Key priorities included in the HEALS Act introduced in the Senate this week include liability protections, expanded PPP eligibility, business tax provisions and reduced unemployment benefits, among others items championed by the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA).
Senate Republicans released a package of bills that will serve as their “Phase 4” COVID-relief legislation. NLBMDA shared with its members key aspects of the proposed legislation that are beneficial to the industry.
• 501(c)(6) PPP Eligibility: The Senate proposal includes the NLBMDA-backed priority of allowing 501(c)(6) organizations to apply for and receive forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds. The qualifying criteria is that the organization must have 300 or fewer employees and the lobbying activities of the organization do not comprise more than 10% of the total activities of the organization.
• PPP Business Expansion: The Senate proposal expands the uses for PPP funds to include covered operations expenditures, covered worker protection expenditures, covered supplier costs, and property damage costs. The proposal also does the following:
– Allows PPP recipients to select a covered 8-week period through December 31, 2020 to use the forgivable loan funds;
– Establishes a simplified forgiveness application process for PPP loans in two categories: under $150,000 and loans between $150,000 and $2 million;
– Clarifies that other employer-provided group insurance benefits are included in payroll costs for calculating forgiveness.
• Employer Liability Protections: The “SAFE TO WORK Act” creates temporary rules for COVID-specific claims which will help businesses and protect employers from liability under federal labor and employment laws for actions they take to follow COVID-related regulations and agency guidance.
The bill would:
• Help those essential businesses that have remained open to stay open, and help other businesses to reopen safely and without fear so that American workers can earn paychecks;
• Encourage and protect workers who return to their jobs by rewarding compliance with coronavirus-related public health guidelines;
• Provide uniformity and predictability for good actors; and
• Ensure that bad-faith actors are held accountable for coronavirus-related related injuries.
Unemployment Benefits: NLBMDA lobbied Capitol Hill for a reduction of the additional $600 per week benefit to provide a better balance for employers and recipients. The HEALS Act reduces that payment to $200 per week through October 5.
Business Tax Provisions: The proposal contains the following business tax-related provisions:
Increases the employee retention credit from 50% to 65% of wages and increasing the wage cap to $10,000 per employee each quarter (along with expanded eligibility);
Creates a temporary new category of Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) of up to $5,000 for employers who hire unemployed workers.
NLBMDA will share a more detailed analysis in the coming days, along with an updated grassroots campaign for members to weigh in on the NLBMDA-backed priorities, the group announced. For for information, see NLBMDA’s COVID-19 resource center.