier one. Then on Oct. 9, Mnuchin proposed a $1.8-trillion offer, up from an earlier $1.6 trillion, but Pelosi criticized it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Oct. 13 said he will take up a “targeted relief” bill, including PPP funds. But Trump, on the same day, tweeted: “STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!”