This article was originally published on 3/24/2020 written by Leonard W. Klingen.
The CARES Act (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) is the third aid package passed by Congress to address the health and economic impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic. The CARES Act is intended to provide speedy relief to the American economy, business operations, and worker security by pledging over $2.2 trillion in relief.
Six groups will be mostly benefited by the CARES Act’s provisions: individuals, small businesses, big corporations, hospitals and public health, federal safety net recipients, state and local governments, and education. Following is a brief description of the components most likely to impact contractors, subcontractors, and their employees or workers.
- Individuals (subject to income limitations) will receive a one-time, tax-free cash payment of $1,200 per person, plus $500 per child. Folks who are single and earn less than $75,000 will receive the full amount. A married couple earning less than $150,000 will receive $2,400. The payment amounts decrease to zero for individuals earning more than $90,000 or married couples earning more than $198,000.
- An application for the payments is unnecessary. If the IRS has your bank account information already, an automatic deposit will be made to that account. Most people are expected to receive these automatic payments within 3-4 weeks.
- Unemployed persons, students who are not claimed as a dependent, retired individuals, and veterans are all eligible for the payments.
- Unemployed individuals, and those who become unemployed due to COVID-19 related effects, may be entitled to an additional $600 per week over and above their state benefit .
- The enhanced unemployment benefits will continue for 13 additional weeks beyond the state benefit limitation.
- Unemployment benefits are also extended to the self-employed, part-time workers, and contractors. The CARES Act also requires private insurance programs, including employer-sponsored plans, to cover COVID-19 treatments, testing, and vaccines.
- Small businesses (i.e., those with fewer than 500 employees) are eligible for emergency grants and a forgivable loan program.
- Small businesses may access $10 billion available for emergency grants of up to $10,000 to assist with immediate operating costs.
- In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration is administering a $350 billion program to provide loans of up to $10 million to small businesses. These SBA loans may be used for payroll, rent, or payment of existing corporate debt. Perhaps most importantly, these loans are forgivable if the employer retains employees through the end of June.
- Small businesses who already have SBA loans may be eligible to apply to a $17 billion fund to cover six (6) months of payments on those extant loans.
FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE UPDATE
CARES Act, in more detail
The AGC has lobbied heavily to secure the best possible outcome for the construction industry and, while not everything in the package is favorable to construction employers, there is substantial assistance available, as follows:
Loan programs that will help many construction businesses pay employees and overhead costs, while continuing operations, if possible;
- The SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program provides 100% guarantees on payroll loans up to 2.5 times the employer’s monthly payroll, interest capped at four percent, and payments deferred for six months.
- Exchange Stabilization Fund Loan Program provides loans to larger companies, but has stricter requirements, including that the company maintain 90% of its workforce, not outsource work for two years, and not engage in stock buy-backs.
The tax credits available to employers who are implementing new federal paid leave mandates in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act now allows Treasury to advance tax credits to employers in anticipation of employees’ paid leave;
The CARES Act also permits delaying of the payment of employer payroll taxes through January 1, 2021; allows companies to “carry back” net operating losses for up to 5 years; suspends the limitation on pass-through business losses; and suspends the application of the limitation on interest expense deductions.
For a link to the AGC’s analysis of the CARES Act, click here.
FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE – BREAKING NEWS
- Congress and the White House reached a deal at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday that contains more than $2 trillion (trillion, with a “t”) in direct assistance and loans. According to early reports, the bill would pay most Americans $1,200 and their children $500. It also creates a $500 billion loan program for companies and an $367 billion program to assist small businesses to overcome payroll hurdles. Additionally, it includes funding to bolster the unemployment system and $150 billion for hospitals.
- The $500 billion loan program provides $50 billion to commercial airlines, $8 billion to cargo carriers, $17 billion to firms deemed important to national security, with the remaining $425 billion designated for businesses, cities and states.
- The $367 billion small business loan program, negotiated by Florida senator Mark Rubio, includes six months of loan forbearance (temporary reprieve on existing debt payments), increasing the size of the fund by $17 billion.
- The Washington Post reports White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow as calling it the “single largest Main Street assistance program in the history of the United States.” It is three times the size of the enormous $700 billion TARP bailout of 2008 and represents about 10% of the nation’s entire GDP.
- The Senate bill will also provide a substantial boost to unemployment benefits, adding $600 a week for four months over and above what state unemployment programs pay. This will come as welcome news for those employees laid off as a result of the pandemic. While most states pay unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks, Florida offers only twelve weeks, the lowest in the nation (along with North Carolina), with maximum payout of $250-275/week.
How to apply for assistance
- There are no details yet on how to apply for relief under any of the loan and assistance programs. Check back here for updates, which we will post as soon as we receive the information.
Contractors have generally been allowed to continue operating under the Miami-Dade County Emergency Orders and under Governor DeSantis’ order for Broward and Palm Beach counties. In fact, open construction sites have been specifically exempted under Miami-Dade Emergency Order 07-20. So far, contractors have been fortunate, but many construction related businesses are starting to feel the effects of the growing shutdown. As soon as work is curtailed, revenue streams dry up and many contractors would feel the pinch very quickly. To ease the economic damage caused by loss of revenue, federal and state government programs have started to offer interest free and low interest loans to assist with disaster-related financing, as discussed below.
Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DOE)
Florida small businesses with up to 100 employees are now eligible to apply for short term no interest bridge loans of up to $50,000. These loans are designed to bridge the gap between when the economic impact occurred and the time the businesses are able to obtain traditional financing through the SBA or other institutions.
According to the Ron DeSantis webpage, more information on the program can be found at www.floridadisasterloan.org. You can also contact the Florida Small Business Development Center Network at 866-737-7232 or email [email protected] for questions regarding the Emergency Bridge Loan Program. Phone lines open during regular business hours; all voice mails and emails will be responded to within 24 hours. Businesses can apply for loans at FloridaDisaster.biz. Applications will be accepted until May 8, 2020.
Small Business Administration (SBA)
At the request of Florida governor DeSantis, the SBA is deploying its Economic Injury Loan Program, making long-term low interest loans of up to $2 million available to small businesses and non-profits. Repayment periods may extend up to 30 years, and interest rates are 3.75% for small businesses. Applicants may apply online at disasterloan.sba.gov, where they may also obtain additional information on the loans. Additional information may also be obtained by emailing [email protected] or calling 800.659.2955.
This website provides direct links to the DOE bridge loan program and the SBA Economic Injury Loan Program. It also has a link to a Business Damage Assessment Survey, which allows businesses to complete a questionnaire regarding the extent of their economic loss arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. All businesses are urged to participate as the results will provide valuable information regarding losses and make trigger the release of additional funding.
Florida Tax Assistance
If you have questions regarding tax-related issues arising from COVID-19, contact Florida Department of Revenue’s special team at [email protected].
Federal Tax Assistance
The traditional April 15 deadline has been moved to July 15 according to the IRS news release IR-2020-58 dated March 21, 2020. The opening paragraphs of the release state as follows:
The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced today that the federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020.
Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax.