Legislative Updates

August 3, 2020

Survey Reveals How Small Businesses Adapt to COVID-19

The U.S. Chamber and MetLife recently released the monthly Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll, which surveys how small businesses nationwide are adapting their operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic while preparing amid concerns of a potential resurgence.

Among other insights, the most recent poll found that:

  • Almost 90 percent report their businesses are open in some capacity;
  • 65 percent of businesses are concerned about having to close their business, or stay closed, if there is a second wave of COVID-19;
  • 19 percent report applying for and receiving a PPP loan;
  • 48 percent of small businesses say it could be anywhere from three months to a year before they anticipate rehiring most of their employees;
  • 64 percent of PPP loan recipients are concerned about meeting the criteria necessary to receive loan forgiveness.
August 3, 2020

FEDA Among Nearly 500 Organizations to Sign Letter Supporting Safe to Work Act

On July 30, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to members of Congress asking them to “support the timely, targeted, and temporary liability relief provisions” in the proposed Safe to Work Act.

“These crucial protections would safeguard healthcare workers, providers, and facilities, as well as businesses, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions against unfair lawsuits so they can continue to contribute to a safe and effective economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the U.S. Chamber wrote. “This legislation is critically needed and should be enacted as soon as possible.”

The letter was signed by nearly 500 organizations, including FEDA and the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. The Safe to Work Act, S. 4317, was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on July 27 and is intended to protect businesses that are acting in good faith from being sued for COVID-19 exposure.

The law would cover coronavirus-related exposure injuries that occur between Dec. 1, 2019 and Oct. 1, 2024 and would create detailed procedural requirements to prevent frivolous litigation in federal court.

“The temporary and targeted liability relief provisions contained in S. 4317 are balanced and would ensure that unfair lawsuits against those who work to comply with applicable governmental guidelines do not impede the American people’s health, social, and economic recovery. Importantly, the protections contained in this legislation are limited in duration and scope,” the U.S. Chamber’s letter states. “They are not permanent changes to federal law. Furthermore, they allow states to provide additional protections if they so choose and, critically, preserve reasonable recourse for those harmed by truly bad actors.”

To read the full letter, please visit this page.

August 3, 2020

Proposed Bill Would Ease Process for 86 Percent of PPP Borrowers

FEDA has signed onto a letter asking members of the House Committee of Small Business to support H.R. 7777, The Paycheck Protection Program Small Business Forgiveness Act.

The bill, which is sponsored by Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.), would forgive PPP loans of less than $150,000 upon the borrower’s completion of a one-page forgiveness document. These loan sizes account for 86 percent of total PPP recipients, but less than 27 percent of PPP loan dollars. It is believed that expediting the loan forgiveness process for many of these smaller borrowers will save more than $7 billion dollars and hours of paperwork.

“Small businesses and their employees are the backbone of our nation’s economy and communities,” the letter states. “Their time and resources would be better focused on getting the economy safely back up and running, not processing burdensome paperwork.”

To read the full letter, please click here.

July 29, 2020

PLUS Act Take Action Alert

With the introduction of the HEALS Act this week, it is unclear whether measures left out of the GOP recovery package or the Democrats’ alternative HEROES Act will have momentum in the coming weeks. One such proposal is the Providing Liquidity for Uncollectible Sales (PLUS) Act, which would provide a 100 percent tax credit to wholesale distributors that sell to food and beverage operators that were forced to close for at least 30 days because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

FEDA is asking members to contact their legislators to urge them to support the PLUS Act and ensure the tax credit is made available to the foodservice equipment and supplies industry. To find your U.S. representative and his or her contact information, visit house.gov/representatives and enter your home zip code in the top right corner. For your U.S. senators, visit senate.gov and click on the “Find Your Senators” by state dropdown menu in the top left corner.

July 29, 2020

FEDA Members Urged to Contact Legislators to Support COVID-19 Relief Package Provisions

Summarized from Jade West, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors

On July 27, Senate Republicans released a series of bills covering a broad range of issues that they will now combine into the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act. This is the Senate’s long-awaited $1 trillion CARES 2 Coronavirus response legislation.

To pass, this bill will have to get 60 votes, and that outcome is not certain since there is intense Democratic opposition and some opposition from Senate Republicans as well. Negotiations are now underway on the Senate bill, and if it passed it will have to be reconciled with the HEROES Act, which was passed by the House in June, before something can be sent to the president.

The HEALS Act includes numerous provisions that NAW has strongly advocated for, such as: 

  • Additional funding and structural changes for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP);
  • Limited and targeted liability protection from COVID-related claims;
  • Extension of the unemployment insurance program but with a reduced pandemic bonus payment;
  • Expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit, including making PPP borrowers eligible for the ERTC with limits to prevent overlap; and
  • Stimulus payments to individuals.

One notable omission the NAW expected in the bill was language to reverse the IRS ruling that otherwise-deductible expenses paid with forgiven PPP loan proceeds are not tax-deductible. A strong effort will be made to fix this problem.

