Updated March 30, 2021: The PPP Extension Act, signed in to law by President Biden, extends the deadline to apply for a PPP loan by two months, to May 31, 2021.
With the signing of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 by President Biden on March 11, 2021, many provisions from previously enacted stimulus legislation during the COVID-19 pandemic will be impacted. Businesses still struggling financially will have an opportunity to take advantage of additional relief funding.
The $1.9 trillion aid package includes changes involving tax credits from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act — namely the employee retention tax credit (ERTC) — as well as a grant program aimed at restaurants and the food industry, changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, subsidies for employer-sponsored health insurance continuation coverage (COBRA) and more.
Missing from the law is the original proposal from the House of Representatives’ bill to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour, amended in the Senate version and then left out in a second vote by the House.
Here are some highlights that could impact business and the individuals they employ:
Tax Credit Extensions
The new law provides businesses, especially those hit hardest, with an extension and the ability to use more qualified wages while claiming the employee retention tax credit. The deadline to claim the credit, which had been extended to June 30, 2021 under the previous stimulus package, has been extended to Dec. 31, 2021.
One minor change is the refundable and non-refundable portions of the credit now will be claimed against Medicare taxes instead of against Social Security taxes, but this change only applies to wages paid after June 30, 2021. It will not change the amount of the credit.
For certain startup businesses that started after Feb. 15, 2020 and were forced to shut down due to government order are allowed a credit of $50,000 per quarter instead of $10,000. Colleges, universities and hospitals can now claim the credit, as well.
Under the FFCRA framework, the deadline to claim tax credits for paid sick and family leave is extended to Sept. 30, 2021. Plus, beginning April 1, 2021, the maximum number of days for which qualified sick leave wages can be paid to enable an employer to get credit will be reset to 10 days.
The maximum dollar amount for the family leave credit annually will increase to $12,000, up $2,000 from its original limit and the 10-day waiting period is removed, so the leave may apply immediately upon the event. The eligibility conditions under FFCRA which allow for employees to be paid qualified sick leave wages also expanded. Employers may now claim the credit for sick leave wages paid for:
- Employees taking leave while they await the results of a diagnostic test for COVID-19 after being exposed to the virus or because their employer requests the test.
- Leave taken for the employee to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine or to recover from any health issues resulting from the vaccine.
To claim the credit, updates will have to be made to IRS Form 941 for 2Q 2021, and further guidance is expected on how these credits will be implemented.
Unemployment Insurance Benefits
With businesses still navigating the re-opening process and regulations related to COVID-19, unemployment demands continue to place heavy burden on the system. As of mid-February 2021, U.S. Department of Labor data officially lists 10.1 million Americans as unemployed. However, through Jan. 30, data show 18.3 million people receiving unemployment checks on a weekly basis.
Supplemental UI benefits extended under previous legislation were set to expire March 14, 2021 but have been extended under the American Rescue Plan Act to Sept. 6, 2021. The extra weekly amount remains $300.
The provision of the law on unemployment benefits includes a new one and changes to several other provisions on unemployment assistance implemented during the pandemic.
- Effective beginning for tax year 2020, unemployment benefits up to $10,200 paid to a taxpayer may be excluded from their adjusted gross income. This applies to individuals (or joint return filers) who have collected UI benefits and have an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000.
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: The bill increases the number of available weeks to 79 (from 50).
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC): The amount stays at $300 extra per week and benefits extended until Sept. 6, 2021.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): The number of weeks of benefits increases to 53 and extends to Sept. 6, 2021.
* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.