Lawmakers Discuss Next Coronavirus Relief Bill as Demand Rises

 

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Congress is working out the details for the next coronavirus relief bill as banks struggle to meet the demand for payroll-protection loans and a record number of people apply for unemployment benefits.

The last relief bill allocated $2.2 trillion to help distressed businesses and displaced workers, among other aid. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the next bill could add at least $1 trillion more in relief funds, reported Bloomberg.

"It is imperative that we go bigger and further assisting small business, to go longer in unemployment benefits and provide additional resources to process [unemployment insurance] claims and to give families additional direct payments," Pelosi said.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses needs more funding. On April 7, he pledged to work with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and hoped "to approve further funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by unanimous consent or voice vote during the next scheduled Senate session on [April 9]."

We've rounded up articles and resources from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on the news.

More Funds for Payroll Protection Program

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided $349 billion for a small-business loan program, and banks and the Small Business Administration (SBA) have been overwhelmed with applications since the program began on April 3. The Treasury Department and Congress are considering adding another $250 billion to meet demand for the program.

(The Washington Post)

Additional Resources

In addition to providing more funds for payroll-protection loans, Pelosi wants to provide more direct payments to individuals, extend unemployment insurance benefits and provide more resources for food stamps. President Donald Trump said Congress should provide more funds for small businesses if the $349 billion cap is reached. He also said that if more economic stimulus is necessary, he would consider giving more direct payments to individuals.

(Bloomberg)

Payroll Protection Program Details

Payroll-protection loans can be applied to expenses incurred in an eight-week period between Feb. 15 and June 30 and may be used for payroll costs, health care, rent, utilities and other business debts. Businesses are generally eligible if they employ fewer than 500 employees. However, businesses that employ 500 or more workers may participate if they meet the SBA's size standards for their industry. Independent contractors and self-employed people are also eligible, as well as independently owned franchises that are SBA approved and employ less than 500 workers. Additionally, each store location could be eligible.

Loans may be forgivable if certain criteria are met. Applicants can apply until June 30, but they should get started as soon as possible in case the funding cap is reached before additional money is made available. Small businesses can apply through established SBA 7(a) lenders or other participating financial institutions, and additional regulated lenders will soon be approved to participate in the program. "You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program," the SBA recommended. 

(SHRM Online)

CARES Act Aids Employers and Workers

On March 27, Trump signed the CARES Act into law. The legislation is the third and largest coronavirus relief package and aims to boost the economy with provisions that impact:

  • Unemployment insurance.
  • Business loans.
  • Employer-sponsored health insurance.
  • Retirement savings.
  • Employer-provided education assistance.

The legislation includes two proposals that that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has championed, including modernizing health savings account (HSA) rules to include telehealth, among other benefits, and expanding employer-provided education assistance to include student loan repayment as a benefit.

(SHRM Online)

Paid-Leave Mandate

On March 18, Trump signed into law the FFCRA (H.R. 6201), which provides paid emergency family leave in limited circumstances, as well as paid sick leave for people affected by COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. In general, the emergency paid-leave provisions in the legislation apply to businesses with fewer than 500 employees, but there may be some exceptions available for small businesses and companies that employ health care workers. These provisions took effect April 1 and expire on Dec. 31. 

(SHRM Online)

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