DOL ISSUES FINAL RULE TO SIMPLIFY RETAIL OR SERVICE ESTABLISHMENT EXEMPTION

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a final rule to provide greater simplicity and flexibility to retail industry employers.

Provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allow employers in retail and service industries to exempt certain employees paid primarily on a commission basis from overtime.

Today’s rule withdraws two provisions from the Department’s Wage and Hour Division regulations. The first listed industries that the Department previously viewed as having “no retail concept,” which made them ineligible to claim the exemption. The second listed industries that, in the Department’s view, “may be recognized as retail,” and were potentially eligible for the exemption. As the rule explains, some courts have questioned whether these lists lack any rational basis.

By withdrawing these two lists, establishments in industries that had been on the non-retail list may now assert that they have a retail concept and—if they meet the existing definition of retail and other criteria—may now qualify for the exemption. Insofar as these establishments were deterred from availing themselves of the exemption and its flexibilities, they may now do so if they qualify—including by having more flexibility to work with workers on commission-based pay arrangements. For these employers and workers, they could consider whether, for instance, more commission-based pay is sensible.

Establishments in industries that were on the “may be” retail list may continue to assert they have a retail concept.

Moving forward, the Department will apply the same analysis to all establishments to determine whether they have a retail concept and qualify as retail or service establishments, promoting greater simplicity and flexibility for employers and workers alike.

“This final rule unshackles job creators in the retail space who had previously been categorically excluded from the exemption without notice and comment,” said Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton. “Permitting all retail employers to potentially qualify for this exemption can increase flexibility for businesses and workers. Eliminating confusion empowers job creators to grow their businesses, comply with the law and provide even more good jobs for American workers.”

The Department is issuing this rule without notice and comment, and it will take immediate effect. Neither notice and comment nor a delayed effective date are needed because both lists being withdrawn were interpretive regulations originally issued in 1961 without notice and comment or a delay.

DOC Issues Expected Final 90-Day Extension of Temporary General License Authorizations

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced today it is extending the terms of the existing Temporary General License (TGL) authorizations for Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and its non-U.S. affiliates (Huawei) on the Entity List for 90 days. The terms and duration of any future general licenses will be announced prior to the expiration of this 90-day time period.

This announcement follows public comments received from numerous companies, associations, and individuals about the TGL. The Department continues to assess the national security and foreign policy implications of companies and individuals that have not yet transitioned from Huawei equipment.

The 90-day extension provides an opportunity for users of Huawei devices and telecommunication providers—particularly those in rural U.S. communities—to continue to temporarily operate such devices and existing networks while hastening the transition to alternative suppliers.

In announcing this extension, the Department is also notifying the public that activities authorized in the TGL may be revised and possibly eliminated after August 13, 2020. Companies and persons relying on TGL authorizations should begin preparations to determine the specific, quantifiable impact of elimination if they have not done so already. Those companies and persons should be prepared to submit license applications to the Department to determine which, if any, activities will be authorized in the event that their TGL authorization is eliminated. The Department will provide prior notice via the Federal Register of a need to submit such applications.

The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) in the Department of Commerce is responsible for overseeing these export control activities. BIS’s mission is to advance U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives by ensuring an effective export control and treaty compliance system and promoting continued U.S. strategic technology leadership. BIS is committed to restricting U.S.-origin commodities and technology from use in support of Weapons of Mass Destruction projects, terrorism, or destabilizing military modernization programs.

Secretary of Commerce allocates $300 million in CARES Act aid to U.S. fishermen and seafood industries impacted by COVID-19

WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the allocation of $300 million in economic relief to U.S. fishermen and seafood industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds were allocated as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), signed into law on March 27 by President Trump.

Commercial fishing, charter/for-hire businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and parts of the seafood sector in coastal states and territories are among those eligible to apply for funds. Tribes are also eligible for funding including for any negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries. The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will work with the three Interstate Marine Fishery Commissions, organizations with a demonstrated track record of success in disbursing funds, to quickly deliver financial assistance into the hands of those who need it.

“This relief package will support America’s fishermen and our seafood sector’s recovery,” said U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “Thank you President Trump, Secretary Mnuchin, and our Congressional leaders of both parties for your work to pass the historic legislation that is bringing much needed relief to America’s fishermen. This Administration stands with the men and women working to provide healthy and safe seafood during this uniquely challenging time, while our U.S. fisheries work to continue to support 1.7 million jobs and to generate $200 billion in annual sales. The Nation is grateful to our fishermen for their commitment.”

Acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., lauded today’s announcement.

“For generations, our coastal communities have taken great pride in delivering protein-rich seafood to dinner tables across the country and enabling access to our world class recreational fisheries,” said Jacobs. “NOAA thanks our partners in the interstate marine fisheries commissions, states, territories, and tribes for their assistance. Together, we will work to distribute these funds as quickly as possible.”

In addition to these funds, the President recently signed into law other Federal financial assistance programs, including several programs at the Small Business Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture, that can provide help to fishermen and related businesses.

DOC to Initiate Section 232 Investigation into Mobile Crane Imports

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced today that the Department will initiate an investigation into whether the quantities or circumstances of mobile crane imports into the United States threaten to impair the national security. This decision follows a petition filed by domestic producer, The Manitowoc Company, Inc. (Manitowoc), on December 19, 2019, requesting that the Department of Commerce launch an investigation into mobile crane imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, as amended.  The investigation, to be conducted by the Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security, will provide the opportunity for public comment once the rule is posted in the Federal Register.

“We will conduct this review thoroughly and expeditiously,” said Secretary Ross. “This investigation will help determine whether mobile cranes are being imported in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair U.S. national security.”

Manitowoc alleges that increased imports of low-priced mobile cranes, particularly from Germany, Austria, and Japan, and intellectual property (IP) infringement by foreign competition,have harmed the domestic mobile crane manufacturing industry.The Department of Homeland Security has identified mobile cranes as a critical industry because of their extensive use in national defense applications, as well as in critical infrastructure sectors.

The petitioner claims the low-priced imports and IP infringement resulted in the closure of one of its two production facilities in the United States and eliminated hundreds of skilled manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin.  Manitowoc cites the U.S. International Trade Commission’s (USITC) Dataweb to note that imports of mobile cranes increased 152% between 2014 and 2019, and a 2015 finding that a Chinese manufacturer misappropriated six trade secrets and infringed on a patent, resulting in the USITC banning the sale of a Chinese crane in the United States.

Commerce Tightens Restrictions on Technology Exports to Combat Chinese, Russian and Venezuelan Military Circumvention Efforts

The Department of Commerce announced today new export control actions to prevent efforts by entities in China, Russia, and Venezuela to acquire U.S. technology that could be used in development of weapons, military aircraft, or surveillance technology through civilian supply chains, or under civilian-use pretenses, for military end uses and military end-users.

“It is important to consider the ramifications of doing business with countries that have histories of diverting goods purchased from U.S. companies for military applications,” said Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “Certain entities in China, Russia, and Venezuela have sought to circumvent America’s export controls, and undermine American interests in general, and so we will remain vigilant to ensure U.S. technology does not get into the wrong hands.”

Specifically, the rule changes include:

  • Expansion of Military End Use/User Controls (MEU)
    Expands MEU license requirements controls on China, Russia, and Venezuela to cover military end-users in all three countries, as well as items such as semiconductor equipment, sensors, and other technologies sought for military end use or by military end-users in these countries.
  • Removal of License Exception Civil End Users (CIV)
    Removes a license exception for exports, reexports, or transfers (in-country) to civilian
    end-users in countries of national security concern for National Security- (NS) controlled items.
  • Elimination of License Exception Additional Permissive Reexports (APR) Provisions
    Proposes to eliminate certain provisions of a license exception for partner countries involving the reexport of NS-controlled items to countries of national security concern to ensure consistent reviews of exports and reexports of U.S. items.

The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) in the Department of Commerce is responsible for overseeing these export control activities. BIS’s mission is to advance U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives by ensuring an effective export control and treaty compliance system and promoting continued U.S. strategic technology leadership. BIS is committed to restrict U.S.-origin commodities and technology from use in support of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) projects, terrorism, or destabilizing military modernization programs. For more information, please visit www.bis.doc.gov.

USPTO announces extension of certain patent and trademark-related timing deadlines

USPTO announces extension of certain patent and trademark-related timing deadlines under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced extensions to the time allowed to file certain patent and trademark-related documents and to pay certain required fees. These actions are an exercise of temporary authority provided to the USPTO by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) signed by President Trump on March 27. 

“Inventors and entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our economy, and we recognize that many of them are having difficulty as a result of COVID-19,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu. “As a result, we are working to provide as much relief as possible to our stakeholders, consistent with our ability to maintain the USPTO’s fee-funded operations. We are especially mindful of the outsized impact on small businesses and independent inventors, and we have provided additional relief for these groups. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure not only that inventors and entrepreneurs can weather the storm, but that they can also hit the ground running once it passes.” 

