Restaurant grants closed July 2; PPP loans closed May 31; shuttered venue grants being processed and 2021 vaccination tax credit

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package the president signed into law March 11, 2021, included almost $29 billion in grants for restaurants, $7.5 billion for vaccine distribution, $48 billion for testing and contact-tracing efforts and $1,400 in direct payments to most Americans.

The U.S. House gave final approval March 10 to the American Rescue Plan Act (HR 1319) on a vote of 220-211. After stripping out the proposed increase in the minimum wage from the package, the U.S. Senate had approved it 50-49 March 6. The U.S. House’s original version passed 219-212 Feb. 27.

Congress worked to get the bill to the president before March 14, when federal unemployment assistance was set to expire. The package includes a $300 per week supplemental unemployment bonus through Sept. 6 (the supplement ended June 19, 2021,  in Alabama). The first $10,200 of jobless benefits accrued in 2020 will not be taxed for households with incomes under $150,000, under the law.

Congress added $7.25 billion to the more than $800 billion already allotted to the Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans in the round that began Jan. 11.  The program ended May 31, 2021. As of May 31, the SBA had disbursed almost $800 billion of the $813.5 billion. On March 30, the president signed into law a two-month extension of the application deadline through a separate piece of legislation – HR1799. That law allowed borrowers to apply for the loans through May 31 and gave the Small Business Administration until June 30 to process the loans. The U.S. House approved the legislation March 16. The U.S. Senate approved the extension March 25.

The American Rescue Plan Act allows small and midsize employers (fewer than 500 employees) to claim refundable tax credits that reimburse them for the cost of providing paid sick and family leave to their employees due to COVID-19, including leave taken by employees to receive or recover from COVID-19 vaccinations. The tax credits are available to eligible employers that pay sick and family leave for leave from April 1 through Sept. 30. April 21 News Release | Fact Sheet

More than $16 billion was allocated for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program. It allows live venue operators, theaters, museums and movie theaters to apply for both a PPP loan after Dec. 27, 2020, and the shutter venue operators grant. The Alabama SBDC Network offers tips for applying for the shuttered venue operator grants. Review the application checklist. The portal reopened April 26. Learn more about the program. As of July 6, 2021, 26 grants valued at $11,557,719 were awarded to Alabama venues. The SBA had said it planned to process most applications by early July.

Grant Portal
Applicants will need a smartphone and a multi-factor authenticator app to register and apply

Post Application FAQs
(Updated May 26, 2021)

Frequently Asked Questions
(Updated April 23, 2021)

The $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund included grants that could equal the amount of restaurants’ revenue losses, up to a maximum of $10 million per company and $5 million per location. The program closed July 2, 2021. Eligible companies cannot own more than 20 locations, and they can’t be publicly traded. It set aside $5 billion for restaurants with 2019 annual revenue of $500,000 or less, $4 billion for those with $500,001 to $1.5 million in gross receipts and $500 million for those with gross receipts of not more than $50,000. The debt-free support covers eligible expenses like payroll, mortgage, rent and utilities if used by March 11, 2023. The U.S. Small Business Administration, which is administering the grants, stopped accepting applications at 7 p.m. CT May 24, 21 days after qualifying restaurants began submitting applications  May 3. The fund received applications for almost $73 billion in funds, more than twice the amount allocated. All eligible applications were to be funded on a first-come, first-served basis. The average size of the grant awards were $283,000.

SBA website landing page for the fund will be disabled July 14, 2021

The law provides $1,400 direct payments to individuals making under $75,000 and $2,800 to married couples who make less than $150,000. Each dependent, including adult dependents, also get $1,400. Individuals making up to $80,000 and joint filers up to $160,000 will get payments but not the full amount. As of May 26, 167 million payments of about $391 billion had been disbursed through direct deposits, checks and debit cards, the IRS announced.

The package includes an additional $15 billion for Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance (EIDL) payments, including $5 billion for new Supplemental Targeted EIDL Advance payments for those hardest hit. The week of April 6, the SBA raised the loan limit for the COVID-19 EIDL program from six months of economic injury with a maximum $150,000 loan to 24 months of economic injury with a maximum loan amount of $500,000. On March 16, the SBA announced extended deferment periods for all disaster loans to 2022. SBA extended the first payment due date for disaster loans made in 2020 to 24 months from the date of the note and to 18 months from the date of the note for all loans made in the calendar year 2021. Only prior applicants will be considered for the Targeted EIDL Advance, and the SBA will reach out if you qualify. On May 26, SBA Administrator Isabel Guzman told the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee hearing, “In early June, we will be opening up the platform so that those applicants after Dec. 27 in the pipeline, as well as just the general public of those eligible businesses can apply,” Guzman said. She added that businesses would still need to meet other criteria, including being in a low-income area and having revenue losses of at least 30% during COVID-19.

The American Rescue Plan Act extends Families First Coronavirus Response Act leaves on a voluntary basis through Sept. 30. Employers are not required to provide Emergency Paid Sick Leave or Emergency Family Medical Leave but may “opt in” and receive credits for qualifying payments.

The Retail Association’s employment law partner – Lehr Middlebrooks Vreeland Thompson – analyzes those voluntary leave options for employers here.  LMVT also has updated its sample Families First Coronavirus Response Act forms and sample ESL and EFMLA policy.

The American Rescue Plan also extends the Employee Retention Tax Credit until Dec. 31, 2021. Eligibility for two additional quarters translates to up to an additional $14,000 in savings per employee. Businesses that saw a huge drop in gross receipts (90% or greater) are now eligible for the credit regardless of size, and the IRS statute of limitations on assessing the credit was extended.

IRS provides guidance for employers claiming the Employee Retention Credit for first two quarters of 2021
(April 2, 2021)

The U.S. Senate parliamentarian ruled that the $15 an hour by 2025 minimum wage component could not be included in the package based on Senate rules. Standalone minimum wage legislation could be forthcoming.

Originally posted 1:29 p.m. March 10, 2021

This article is part of the Alabama Retail Report, a communication for Alabama Retail Association members. Not a member? Join us!

Reprints or republishing are welcomed but require permission. Contact us for permission