Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On February 22, the Biden administration announced measures to ensure the smallest businesses have access to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. (See also SBA press release here.) Specifically, the Biden administration has directed the Small Business Administration (SBA) to (i) provide an exclusive 14-day application window, starting Wednesday, February 24, during which only businesses with fewer than 20 employees are eligible to apply; (ii) set aside $1 billion for PPP loans for sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals in low- and moderate-income areas, and revise the loan calculation formula for these applicants to offer more relief; (iii) eliminate an exclusion that prevented small businesses owned at least 20 percent by an individual who was arrested for or convicted of a felony unrelated to financial assistance fraud within the previous year from applying for a PPP loan; (vi) eliminate the student loan delinquency restriction, which currently prevents small businesses owned at least 20 percent by an individual who is delinquent or has defaulted on student debt from receiving PPP loans; and (v) ensure non-citizen small business owners who are lawful U.S. residents may apply for PPP loans using individual taxpayer identification numbers.
Additionally, the Biden administration stated that SBA “is launching a new initiative to deepen its relationships with lenders” in order to facilitate communication regarding the PPP. The current round of PPP funding expires March 31 (covered by InfoBytes here).
On January 26, President Biden issued an Executive Order (E.O.) directing the secretary of HUD to examine the effects of the September 2020 final rule amending the agency’s interpretation of the Fair Housing Act’s 2013 disparate impact standard (2013 Rule). As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the final rule is intended to align its 2013 Rule with the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs et al. v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. and among other things, includes a modification of the three-step burden-shifting framework in its 2013 Rule, several new elements that plaintiffs must show to establish that a policy or practice has a “discriminatory effect,” and specific defenses that defendants can assert to refute disparate impact claims. The E.O. emphasizes HUD’s “statutory duty to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act,” and requires the HUD secretary to take any necessary steps, “to implement the Fair Housing Act’s requirements that HUD administer its programs in a manner that affirmatively furthers fair housing and HUD’s overall duty to administer the Act (42 U.S.C. 3608(a)) including by preventing practices with an unjustified discriminatory effect.”
On January 21, President Biden designated FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter as acting Chair of the agency. According to the FTC’s announcement, Slaughter—who has served as a Commissioner since May 2018—is known for advocating for greater resources for the FTC and promoting equity and inclusion efforts. Slaughter has also championed for aggressive use of FTC’s authorities, and “has also been particularly outspoken about combatting systemic racism, growing threats to competition, and the broad abuse of consumers’ data.”
On January 20, the Biden administration issued a memo directing the heads of executive departments and agencies across the federal government to “immediately withdraw” or delay action on any pending regulations not yet published in the Federal Register. The memo, among other things, directs departments and agencies to withdraw any new finalized rules that have not yet been published in the Federal Register in order to seek approval from a department or agency head appointed or designated by President Biden. Departments and agencies are also encouraged to “consider” 60-day postponements for published rules that have not taken effect yet to allow for 30-day public comment periods and to consider petitions for reconsideration. The memo, which does not specify which departments or agencies are covered, allows for exceptions in “emergency situations or other urgent circumstances relating to health, safety, environmental, financial, or national security matters, or otherwise.”
On December 4, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters (D-CA) sent a letter to President-Elect Biden providing a list of regulations and other executive actions taken by the Trump administration that the Biden administration should immediately reverse, as well as recommendations for strengthening other regulations. Among other things, Waters recommended that the Biden administration (i) issue an executive order to prevent evictions by “directing the CDC to extend and improve its public health order so people can remain in their homes until emergency rental assistance is available”; (ii) amend HUD and FHFA policies that impose restrictions and increased costs for certain loans that go into forbearance prior to FHA endorsement or purchase by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to ensure these loans are still eligible for FHA insurance and purchase by Fannie and Freddie; and (iii) fully use Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act lending authorities, many of which will terminate at the end of December (covered by InfoBytes here).
Waters also urged the Biden administration to take measures to ensure consumer protections, including by, among other things, dismissing Director Kathy Kraninger, enforcing CARES Act protections, and directing the CFPB to (i) issue guidance to financial institutions to ensure affected borrowers are afforded “appropriate forbearance and loan modifications”; (ii) “work to replace the ’Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans’ rule with [one] that protects consumers from predatory lenders”; (iii) restore the Bureau’s Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity’s roles and responsibilities; and (iv) rescind its recently issued final rule amending certain debt collection rules (covered by InfoBytes here), and instead strengthen “consumer protections against abusive debt collection practices.” Other recommendations address diversity and inclusion, financial stability, investor protection, affordable housing, and international development.