Two more months to apply for PPP loans; Restaurant grants, vaccine funds, direct payments in COVID-19 relief package

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package the president signed into law March 11 includes 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 first $10,200 of jobless benefits accrued in 2020 will not be taxed for households with incomes under $150,000, under the law.

RESTAURANTS
The $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund includes grants that can equal the amount of restaurants’ revenue losses, up to a maximum of $10 million per company and $5 million per location. Eligible companies cannot own more than 20 locations, and they can’t be publicly traded. It sets aside $5 billion for restaurants with annual revenue of $500,000 or less. The debt-free support covers eligible expenses like payroll, mortgage, rent and utilities. The U.S. Small Business Administration is administering the grants. An opening date has not yet been set. It can take up to two weeks to complete some of the preparation steps, so the National Restaurant Association and the Alabama Small Business Development Center Network have developed information to help you prepare.

UNDERSTANDING THE RESTAURANT REVITALIZATION FUND
from the National Restaurant Association
On demand NRA webinar


Application preparation tips
from the Alabama Small Business Development Center Network

DIRECT PAYMENTS
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. Those earning more than those amounts receive nothing. Payments started going out March 12 with a payment date of March 17 and a second batch began being processed March 19. As of March 24, 127 million payments of about $325 billion had been disbursed through direct deposits, checks and debit cards, the IRS announced.

PAYCHECK PROTECTION
Congress also added $7.25 billion to the $800 billion already allotted in the latest round of the Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans that began Jan. 11. The Small Business Administration has approved more than $718 billion in loans so far during this round. NEW: 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 allows borrowers to apply for the loans through May 31 and gives 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.

ECONOMIC INJURY
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. Starting the week of April 6, the SBA will raise 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.

THEATERS AND ENTERTAINMENT VENUES
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. The grant portal opens Thursday, April 8. Sign up to be notified at svograntportal.sba.gov Learn more about the program at sba.gov/relief

LEAVES
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.

EMPLOYEE RETENTION
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.

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

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