Congress Passes Consolidated Appropriations Act

December 22, 2020

Here we are, we made it to the week of Christmas on the wacky ride that has been 2020, and, after months of no good news, I have something to crow about. That’s right, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which passed Congress and is awaiting the president’s signature. Even Congress must have COVID fatigue because that name sounds like a lazy bird. CAA. Once you are done rolling your eyes at that, read on to see what it all includes.

I am pretty sure that, by now, you have all heard that another round of stimulus checks is going to be sent out. But what you might not have heard about are the parts stimulus of the bill that also help small business owners. So here’s what Congress has under the tree for all of us.

First, the bill provides an additional $300 in unemployment benefits for 11 more weeks, from the end of December until March 14th. This does apply to self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and freelancers. If you are self-employed and make at least $5000, but do not qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance because you are eligible under your state’s benefits, you could receive an additional $100 for that same period of time. Also, if you haven’t yet, check out my blog with some important year end reminders about unemployment.

Next, the bill reopens the Paycheck Protection Plan so business can apply for a second loan. Applicants will be limited to those with 300 or fewer employees who have also had at least a 25% drop in revenue in one of the first three quarters of 2020. It also reduces the amount borrowers can receive, gives more flexibility on how it can be spent, and simplifies the forgiveness process for loans under $150,000. It also earmarks $12 billion for minority owned businesses.

Finally, if you chose to defer your employees’ payroll taxes, the bill gives you until the end of 2021 to increase their withholding in order to pay it back.

One expected item that was not included in the bill was an extension of the FFCRA. Mandated FFCRA leave ends December 31st. However, as an employer, you may voluntarily provide paid sick leave under the FFCRA through the end of March and take the tax credit. Important to note that an employee can only take 80 total hours of FFCRA leave, so if you already granted an employee leave in 2020, the 80 hours does not renew in 2021.

Keep in mind that the new administration takes over on January 20, and President Elect Biden has pledged to expand the FFCRA, which would likely mean both reinstating EFMLA and EPSLA, possibly with changes to the amounts of both. So employers might want to consider still offering leave during the first part of the year if the majority of employees still have time available to them while waiting for updates.

If you want to discuss the pros and cons of that, please give me a call! I am also here if you need help applying for a PPP loan or if you have questions about unemployment. Or, as always, anything small business related. Know that I will have my eagle eye on the new administration for changes so you don’t have to go on a wild goose chase to find information.

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