Trump Administration officials are signaling support for another Coronavirus stimulus package that Congress is expected to consider next month. (Wall Street Journal, June 11)
- After the House of Representatives on May 22 passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, congressional Republicans have signaled they may be open to another COVID-19 legislative package, but on a measured basis. (Forbes, May 21 and Roundtable Weekly, May 22)
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on June 10 testified before the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee: “I definitely think we are going to need another bipartisan legislation to put more money into the economy. I think whatever we do going forward needs to be much more targeted, particularly to the industries and small businesses that are having the most difficulty in reopening as a result of COVID-19.” (RollCall, June 10)
- Mnuchin on June 11 responded to a question by Jim Cramer of CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” about future coronavirus stimulus plans and rental payment pressures faced by commercial real estate.
- Mnuchin said, “On the commercial side … it is more complicated. You have companies, particularly in retail, that are having a lot of issues. They are going to have to deal with the rent. The landlords then have to deal with mortgage payments.”
- The Treasury Secretary continued, “…how do we help the industries that are especially impacted –- and I would say hotels, travel, entertainment, restaurants are right up there. So we are going to need to be much more targeted in making sure that we get people back to work and help these industries.”
- White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett on June 9 said the odds of passing additional coronavirus economic stimulus before Congress breaks for its August recess “are very, very high.” Hasset added that the issue of business liability protections for employers is one of the “biggest problems” facing passage of another coronavirus package. (Wall Street Journal, June 9 and Forbes, June 6).
- Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) emphasized the GOP’s position on May 18, stating on the Senate floor that “Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) and I … are working on a proposal that would put common sense reforms in place and protect those acting in good faith from being sued into oblivion.” (Cornyn statement). Potential employer immunity and anticipated litigation related to Covid-19 were the focus of a May 12 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. (Roundtable Weekly, May 15).
- Sen. Cornyn this week stated the Republican liability proposal will be released next month. He added the plan would allow employers to choose which government coronavirus safety guidelines to follow while shielding them from lawsuits if their customers or workers contract the virus. (BGov, June 10)
A multi-sector coalition including real estate, tourism, technology, manufacturing, health care, and energy sector groups – led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – called upon Congress in a May 27 letter to enact temporary liability protections for businesses struggling to reopen and operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Federal Reserve Actions
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on June 10 stated the central bank will continue buying large quantities of bonds and leave interest rates near zero through at least 2022 as it anticipates the outbreak “will weigh heavily on economic activity” and “poses considerable risks to the economic outlook.” (USA Today, June 10)
- Powell added after the Fed’s two-day meeting this week, “This is the biggest economic shock, in the U.S. and the world, really, in living memory. We went from the lowest level of unemployment in 50 years to the highest level in close to 90 years, and we did it in two months.” (New York Times, June 10)
- Powell stated, “To support the flow of credit to households and businesses, over coming months the Federal Reserve will increase its holdings of Treasury securities and agency residential and commercial mortgage-backed securities at least at the current pace to sustain smooth market functioning, thereby fostering effective transmission of monetary policy to broader financial conditions.” (FOMC statement and Economic Projections, June 10)
- The Fed has purchased agency mortgage bonds during the pandemic at a record pace totaling $719 billion, more than $12 billion per day on average, according to the New York Fed. (BGov, June 11)
- On June 8, The Federal Reserve Board on expanded its Main Street Lending Program to allow more small and medium-sized businesses to be able to receive support. The Board expects the Main Street program to be open for lender registration “soon” and to be actively buying loans shortly afterwards. (Fed news release)
- The Main Street Lending Program was established with the approval of the Treasury Secretary and with $75 billion in equity provided by the Treasury Department from the coronavirus economic relief package, The CARES Act.
The changes include:
- Lowering the minimum loan size for certain loans to $250,000 from $500,000;
- Increasing the maximum loan size for all facilities;
- Increasing the term of each loan option to five years, from four years;
- Extending the repayment period for all loans by delaying principal payments for two years, rather than one; and
- Raising the Reserve Bank’s participation to 95% for all loans.
- This chart has additional details on the changes.
- Once lenders have successfully registered for the program, they will be encouraged to make Main Street loans immediately. The Main Street Lending Program intends to purchase 95% of each eligible loan that is submitted to the program after meeting all requirements. The Main Street Lending Program will also accept loans that were originated under the previously announced terms, if funded before June 10, 2020.
The Roundtable’s Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC) and Research Committee discussed the Fed’s actions as part of the economic outlook and the state of real estate capital and credit markets during its remote meeting yesterday held in conjunction with The Roundtable’s Virtual Annual Meeting.
