By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory and legal issues, ARTBA

There were several key regulatory developments this week regarding federal contracts, worker payrolls, and environmental regulation.

New “Hire American” Order

President Donald Trump Aug. 3 signed an executive order requiring that jobs created through federal contracts be filled by American citizens. It directs agencies to review all contracts since 2018 and determine whether American workers were adversely impacted by awarding work to foreign companies.

Additionally, within 45 days, the secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security are directed to take action “to protect United States workers from any adverse effects on wages and working conditions caused by the employment of H-1B visa holders.”  The order does not detail what specific action is to be taken.

It is important to note that the order applies to contracts entered into directly with federal agencies (such as work for the Department of Defense) and does not include federal-aid contracts, such as work done for state departments of transportation. The order appears to be directed at a recent decision by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to outsource a number of technology jobs to foreign corporations, as cited by Trump.

ARTBA will continue to monitor the implementation of the order by federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), enacted in March to help businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to evolve through legislative and regulatory processes:

  • In an Aug. 4 letter, ARTBA and industry allies asked Congress in its next pandemic relief package to clarify that any forgiven PPP loan debt be excluded from the borrower’s taxable income.

  • In an Aug. 5 letter, the groups also asked Congress to consider lowering a proposed threshold for businesses to obtain a second PPP loan from revenue losses of 50 percent to 20 percent.

  • The Small Business Administration Aug. 4 published new guidance clarifying the requirements for having a PPP loan forgiven.

ARTBA will continue to monitor all PPP loan program developments and advocate for our members as the program continues to help the transportation construction community.

EPA Cost-Benefit Proposal

Regulatory costs are important to the transportation construction community because counties that don’t meet Clean Air Act standards can have federal highway funding withheld.

In an Aug. 3 letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ARTBA supported the agency’s proposal to consider both the costs and the benefits of proposed clean air act regulations. ARTBA also supported the proposal at a July 1 public hearing.