Legislative Response to COVID-19

Congress passed several laws to help businesses and individuals during the pandemic and through an economic recovery. ASLRRA’s Government Affairs team worked closely with lawmakers to ensure that short line railroads were represented in all legislation.

The ASLRRA has also provided several recorded webinars (see sidebar) that address tax and business impacts of these laws.

Below is an overview and summaries of each piece of legislation.


Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) of 2021

The CAA includes sections important to railroads, including permanence of the 45G short line tax credit, changes to the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (including Railroad Retirement Benefits) and Employee Retention Credit (ERC) provisions, first introduced in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.

The ERC is a fully refundable tax credit meant to encourage businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to retain employees on their payroll.

Under the CAA, the ERC was extended through June, 2021 and the credit amount was increased to 70 percent of qualified wages, capped at $7,000 for each of the first two quarters of 2021. The law also changes employer eligibility, allowing those with gross receipts less than 80 percent of receipts in the same quarter in 2019 to qualify. Businesses with 500 employees or less are also eligible, up from the previous 100-employee threshold.

One of the most significant changes to the ERC is the ability of companies that received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to now qualify for the ERC, which was prohibited in the CARES Act. However, a company cannot claim wages eligible for the ERC that were paid using a PPP loan that was forgiven. Eligibility is retroactive to March, 2020.

Finally, the CAA made changes to railroad retirement benefits. Of note, the sequestration order has been lifted until 30 days past the expiration of the Emergency Order related to COVID, the availability $600 per pay period/$300 per week for furloughed workers through March 14, and extension of maximum weeks paid from 39 to 50 weeks.

Also included in the CAA was permanency for the 45G short line tax credit, which ASLRRA applauded in a press release.

A helpful overview of the possible tax impact of these changes to businesses from ASLRRA member Bowers & Company is provided here.


2020 Legislation


H.R.6074 - Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act

Enacted on March 6, 2020 (Public Law 116-123), this $8.3 billion package fully funded a robust response to coronavirus, including vaccine development, support for state and local governments, and assistance for affected small businesses.

A summary of the Legislation provided by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, is here.


H.R.6201 - Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Enacted on March 18, 2020 (Public Law 116-127), this law provided for Unemployment Compensation, paid Sick Leave, paid Family and Medical Leave, provisions for diagnostic Testing and other Health Services, funding to for School Nutrition Programs, WIC, SNAP, Senior Food Programs, and waiver of liability for medical device manufacturers.

A summary of the law is here.


RECORDED WEBINARS AVAILABLE 
Outlining the Impact of COVID-19 Legislation on Small Businesses & Railroads

ASLRRA has conducted a series of webinars to help members understand how the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) legislation impacts small railroads and industry suppliers. Recorded webinars are available in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinars Library.

 

Learn More

H.R.748 - Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

Enacted on March 27, 2020 (Public Law 116-136), this comprehensive package was designed to protect the health and well-being of all Americans. More than 80% ($274.231 billion) of the total $339.855 billion provided in the coronavirus emergency supplemental appropriations package goes to state and local governments and communities. Highlights include:

$117 Billion for Hospitals and Veterans Health Care
$45 Billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund
$16 Billion for the Strategic National Stockpile
$4.3 Billion for the Centers for Disease Control
$11 Billion for Vaccines, Therapeutics, Diagnostics, & Other Medical Needs

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies received $48.5 million.

A summary of the law with emphasis on transportation is here.

PB Mares Summary of Available Benefits for Businesses
PB Mares Summary of Benefits for Individuals


H.R.266 - Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act

Enacted on April 24, 2020 (Public Law 116-139), this law increases funding for the Paycheck Protection and Emergency Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) Grants programs, as well as for hospitals and coronavirus testing.


H.R.7010 - The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act

Enacted on June 5, 2020 (Public Law 116-142), this law improves the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by extending deadlines and providing more flexibility for borrowers who will seek loan forgiveness.

A bill summary can be found here.