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Six real estate industry organizations, including The Real Estate Roundtable, wrote to federal regulators on April 14 to communicate the urgent and growing need to include a wider range of investment grade commercial real estate debt instruments in the Fed’s Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) credit facility. Currently, TALF eligible collateral is limited to triple-A rated tranches of outstanding (legacy) commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS), commercial mortgage loans and newly issued collateralized loan obligations. (TALF letter, April 14)
- The TALF, previously used during the 2008 financial crisis, was relaunched on March 23 in response to the Covid-19 crisis to “enable the issuance of asset-backed securities (ABS) backed by student loans, auto loans, credit card loans, loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA), and certain other assets.” (Fed news release, March 23)
- Immediately after the TALF was relaunched, an industry coalition on March 24 urged the Federal Reserve, Treasury, and Federal Housing Finance Agency to expand the TALF to include non-agency CMBS – including legacy private-label conduit and single-asset single borrower (SASB) assets. The coalition, which includes The Roundtable, stated the inclusion of private-label assets would stabilize asset prices and shore up the balance sheets of market participants. (Joint Industry letter, March 24)
- On April 9, the Federal Reserve announced that it would broaden the range of TALF eligible collateral to include triple-A rated tranches of both outstanding (legacy) CMBS, commercial mortgage loans and newly issued collateralized loan obligations. However, the updated term sheet excludes single-asset single borrower (SASB) CMBS and commercial real estate collateralized loan obligations (CRE CLOs).
- According to the April 14 letter, “Commercial and multifamily real estate assets that were perfectly healthy just weeks ago now face massive stress and a wave of payment and covenant defaults. As the economy shuts down and American workers face massive layoffs, it is now clear that many tenants will not be able to meet their debt obligations. This will soon cascade through the over $4 trillion commercial real estate debt market and exponentially increase the pressure on the financial system.”
To bolster the health of the CMBS market, the industry coalition recommends the following investment grade instruments be added as eligible TALF assets:
- Legacy and new issuance, investment grade, non-agency CMBS;
- Investment grade Agency Credit Risk Transfer (CRT) securities;
- Legacy and new issuance Single-Asset, Single-Borrower (SASB) CMBS;
- Commercial real estate (CRE) collateralized loan obligations (CLOs); and
- U.S. commercial real estate (CRE) first mortgage loans (which have capital charges equivalent to investment grade/NAIC CM 1 and 2 and loans in good standing, or can obtain a rating agency letter confirming that the pledged loan is rated at least single-A).
The coalition letter explains that a broader, deeper, and more effective TALF would complement and minimize the direct lending that will be required of the Federal Reserve’s other credit facilities, which are supported by the $454 billion provided under the CARES Act.
The coalition also notes that expansion of the TALF’s scope and the Fed’s further support of the highly illiquid non-bank financial sector would forestall further disruption and economic dislocations in the commercial real estate sector.
Pandemic Risk Insurance Coverage
Two preliminary legislative proposals in Congress seek to address increasing requests for the property and casualty industry to extend business interruption (BI) insurance policies to cover pandemic risk related claims – and the general lack of pandemic risk commercial insurance availability.
- A recent effort in the House led by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) seeks to develop the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act of 2020 (PRIA), which would create the Pandemic Risk Reinsurance Program. PRIA would seek to create “a system of shared public and private compensation for business interruption losses resulting from future pandemics or public health emergencies.” (Rep. Maloney Dear Colleague letter, April 10 Roundtable Weekly)
- Rep. Maloney’s pandemic program would be prospective – not retrospective. “Like the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), the federal government would serve as a backstop to maintain marketplace stability and to share the burden alongside private industry,” according to Maloney.
- In the Senate, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) is working on a broader concept that is both retrospective and prospective. Known as the Workplace Recovery Act, the measure would provide direct retrospective reimbursement through a Federal Automated Security Trust program to every business for operating losses, limited to 90% of past revenues.
- The Senate proposal would also establish a new government-funded business interruption insurance add-on for every privately administered commercial insurance plan to protect against future national pandemics.
- The National Association of Insurance Commissioners issued a statement recently warning that such efforts “would create substantial solvency risks for the sector, significantly undermine the ability of insurers to pay other types of claims, and potentially exacerbate the negative financial and economic impacts the country is currently experiencing.” (NAIC statement, March 25)
As with terrorism risk insurance, The Roundtable is working with policymakers and stakeholders to help develop an effective risk insurance program that addresses the economic impact of the current pandemic crisis and provides the economy with the coverage it needs to deal with future pandemic risks.
