Fiscal Relief Initiatives for Small Businesses During COVID-19 Outbreak

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Fiscal relief policy focused on business and individuals impacted by COVID-19 is extremely fluid right now, with changes occurring sometimes by the hour. The American Booksellers Association’s Advocacy team continues to monitor developments as they happen, in addition to advocating for grants and direct support, rather than loans, for small businesses. Late last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a package aimed at helping families through the pandemic, and at present, the Senate is formulating ways to help both families and businesses get through this crisis.

As of press time, here are some things we know:

Individual and Business Tax Deferment

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that if individuals owe a payment, they can defer up to $1 million, and corporations may defer $10 million. The deferrals will be penalty-free and interest-free for 90 days as the U.S. grapples with the coronavirus crisis. On March 20, the IRS announced that the deadline to file taxes has been extended to July 15.

Stimulus Plan in the Works

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is negotiating a stimulus plan with Congress. According to CNBC and the Washington Post, the Trump administration is backing sending two direct payments of $1,000 to Americans as part of a stimulus package worth between $850 billion to over $1 trillion to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Some Americans will not qualify for the $1,000 payments if their income is over a certain level (yet to be determined). An administration official said the package could include $200 billion to $300 billion in small business assistance. ABA will keep an eye on negotiations and will keep bookseller members up-to-date as the stimulus package moves forward.

ABA Advocacy Efforts

The American Booksellers Association has been in contact with the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship as well as staffers from Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) office. Senator Rubio chairs the committee. ABA has several times reiterated the need for cash assistance in the form of grants, rather than loans for small businesses.

Additionally, ABA is sending letters to Senate leadership, members of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and governors in all 50 states and some territories as well as the mayor of D.C.

ABA was joined by 10 other organizations in its letter to Senate leadership and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. The co-signing organizations were the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association; the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association; the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association; the New England Independent Booksellers Association; the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association; the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association; the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance; the California Independent Booksellers Alliance; Brixy, Inc.; and the Independent Office Products & Furniture Dealers Association.

ABA is urging government leaders to:

  • Provide financial relief in the form of grants for paid sick and emergency leave and for businesses that must temporarily close;
  • Provide tax relief for small businesses;
  • Guarantee everyone (including the uninsured) have access to COVID-19 diagnostic testing and treatment;
  • Continue to streamline the SBA loan process; and
  • Aggregate information on COVID-19 financial assistance.

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans

The Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer assistance to be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses without credit available elsewhere; businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75 percent.

The SBA is working directly with governors in states and territories to issue an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration in a state/territory. Please check your state government’s website to see if your state is now eligible for this kind of loan.

For additional information, contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 or [email protected].

You may also contact your local district SBA office or Women’s Business Center regarding any loans involving the SBA.

Facebook Small Business Grant Program

As a response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Facebook is offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries. Facebook will begin taking applications in the upcoming weeks. However, you can sign up to receive updates.

City and State Initiatives

The National Governors Association lists regularly updated state-by-state information on state/territorial resource pages and actions.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors also regularly updates city guidelines and best practices. Your city may be listed.

In general, most city government websites list up-to-date information on city guidelines and financial assistance available to local small businesses. Regularly check your city government’s website and/or sign up to receive text or email alerts when new information is posted (most websites have this feature).

Expanded Unemployment Benefits

The Department of Labor issued new guidance outlining flexibilities that states have in administering their unemployment insurance (UI) programs to assist Americans affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Federal law allows states to pay benefits where:

  1. An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work;
  2. An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and
  3. An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.

Federal law does not require an employee to quit in order to receive benefits as a result of COVID-19.

Since states administer unemployment compensation, check with your state government’s website or Unemployment Benefits Finder for the most updated information and to see if you or your staff are eligible.

Sales Tax Deferment

Some states have pushed back sales tax due dates due to COVID-19. For updated information, visit TaxJar’s Sales and Use Tax Filing Due Dates Affected by COVID-19 and your state government’s website.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The bill aims to (in part) establish a federal emergency paid leave benefits program, expand unemployment benefits and provide grants to states to process benefits, require employers to provide paid sick leave, and establish requirements for proving coronavirus diagnostic testing at no cost.

The state of federal government aid packages is fluid and changes frequently. ABA will communicate any significant changes.