Politico published a story last evening that summarizes the legislation and gives a good account of the political situation in Congress and the challenges ahead as they try to negotiate a final bill. You can read that story here.

Also, the Littler Law firm published a report on some of the key provisions in the bill. You can view the firm’s report here.

Section-by-section of Finance/tax provisions

Legislative text of Finance provisions (including ERTC)

Liability legislative text

Small business section-by-section

Small Business provisions legislative text

Legislative text for Restaurant aid

FEDA urges members to reach out to their legislators and ask them to work toward the passage of another COVID-19 relief package the would include the above provisions. To find your U.S. representative and his or her contact information, visit house.gov/representatives and enter your home zip code in the top right corner. For your U.S. senators, visit senate.gov and click on the “Find Your Senators” by state dropdown menu in the top left corner. 

 
July 27, 2020

Law Would Grant Distributors Needed Liquidity

New proposed legislation would provide a 100 percent tax credit to food and beverage distributors to offset uncollectable debt for products that were shipped to operators before COVID-19 shutdowns.

The Providing Liquidity for Uncollectible Sales (PLUS) Act was introduced by congressmen Darin Hood (R-IL) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and would cover wholesale distributors “engaged in the trade or business of selling inventory to food and beverage establishments.” If passed as written, the tax credit would apply for uncollectible debt from food and beverage establishments that were ordered to close for at least 30 days between March 25, 2020 and July 15,2020.

“Through no fault of their own, many establishments were forced to close and now face significant capacity restrictions as states reopen,” LaHood said in a statement. “The bipartisan PLUS Act will allow distributors to continue supporting their customers during this difficult time while covering previous purchases that food and beverage establishments will be unlikely to cover due to forced closures.”

The International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), which represents the $300-billion foodservice distribution industry, is supporting the legislation. “This debt is a significant limitation on distributor liquidity when they need it most, the IFDA said. “The PLUS Act provides tax credits for the $12.2 billion in outstanding debts owed to distributors by restaurants. This legislation provides the liquidity distributors need to continue to extend credit to their restaurant customers and help them get back on their feet as the economy restarts. 

July 27, 2020

Jeff Bezos to Testify before House Subcommittee

Amazon’s B2B marketplace is “rigged,” the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) wrote in a letter to the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law.

The NAW is urging the subcommittee to take a deep review of Amazon’s “monopolistic mistreatment of third-party sellers.” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will testify before the subcommittee on Monday, July 27. The testimony comes following several recent reports about Amazon’s alleged anti-competitive practices on its B2C and B2B ecommerce marketplace. “Unchecked, Amazon’s dominance threatens to cripple the highly competitive B2B system which exists in our country,” the NAW wrote. “Wholesaler-distributors – most of them small and medium-size businesses – will quite literally be driven out of existence, leaving customers with fewer alternatives and less choice.”

The NAW letter includes examples from several NAW members that have been affected by Amazon’s competitive practices, including the alleged misuse of third-party seller data, steering customers to Amazon’s own private-label products, and the manipulation of search algorithms.

“Small businesses that depend upon Amazon for access to their markets, including many of our members, fear retribution by Amazon if they speak up,” the NAW told the subcommittee. “They are relying upon you and your colleagues to curb Amazon’s stranglehold on them.”

The full NAW letter may be read here.

July 27, 2020

Chamber CEO Publishes NYT Op-Ed on Immigration

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has joined the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Retail Federation in filing a joint lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s newly introduced restrictions on visas that allow immigrants to temporarily work in the United States.

In June, President Trump issued a proclamation that extended and expanded an earlier order to imposed sweeping restrictions on temporary work visas. The proclamation suspends entry for individuals seeking to enter the United States from another country through Dec. 31, 2020, and includes:

Employment-based permanent immigrant visas for researchers and scientists, executives, people with college or other advanced degrees, skilled workers, religious workers, broadcasters, and translators.

Employment-based temporary nonimmigrant visas for individuals working in specialty occupations, nonagricultural seasonal guest workers, executives of managers who are looking to transfer from a foreign office to a U.S. location, interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, and people participating in summer work travel programs.

Family-based permanent immigrant visas for parents of U.S. citizens, adult children of U.S. citizens, spouses and unmarried children of U.S. lawful permanent resident, adult siblings of U.S. citizens.

Family-based temporary nonimmigrant visas for spouses and minor children of H-1B, H-2B, J-1, and L-1 visa holders.

Other permanent immigrant visas, such as diversity visas and visas for victims of certain crimes and their spouses and children.

The U.S. Chamber was quick to challenge the Trump Administration following the proclamation and has continued to oppose its restrictions. "Our lawsuit seeks to overturn these sweeping and unlawful immigration restrictions that are an unequivocal ‘not welcome’ sign to the engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses, and other critical workers who help drive the American economy,” U.S. Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue said in a statement. “Left in place, these restrictions will push investment abroad, inhibit economic growth, and reduce job creation."

Donohue has also authored an op-ed in the New York Times discussing why the president’s immigration policies are bad for American businesses. The opinion piece can be read here.