Senate Approves More Funds for Small-Business Coronavirus Relief

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U.S. Capitol
More small businesses will have access to payroll-protection loans under a new coronavirus relief bill that the U.S. Senate passed April 21. The U.S. House of Representatives will now consider the bill before it is ultimately sent to the president's desk for signature.

As part of the prior $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Paycheck Protection Program had allocated nearly $350 billion to help small businesses keep workers on payroll during the pandemic. However, the fund reached its cap less than two weeks after the program launched. The new measure would add about $310 billion to replenish the fund.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) urged Congress to make additional funds available to assist more employees and employers, including nonprofits. "Absent congressional action, small businesses and nonprofits will be forced to discontinue their services and reduce or eliminate employment," SHRM leaders wrote in a letter to Congress. "The Paycheck Protection Program is vital to help small employers cover payroll costs, mortgage and rent payments and health-care benefits for employees."

The bill had stalled as Democrat and Republican lawmakers negotiated the details. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Twitter that Democrats "are committed to fixing the flaws in the Paycheck Protection Program that have kept too many small businesses from gaining access."

Meanwhile, Republicans urged their colleagues to act quickly. "Democrats must let us reopen this crucial program before more Americans are laid off needlessly and more small businesses are shuttered that could have survived," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Twitter.

The House is expected to vote as soon as April 23. 

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

Dispute About Additional Relief

Democrats initially blocked Republicans' bid to add funding to the small-business loan program, because they wanted the legislation to include additional funding for hospitals, coronavirus testing, state and local governments and food-assistance programs. Republicans, however, wanted to quickly replenish the small-business loan program and leave the other issues for the next round of legislation. Lawmakers ultimately added $75 billion to the agreement for hospital assistance and $25 billion to expand nationwide virus testing, but no funds were added for state and local governments. Another program, called the Economic Injury Disaster Loan fund, was allocated $60 billion in the new relief package. In total, the bill is expected to deliver $480 billion in additional aid.

(The Wall Street Journal)

Paycheck Protection Program Details

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is managing loans under the Paycheck Protection Program for qualifying organizations. 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. The Paycheck Protection Program is meant to encourage businesses to keep their workers employed or quickly rehire them, so the SBA will forgive loans if all employees remain on payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for covered expenses.

(SHRM Online)

CARES Act Key Employment Law Implications and FAQs

In addition to the Paycheck Protection Program, the CARES Act provides direct financial assistance to Americans, expands unemployment benefits and offers eligible businesses tax credits. Here's a summary of the significant employment law provisions in the CARES Act and answers to frequently asked questions.

(SHRM Online)

Democrats Push for More Paid Leave, Hazard Pay

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., support the Providing Americans Insured Days of Leave Act (or PAID Leave Act), which they said should be included in the fourth coronavirus relief package. The lawmakers said Labor Department guidance too narrowly defined eligibility for emergency paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act. The PAID Leave Act would give employees and independent contractors up to 14 emergency paid sick days and 12 weeks of emergency paid family and medical leave for the coronavirus pandemic and future crises.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., are also calling for mandatory hazard pay under an "essential workers' bill of rights." The measure would provide premium pay to frontline workers, such as health care employees and delivery drivers. "Essential workers are the backbone of our nation's response to coronavirus," Warren said. "We have a responsibility to make sure essential workers have the protections they need, the rights they are entitled to, and the compensation they deserve." 

(Politico)

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