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The Federal Reserve yesterday announced the establishment of $2.3 trillion in new credit lending facilities in an effort to restore liquidity and steady economic shocks from the Covid-19 pandemic. These actions include the expansion of its Term Asset Lending Facility (TALF) to include AAA-rated commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) and commercial mortgages as eligible collateral. (Fed news release and TALF term sheet, April 9)
- The Fed’s Term Asset Lending Facility – previously used during the 2008 financial crisis and relaunched on March 23 – will now accommodate non-agency CMBS issued before March 23, 2020; any issuance after that date is ineligible. All collateral must also be AAA-rated and located in the U.S or its territories. The TALF will support up to $100 billion in credit, which is backed by $10 billion in credit protection from the Treasury Department. (TALF term sheet)
- Under the TALF, static collateralized loan obligations (CLOs) are also eligible collateral, yet CMBS securities related to single-asset single-borrower (SASB) and commercial real estate collateralized loan obligations (CRE CLOs) are not eligible at this time.
- The terms and conditions for commercial mortgages to be included as eligible collateral in the TALF have yet to be announced. (TALF term sheet, April 9)
- While the Fed’s recent actions are welcome, an industry coalition, including The Roundtable, continues to advocate for the inclusion of CRE collateralized loan obligations (CLOs) and Single Asset, Single Borrower (SASB) CMBS in the TALF. (Joint Industry letter, March 24)
- The Federal Reserve also announced $600 billion for purchasing loans in two new “Main Street” facilities. The Main Street New Loan Facility (MSNLF) and the Main Street Expanded Loan Facility (MSELF), which will purchase 95% participations in new 4-year loans to businesses that have up to 10,000 employees or up $2.5 billion in 2019 annual revenue. Borrowers with more than 10,000 employees but less than $2.5 billion in 2019 revenue may potentially qualify.
- The Fed’s new credit facilities also include $500 billion for short-term municipal bonds and additional funding for the central bank’s purchases of larger investment grade businesses and capital markets securities.
- Fed Chair Jay Powell commented on yesterday’s actions during a webinar. “Many of the programs we are undertaking to support the flow of credit rely on emergency lending powers that are available only in very unusual circumstances—such as those we find ourselves in today—and only with the consent of the Secretary of the Treasury.” He added, “I would stress that these are lending powers, not spending powers. We will continue to use these powers forcefully, proactively, and aggressively until we are confident that we are solidly on the road to recovery.”
- During Q&A after his remarks, Chairman Powell acknowledged severe liquidity concerns faced by mortgage servicers as the pandemic has resulted in widespread forbearance on mortgage payments. Powell referred to the mortgage market as “at the very center of our economy” and stated, “We’re watching carefully the situation with the mortgage servicers and I will just tell you that we certainly have our eyes on that as a key market.” (S&P Global, April 9)
- On April 4, a broad coalition financial industry and affordable housing advocates, including The Roundtable, urged government regulators to provide a source of liquidity to mortgage servicers in need of additional capacity to support homeowners and renters impacted by COVID-19. (Coalition mortgage servicers letter)
- While this week’s actions could provide up to $2.3 trillion in loans to support the economy, the Treasury and the Fed have not yet committed the full $454 billion allocated for credit support to lending facilities under the recently-enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). Therefore, more loan programs or an expansion of these now existing loan programs could be forthcoming. (Roundtable Weekly, March 27).
- This week’s massive Fed intervention also includes the creation a Paycheck Protection Program Lending Facility (PPPLF) to support the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – established under the CARES Act. This facility will extend credit to eligible financial institutions that originate PPP loans to small businesses, taking the loans as collateral at face value. (See story below on The Roundtable’s 8-point reform plan for the PPP).
- Yesterday’s actions by the Fed recognize that businesses vary widely in their financing needs – and input from lenders, borrowers, and other stakeholders until April 16 is welcome through a Federal Reserve feedback form.
The Fed’s response to the pandemic is the focus of an April 8 Chicago Economic Club discussion moderated by Roundtable Chair Debra Cafaro (Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ventas, Inc.) with Charles Evans, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. (Watch interview on Youtube)
As part of the rapidly evolving developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Real Estate Roundtable continues to be proactive on all policy fronts in Washington to provide insight and recommendations to lawmakers and regulators. The Roundtable depends on the input and expertise of its dedicated members, including those serving – now remotely – on the organization’s Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC).
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