After months of struggling to pass a coronavirus relief package, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate did so late December 21. Several items advocated by the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) were included in the final bill.
“Given the immense challenges facing small businesses, we would have preferred coronavirus relief had been passed several months ago; however, we are pleased that several of PIA’s priorities were included in the final bill,” said Jon Gentile, PIA Vice President of Government Relations.
The coronavirus relief package was merged with a $1.4 trillion omnibus appropriations bill. The deal struck by congressional leaders that led to the agreement includes a $300 increase in weekly unemployment benefits; $600 direct payments for individuals; more than $300 billion for small business aid; and funding for schools, hospitals, and vaccine distribution. A federal eviction ban has been extended through the end of January 2021.
A business liability protection measure, supported by Republicans, and aid for state and local governments, supported by Democrats, had taken center stage during clashes between the parties during previous negotiations over a COVID relief package. Both issues were ultimately stripped from the measure to allow the package to move forward.
The House and Senate also passed a seven-day continuing resolution (CR) because the package’s enrolling process is likely to take a few days due to its size and complexity.
Coronavirus Relief Package
Beyond the broader bill, several provisions in the package that PIA has actively advocated for over the last several months. The coronavirus relief package includes several changes to COVID relief programs.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
The PPP, which has helped keep businesses solvent throughout the spring and summer, has not had the authority to lend money since August 8, even though it still has over $130 billion left unspent. The coronavirus relief package provides $284 billion for new PPP loans and allows for a second draw. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has 10 days after enactment to write rules for provision in the legislation.
PPP Streamlined Loan Forgiveness
PIA, along with allies in the business community, successfully streamlined loan forgiveness included in the coronavirus relief package. The provision is based on legislation championed by Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) to create a simplified PPP loan forgiveness application for loans under $150,000 whereby the borrower signs and submits a one-page certification that requires the borrower to list the loan amount, the number of employees retained, and the estimated total amount of the loan spend on payroll costs. PIA made this issue a top priority since the late spring to ensure that qualifying small business owners can easily seek PPP loan forgiveness.
Surprise Tax on PPP Loan Recipients Prevented
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) this fall issued a ruling that undercut the clear intent of Congress in the CARES Act and transformed tax-free PPP loan forgiveness into taxable income, raising the possibility of a surprise tax increase of up to 37 percent on small businesses when they file their taxes for 2020. In response, PIA launched a national grassroots effort and advocated to Congress the fact that small business owners should not be taxed on desperately needed relief, which the PPP purported to provide tax-free.
“PIA is pleased that our efforts paid off, and the bill specifies that forgiven Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans will not be included in taxable income,” said Gentile. “It also clarifies that deductions are allowed for expenses paid with proceeds of a forgiven PPP loan, effective as of the date of enactment of the CARES Act and applicable to subsequent PPP loans and overturns IRS Notice 2020-32.
“We’re pleased Congress included this provision that will prevent the IRS from hitting the five million qualifying businesses that received PPP loans with a surprise tax increase when they file their taxes for 2020,” Gentile added.