Congress to Pass Fifth Round Of Needed Covid Relief, But Leaves Out Critical Paid Leave Provisions
WASHINGTON – The American Sustainable Business Council applauds Congress for reaching apparent agreement on a fifth, desperately needed $900 billion COVID relief bill, but ASBC expressed strong disappointment that it does not include extending emergency paid leave provisions.
“Congress’s failure to address paid leave means up to 87 million Americans who were eligible for benefits from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which took effect last spring, could lose those benefits at the end of this month,” said Thomas Oppel, ASBC executive vice president, reacting to the agreement the House and Senate were expected to vote on Monday.
As the virus surges, Congress only included a tax credit to employers that provide paid leave, creating concerns that with so many small businesses facing serious economic hardship the tax credit may not truly help.
“Extending paid leave is crucial for stability in small businesses and the overall labor market,” said Oppel. “Small businesses shouldn’t be burdened with the costs of perhaps permanently losing their staff, individuals shouldn’t be expected to bear the entire cost of needing to stay home during this global pandemic to care for themselves or a family member and those who patronize these businesses shouldn’t be worried about the health of those who provide goods or services.”
In total, the new round of relief targets $325 billion for small business, including $284 billion added to the Paycheck Protection Program in potentially forgivable loans. It also offers another round of direct stimulus with $600 for each individual and another $600 for each child dependent. Federal supplemental unemployment benefits are also being renewed for 10 weeks at $300 per week from Dec. 26 through March 14.
In a big victory for broadband, $7 billion of funds will be set aside in attempts to bridge the nations digital divide by connecting tens of millions of people to high-speed internet needed to access remote health care, jobs and education. For vaccine procurement and distribution, $32 billion will go into federal and state efforts, along with $22 billion to states for testing and tracing. The transportation industry will also receive $45 billion in funding.