Our members are our first priority. At the Chamber, a vital part of our mission is to provide our community with important information about legislation in this rapidly changing time.
As we all navigate these rapidly evolving circumstances, the federal and state governments are moving quickly to bring legislative supports to help workers, businesses, and our economy through these times. We will do our best to communicate these to you in a timely way, so that you have the resources needed to successfully lead your business through this challenging time. If you have a specific question, please reach out, and we will do our best to help get you the necessary information.
While not comprehensive, here are a few key updates from the last 24 hours:
- Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announced yesterday, March 17, that individuals and corporations may delay their tax payments for 90 days due to the coronavirus. Individuals may defer up to $1 million in payments, and corporations may defer up to $10 million in payments, for 90 days. During that time, the IRS will not charge interest or penalties.
- The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced late Tuesday, March 17, that they were reducing the criteria on states to request Disaster Assistance Loans for Small Businesses Impacted by Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Office of Governor Greg Abbott was already working with the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to collect the required forms. On March 17, Governor Abbott requested a declaration of emergency from the SBA. It is anticipated the SBA will process and approve by Friday, March 20, if not before. Once granted, SBA Economic Injury dollars will be available to small businesses throughout the state. More information on how to apply is outlined below.
- Today, March 18, the Senate passed House Resolution 6201, The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which will now be sent to the President and go into effect. See more details below.
- Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is temporarily waiving certain requirements and granting an extension to apply for or renew vehicle registrations, titles and disabled parking placards. The temporary waiver is in effect until 60 days after the DMV notifies the public that normal services have resumed. Customers may continue to renew registration online at www.TxDMV.gov.
- The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has announced that under direction from Governor Abbott, they will waive the week-long waiting period for Unemployment Benefits.
- The TWC has developed a Shared Work plan. If businesses need to reduce employee hours due to COVID-19, they may avoid full layoffs by submitting a shared work plan. This allows employers to supplement employees’ wages lost due to reduced hours with partial unemployment benefits. Hours may be reduced by at least ten percent but not more than forty percent, and must apply to at least ten percent of employees in a unit.
- Yesterday, March 17, the TWC also voted to implement several actions related to the TWC childcare program.
- Effective March 1, children may accrue absences without impacting ongoing eligibility for services, or provider reimbursements. Providers will continue to be paid, if children are absent or if the facility must close due to COVID-19.
- Workforce development boards are authorized to make supplemental payments to child care programs to cover lost parent share payments.
HR 6201: Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Small Business Impact
This bill was written to address the growing needs of small businesses to offer paid sick and family medical leave to their employees in this time of a declared national emergency.
This bill requires certain employers to offer 80 hours (or two weeks) of fully Paid Sick Leave to full-time employees, and pro-rata leave for part-time employees, for specific circumstances related to COVID-19, on top of any other paid leave program of the employer.
Please note, employers who already provide paid leave on the day before the bill is enacted must provide this leave in addition to any paid leave already provided, and they may not change their paid leave policies after the date of enactment.
Further, employers will be required to provide twelve weeks of Family Medical Leave, of which the first two weeks may be unpaid. Employees may use accrued personal time off, or other sick or family leave during the first fourteen days, but employers may not require employees to do so.
This benefit covers employees who have been working for thirty calendar days.
Employers will be required to pay employees paid sick time at their regular rate of pay, unless the leave is taken to care for a child or family member, in which employees are only eligible for two-thirds their wages, not to exceed $200 per day. This leave would cover employees who are not working because they must care for their child because the school is closed or because the child care provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency.
The leave provisions apply only to employers with 50-500 employees. Companies with fewer than 50 workers can apply for a waiver from the paid family leave provisions.
Further, the bill outlines an exception for employers with less than 25 employees if the employee’s job no longer exists due to the coronavirus pandemic, which requires employers to make reasonable efforts to restore the employee over a one-year period.
Certain health care providers and emergency responders are exempt from the definition of eligible employee.
Employers who provide sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act will receive 100 percent refundable tax credits for coronavirus related sick leave costs under H.R. 6201.
The tax credits will be administered by the IRS and be creditable to employer-side payroll tax liability, with any excess refunded directly to the employer.
Small Business Administration (SBA): Disaster Loan Assistance
The SBA has designated COVID-19 as a qualifying event to make available Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for businesses, small agricultural coops, and some private non-profits in the state who have suffered substantial economic injury due to COVID-19. EIDLs will be up to $2 million, to provide the necessary working capital to help businesses survive until normal operations resume.
The Governor’s Office has worked with the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to meet the first criteria for qualification, and on March 17, requested Emergency Designation for Small Business Disaster Loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
It is anticipated the U.S. SBA will grant Emergency Designation quickly, by March 20, if not before, after which time small businesses may apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
You can apply for an EIDL here. Online is the fastest way to apply and learn about your business’ eligibility. According to the SBA, applicants can expect a turnaround time of three weeks after submitting a complete application.
Before applying, you must first register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). To obtain a FEMA registration number, call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 or visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
Please remember this is not a comprehensive list and we will continue to keep you apprised of updates