The USPTO has made operational adjustments to keep its employees and the public safe as it remains open for business. In-person meetings, such as hearings and examiner interviews, are being conducted virtually by phone and video until further notice.

SBA & Treasury Begin Unprecedented Public-Private Mobilization Effort to Distribute Funds

Following President Trump’s signing of the historic Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin today announced that the SBA and Treasury Department have initiated a robust mobilization effort of banks and other lending institutions to provide small businesses with the capital they need.

The CARES Act establishes a new $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program. The Program will provide much-needed relief to millions of small businesses so they can sustain their businesses and keep their workers employed.

“This unprecedented public-private partnership is going to assist small businesses with accessing capital quickly. Our goal is to position lenders as the single point-of-contact for small businesses – the application, loan processing, and disbursement of funds will all be administered at the community level,” said Administrator Carranza. “Speed is the operative word; applications for the emergency capital can begin as early as this week, with lenders using their own systems and processes to make these loans. We remain committed to supporting our nation’s more than 30 million small businesses and their employees, so that they can continue to be the fuel for our nation’s economic engine.”

“This legislation provides small business job retention loans to provide eight weeks of payroll and certain overhead to keep workers employed,” said Secretary Mnuchin. “Treasury and the Small Business Administration expect to have this program up and running by April 3rd so that businesses can go to a participating SBA 7(a) lender, bank, or credit union, apply for a loan, and be approved on the same day.  The loans will be forgiven as long as the funds are used to keep employees on the payroll and for certain other expenses.”

The new loan program will help small businesses with their payroll and other business operating expenses. It will provide critical capital to businesses without collateral requirements, personal guarantees, or SBA fees – all with a 100% guarantee from SBA. All loan payments will be deferred for six months. Most importantly, the SBA will forgive the portion of the loan proceeds that are used to cover the first eight weeks of payroll costs, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest.

The Paycheck Protection Program is specifically designed to help small businesses keep their workforce employed. Visit SBA.gov/Coronavirus for more information on the Paycheck Protection Program.

EXIM Board Approves $91.5 Million in U.S. Export Financing for Project in Senegal

WASHINGTON – The Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) yesterday unanimously approved approximately $91.5 million in loan guarantee financing that supports U.S. exports of design engineering and construction services to the Republic of Senegal. The transaction will increase access to reliable electricity for rural communities throughout Senegal while supporting an estimated 500 U.S. jobs in 14 states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

The transaction – which is expected to bring electricity to approximately 330,000 Senegalese in more than 400 villages – will advance four of EXIM’s priorities as set by Congress. Specifically, this transaction supports a small-business exporter, Weldy-Lamont LLC of Mt. Prospect, Illinois; the export of U.S. manufactured goods and services to sub-Saharan Africa; renewable energy technology through the export of solar panels; and the “Program on China and Transformational Exports” as outlined in EXIM’s recent reauthorization. United States-based Weldy-Lamont was selected for the project over foreign competition being supported by at least four other governments, including China.

This transaction also advances the goals of the Trump Administration’s Prosper Africa and the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA) initiatives, which aim to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa.

“The selection of Weldy-Lamont for this project is a significant win for not only for this Illinois-headquartered small business and its workers across fourteen states, but also for the United States and Senegal,” said EXIM President and Chairman Kimberly A. Reed. “Building on my discussion with Senegal’s Minister for Economy, Planning, and Cooperation Amadou Hott during our October 18, 2019, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signing ceremony, this transaction demonstrates Senegal’s willingness to consider alternative financing and export including those from the United States, for critical infrastructure needs beyond Chinese sources. We are pleased to support this U.S. small business as it exports its ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ renewable energy products to sub-Saharan Africa.”

“This deal fulfills several of EXIM’s goals, including supporting small businesses and competing with China on a global scale,” said EXIM Board Member Spencer Bachus III. “There’s no more important time for EXIM than today. With the spread of coronavirus, our job will be more challenging, but it will be more important than ever.”

“I can think of no better first project for us with the Republic of Senegal than this Weldy-Lamont deal to provide rural electrification to about 415 villages,” said EXIM Board Member Judith Pryor. “This deal is part of a whole-of-government approach that encompasses the goals of both Prosper Africa and Power Africa, and we are honored to work with our sister agencies toward these goals.”

The financing was approved under EXIM’s MOU with Senegal’s Ministry of Economy, Planning and Cooperation. The Senegal National Electricity Agency (Senelac) will be the borrower in the transaction and the buyer of the exports. Senegal’s Ministry of Economy, Planning and Cooperation will provide a sovereign guarantee of the financing. JP Morgan Chase is the lead arranger and mandated lender. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $100 million, with EXIM supplying 81.5 percent of the funding.

For the project, Weldy-Lamont – a Chicago-area small business with fewer than 20 employees – plans to source from a large U.S. supply chain to procure American-manufactured electrical and solar-energy equipment, as well as a variety of services. EXIM’s financing is expected to support an estimated 500 American jobs in 14 states.

The proposed project will consist of low-voltage power lines along existing roads to rural villages, with more remote villages to be served by the establishment of a mini-grid of stand-alone solar units and limited low-voltage lines. The completed project will reduce the need for community-based diesel generation of electricity and will connect hundreds of villages to the grid.

The EXIM Board initially approved a preliminary commitment on Oct. 30, 2019. In addition to EXIM, other federal agencies involved in promoting the selection of Weldy-Lamont for the project include the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

EXIM Small Business Outreach and Relief Efforts

During the open portion of the meeting, the Board received an update from EXIM’s Small Business Division. Senior Vice President of Small Business Jim Burrows noted that since EXIM’s board quorum was restored in May 2019, EXIM has authorized approximately 1,635 small business transactions, totaling $1.7 billion, and supporting thousands of U.S. jobs.  

Earlier this month, EXIM instituted temporary relief measures that provide assistance to U.S. businesses, their buyers, financial institutions, and American workers negatively impacted by COVID-19 (coronavirus). Complete information is available on the coronavirus response page. “EXIM recognizes that in the months following the COVID-19 outbreak, exporting may be a challenge for many of our nation’s businesses, especially small businesses,” said Burrows. “EXIM staffers are working tirelessly to ensure our nation has the proper programs in place to provide U.S. exporters with the financing and other products necessary to export ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ goods and services.”

Office of Small Business Director of Outreach and Education Elizabeth Thomas focused on EXIM’s new digital outreach strategy, which was launched in November 2019, alignment with associations whose members would benefit from EXIM’s services, and direct customer outreach. Since the digital strategy kickoff, EXIM has engaged over 2800 “new to EXIM” contacts and attributes 73% of FY 2020 authorizations to digital outreach. Particularly given this time of COVID-19, “digital outreach allows us to stay connected with small businesses and provide much needed support in a safe and healthy way,” said Thomas.

EXIM Open for Business in 191 Countries

In additional to the voting on the Senegal project during the closed portion of the meeting, the Board of Directors also heard from EXIM’s Enterprise Risk Committee and approved changes to EXIM’s Country Limitation Schedule (CLS) that are effective April 6, 2020. The changes will be reflected at that time on EXIM’s website.

“As elevated demand for EXIM support, as well as support from competitor export credit agencies around the world can be counter-cyclical in nature, EXIM will be needed even more over the next several months to accomplish its mission to support U.S. jobs through exports,” said EXIM Chief Risk Officer Ken Tinsley, “I am confident in EXIM’s ability to execute this mission successfully while at the same time protecting the U.S. taxpayer.”

The CLS is a document that expresses whether EXIM is open or closed for business in a given market. Country conditions in markets in which EXIM is open must meet EXIM’s Charter-mandated requirement of a reasonable assurance of repayment. EXIM’s Board has established a linkage between the reasonable assurance of repayment mandate and the country risk ratings from the Interagency Country Risk Assessment System implemented by the Office of Management and Budget. These ratings, which are subject to routine evaluation, reflect the repayment risk of doing business in a market and are required to be used by all U.S. government agencies engaged in cross-border credit activities to estimate expected loss. With this update, EXIM is open for business in 191 countries.

ABOUT EXIM:

EXIM is an independent federal agency that promotes and supports American jobs by providing competitive and necessary export credit to support sales of U.S. goods and services to international buyers. A robust EXIM can level the global playing field for U.S. exporters when they compete against foreign companies that receive support from their governments. EXIM also contributes to U.S. economic growth by helping to create and sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs in exporting businesses and their supply chains across the United States. In recent years, approximately 90 percent of the total number of the agency’s authorizations has directly supported small businesses. Since 1992, EXIM has generated more than $9 billion for the U.S. Treasury for repayment of U.S. debt. 

