There are several provisions in the U.S. Senate GOP HEALS Act addressing the needs of small businesses as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Editor’s note: This article is available for members only.
Democrat leaders in the U.S. Senate continue to debate an agreement on the next economic relief package following the release of the Senate GOP’s proposal, The Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS Act), last week.
The U.S. House of Representatives has cancelled its August recess to allow negotiations on the relief bills to continue.
The Senate and House are working to reach an agreement on the next relief bill and negotiations are expected to be ongoing during the coming weeks. The Senate is scheduled for a district work period starting Aug. 10 through Labor Day weekend, but that could be delayed depending on the outcome of this week’s negotiations.
ACA has been working closely with Congress to educate them about problematic provisions in the HEROES Act, which would impede the work of the industry.
In its original draft, the HEALS Act had minimal restrictions on industry operations and would provide additional funding for small-business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program.
ACA has a summary available for members comparing the HEALS Act and the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) ACT , (H.R. 6800), approved by the House and currently under debate in the Senate.
Of particular note in the HEROES Act are provisions that the HEALS Act contains no analogues of which would suspend the reporting of negative consumer credit events and institute a moratorium on consumer debt collection during and 120 days after the end of a declared national emergency (including the current pandemic).
Followin are some additional highlights from the summary:
- There are several provisions included in the HEALS Act bill that directly address the needs of small businesses as the pandemic continues. Among these is incorporation of the Continuing Small Business Recovery and Paycheck Protection Program Act from U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, that amends the Paycheck Protection Program and also establishes a new loan program that would provide working capital and is targeted at low-income communities, minority-owned, and seasonal businesses.
- While not explicitly small-business-related, there are substantial liability protections contained in the bill that protect employers from liability under federal labor and employment laws (including ADA, OSHA, and Civil Rights Act of 1964) for actions taken to comply with coronavirus-related public health guidance and regulations. In contrast, the HEROES Act contains no provisions related to these protections.
- The HEALS Act incorporates the American Workers, Families, and Employers Assistance Act from U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa., which would expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to $10,000 per year for the hiring of employees who had previously received COVID-19-related unemployment assistance. In contrast, the HEROES Act incorporates U.S. Rep. Robert Scott’s, D-Va., COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act of 2020, which would require employers to develop and implement a COVID-19 exposure control plan, comply with OSHA regulations, and prohibit retaliation against workers for reporting health and safety hazards.
- The HEALS Act would provide a second round of stimulus payments with the same terms as the payments issued this spring, aside from the removal of the age limit on child dependents that applied to those prior payments. It simplifies the federal student loan repayment programs, reducing the options available to a standard 10-year repayment plan or an income-based repayment plan. Perhaps the biggest difference in direct assistance, however, comes in the two bills’ treatment of unemployment assistance.
Read more in ACA’s summary of the HEALS Act and HEROES Act, including health- care-related provisions and state, local and community funding provisions.
ACA also has additional summaries of the HEROES Act, including ARM Industry Thoughts on the HEROES Act and ACA International Outlines Problems with House HEROES Act.
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