5 Takeaways From the NRCA COVID-19 Town Hall
More than 3,000 people listened in on March 30 as NRCA officials spoke on everything from technical issues and coronavirus-related legislation to day-to-day health and safety practices. Below are five main points addressed during the town hall that contractors can keep in mind during these unprecedented times.
1. Loans for Small and Large Businesses
NRCA Vice President of Government Relations Duane Musser noted multiple pieces of legislation have come through quickly, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, that contractors should know about.
Musser said a main item of interest was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which is designed to help get financial resources into the hands of qualifying employers. Businesses with fewer than 500 employees that were operational as of Feb. 15, 2020 (including independent contractors and self-employed) are eligible for forgivable loans backed by the federal government.
“The intent of this legislation is to provide the resources to make payroll even though you might be shut down and not have money coming in, and that’s why it’s forgivable,” Musser said.
There are also provisions for employers with more than 500 employees to gain funding from the federal government. Musser said guidance on these items would normally take weeks or months following the passage of a bill, and has never seen the federal government move this fast on an item.
Ironically, during the town hall, the Small Business Administration provided additional guidance for the various items discussed during the call, including the PPP.
2. Look for New Ways to Clean and Operate
NRCA Chairman Nick Sabino spoke about how his company, Deer Park Roofing in Ohio, has changed operations to help protect its employees. After learning two workers have family members that had COVID-19, Sabino is sending two-man repair crews out in two separate vehicles and is taking workers’ temperatures before they begin working.
His company is also taking preventative measures through cleaning their vehicles. With cleaning agents and hand sanitizers hard to come by, Sabino said he turned to one of his suppliers, Topps Products, that is now producing hand sanitizers.
“Even a thermometer is hard to come by,” Sabino said. “It’s been really hard for us to get supplies, so we’ve had to get very creative with a lot of the things we’re doing.”
Tom Shanahan, NRCA vice president of enterprise risk management, said the NRCA is finalizing a toolbox talk contractors can use to address working safely in the field. He also said a coalition has been formed to ask that construction-related workers be exempt from having to report COVID-19-related cases to OSHA.
3. The Top Three Roofing Legal Issues
Each of these topics has been addressed as part of RC’s coronavirus coverage. Regarding the essential business question, Cotney said that certain states and local governments, like in Boston and Pennsylvania, are restricting construction activity.
“We expect to see similar things coming out of New York City and probably Miami-Dade shortly,” Cotney said.
4. Handling Job Shutdowns
Job shutdowns are occurring in some areas, the NRCA reports, and it’s expected that more will occur during the COVID-19 crisis as businesses close for shelter-in-place orders. The NRCA’s technical service section has prepared a guide for contractors who find themselves having to suspend jobs in progress.
While contractors may know most of the information in the guide, the goal is to have the guide ready to provide to general contractors who may not realize just how much work goes into stopping a job. NRCA members are also encouraged to contact the association if they have any questions or issues.
5. Roofing Industry is Doing ‘Surprisingly Well’ Despite Shortages
NRCA Vice President of Technical Services Mark Graham said material availability is becoming an issue, though it is more regional at this point in time. The main items in short supply are asphalt shingle nails, which are mostly produced in and imported from China. Other areas of the country are experiencing shortages in imported metal.
Graham also noted that some of the technical calls the NRCA has received are related to COVID-19, mostly relating to inspection protocol. To that end, he suggested contractors over-communicate with entities like building inspections and practice meticulous documentation, such as using phones to take videos and photos on jobsites.
Despite these issues, Graham said the NRCA is still receiving the usual amount of technical questions from members, indicating that things haven’t slowed down much. In a survey taken by NRCA members, 77.7% said they aren’t experiencing issues with material delivery or other interruptions.
“The roofing industry is functioning surprisingly well, and by that I mean designers are designing jobs and bidding jobs, manufacturers are making and shipping materials, distributors are handling materials, and in most cases contractors are selling materials,” Graham said.
For additional information, visit the NRCA’s COVID-19 resources page.
RC Editorial Director Rick Damato contributed to this report.