RIMS Advocacy Newsletter
U.S. Congress Passes $2 Trillion Economic Stimulus Package
After five days of negotiations and intensified tensions on Capitol Hill, Members of Congress and the White House have reached a deal on a massive $2 trillion economic stimulus package designed to help American workers, small businesses and hospitals due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Below is a summary of the key provision in the bill relevant to RIMS members. Here is a link to the full bill. Please contact RIMS Director of Government Relations Whitney Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions.
Key Provisions of the CARES Act
- Small Business Interruption Loans The bill would expand the eligibility for small businesses (those under 500 employees) to receive a loan of up to $10 million under the Small Business Act. Loans can be used for payroll as well as paid sick,
medical, or family leave, costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits, mortgage payments and rent, utilities, and other debts. Loans could also be extended to sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed persons.
No collateral would be required, nor any personal guarantee. Loans are eligible for forgiveness if they meet specific criteria.
- Payroll Tax Credit For Employers Employers are eligible for a 50 percent refundable payroll tax credit on wages paid up to $10,000 during the crisis. The credit would be available to employers whose businesses were disrupted due to virus shutdowns
and those that had a decrease in gross receipts of 50 percent or more when compared to the same quarter last year. The credit can be claimed for employees who are retained but not currently working due to the crisis for firms with more than 100
employees, and for all employee wages for firms with 100 or fewer employees.
- Payroll Tax Payment Delays The bill would extend the time to submit payroll taxes. The extension for payroll tax would apply to the employer portion of self-employment taxes, too. The provision requires that the tax be paid over the next two years,
with half due by December 31, 2021, and the remainder due by December 31, 2022.
- Corporate Tax Payment Delays Corporations would get extra time to pay payroll taxes. The extension would apply to the employer portion of self-employment taxes, too.
- Unemployment Benefits For Workers The bill provides an additional $600 per week for up to four months in unemployment benefits for workers who are out of work; a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program would provide benefits for those not
traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits, including self-employed workers and independent contractors. The federal government will provide temporary full funding of the first week of regular unemployment for states with no waiting period
and extend UI benefits for an additional 13 weeks through December 31, 2020 after state UI benefits end.
- Special Rules For Retirement Accounts The bill would allow for tax-favored "coronavirus-related" distributions from certain retirement plans of up to $100,000 (the 10% early withdrawal penalty would not apply). Also, income attributable to those distributions would be subject to tax over three years (as opposed to one). Qualifying taxpayers would also be allowed to repay their retirement plans to make up for money withdrawn to pay coronavirus-related expenses (including loans and distributions).
States Introduce Covid-19-related Business Interruption Insurance Legislation
In the past few weeks, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ohio have all introduced legislation that provides a framework for businesses that suffer business interruption loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic to recover from their insurer.
New Jersey led the way with bill A-3844, which would compel insurance companies to cover claims by New Jersey small business owners for damages resulting from interruption of their operations due to the COVID-19 state-of-emergency declaration by the Governor that forced them to shut down temporarily.
Following New Jersey’s example, the Ohio legislature introduced a bill, H.B. No. 589, which requires insurers who offer business interruption insurance to cover losses attributable to viruses and pandemics.
Finally, Massachusetts legislators introduced their own COVID-19 bill, S.D. 2888. This bill goes further than the New Jersey and Ohio bills, and explicitly mandates coverage even in the face of unambiguous policy language. It states that “no insurer may deny a claim for the loss of use and occupancy and business interruption on account of (i) COVID-19 being a virus (even if the relevant insurance policy excludes losses resulting from viruses)…”
As expected the insurance community is in opposition of these bills, however we expect to see more states introduce similar legislation in the coming months.
Congress Considers Pandemic Risk Backstop Legislation
Members of Congress have begun to take steps to address the economic concerns of businesses across the U.S. through the proposal of legislation entitled the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act of 2020 (“PRIA”). Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, initially included PRIA, comparing it to the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), in the March 18 Committee legislative package in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
If enacted, the goal of PRIA would be to provide a federal loss-sharing program for insurance claims relating to losses resulting from a certified pandemic or epidemic, like COVID-19. RIMS is involved in the discussions with Members of Congress and other stakeholders about PRIA and continues to monitor this and other legislation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.