FTC Staff Provides Annual Letter to CFPB On Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Activities

The staff of the Federal Trade Commission has provided the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) with an annual summary of the FTC’s activities enforcing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

The FTC shares enforcement responsibility for the FDCPA with the CFPB, which provides an annual report to Congress about debt collection enforcement activities. The annual report, which was released today, highlights both agencies’ efforts to stop unlawful debt collection practices, including law enforcement, education and public outreach, and policy initiatives. Among the actions taken to combat unfair, deceptive, and otherwise unlawful debt collection practices in 2019, the FTC:

  • filed or resolved law enforcement actions against 25 defendants, and obtained more than $24.7 million in judgments;
  • banned 23 companies and individuals who engaged in serious and repeated violations of law from ever working in debt collection again;
  • announced the return of $516,000 to 3,977 consumers who lost money to an unlawful debt collection operation previously stopped by the FTC;
  • deployed educational materials to inform consumers about their rights, and educate debt collectors about their responsibilities, under the FDCPA and FTC Act;
  • supplied more than 27,500 copies of a fotonovela (graphic novel) on debt collection, developed for Spanish speakers, to raise awareness about scams targeting the Latino community;
  • organized and cosponsored Common Ground conferences, bringing together law enforcement personnel, consumer advocates, and community members to discuss consumer protection issues, including debt collection; and
  • hosted public forums on small business financing and credit reporting, which raised debt collection policy issues.

The letter also highlights FTC staff’s submission of a public comment on the CFPB’s proposed rules implementing the FDCPA. The comment provided an overview of the Commission’s law enforcement, policy, and education efforts to protect consumers from unlawful debt collection practices, and provided FTC staff feedback on several components of the proposed rules.

Holmes Stoner Address at Holistic Approach to Ending Homelessness:Dignifying the Needy

New York 14 Feb, Holmes Stoner, Chairman of the American International Chamber of Commerce attended and spoke at a Dignifying the Needy (CSocD58 Side Event) of United Nations conference in New York on 14 February.

The government interventions approach to ending homelessness mainly centers on quick-fix solutions of moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing shelters, but it is important to address these complexities together when considering methods of addressing homelessness, as one strategy does not apply for every community. Affordable housing and social protection can have a tremendous impact in addressing homelessness.

For this purpose, the Side Event will Review the inter-connectedness between homelessness and poverty and health and well-being of homeless individuals or people at risk of it as well as explore options for reducing youth that is at risk of human trafficking, drug abuse, or broken homes; Elaborate on the importance of focusing on the various ways to contribute to ending homelessness, with a focus on individual roles because every contribution to supporting the cause counts; Highlight the critical importance on the preventative framework.

Holmes Stoner, Chairman of the American International Chamber of Commerce (AICC), has joined  the AICC executive team, where he will serve as senior advisor to Chief of Ecodomika Steel Structures, On behalf of the entire organization, He is grateful to Jason Quin for his years of service to the American enterprise and business people and congratulate them on this global business opportunity to continue in that calling.

Jason Quin, AICC’s Executive Chairman, will now perform the duties of the American export, economic development and membership services with Holmes Stoner and the AICC team.

Stoner said, that we were long supported and participated in UN economic cooperation and development projects, including the development and investment of steel composite housing, and implemented and carried out investment cooperation in a wider range of fields around the world to support the innovation, development and growth of member enterprises project.

The fifty-eighth session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD58) will take place from 10 to 19 February 2020. The Commission is the advisory body responsible for the social development pillar of global development.

In 2020, we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Commission and the 25th anniversary of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development. 2020 is a crucial year for the accelerated realization of inclusive societies and reducing inequalities everywhere for people of all ages.

The Dignifying the Needy (CSocD58 Side Event) priority theme on Affordable housing and social protection systems for all to address homelessness this year.

  •  Opening of the session
  •  Election of officers
  • Adoption of the agenda and other organizational matters – Item 2 – E/CN.5/2020/1
  • Follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly – Item 3
  • Priority theme: affordable housing and social protection systems for all to address homelessness – Item 3 (a) – E/CN.5/2020/2, E/CN.5/2020/3
  • Review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups – Item 3 (b) – A/75/61-E/2020/4, E/CN.5/2020/4
  • Emerging issues: twenty-five years of the World Summit for Social Development: addressing emerging societal challenges to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – Item 3 (c) – E/CN.5/2020/5
  • Introductory statements
  • General discussion on item 3 (a) and (b)