On March 11, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, the latest COVID-19 relief legislation. This plan provides assistance to Americans via tax credits, more aid to small businesses, and expanded unemployment benefits. It also offers many features that will benefit the construction industry.
Lawmakers continue to recognize that the pandemic has devastated families and businesses across the nation. Included in the American Rescue Plan are various provisions to help individuals get by and companies get back on track:
- Vaccination Program
The plan lays out a $20 billion nationwide strategy for vaccinating the public, with the goal of covering all adults by May 2021.
- Stimulus Payments
Qualifying individuals are set to receive stimulus payments of $1,400 each. The eligibility threshold has been lowered to those making less than $75,000 or joint-filing couples making less than $150,000.
- Small Business Assistance
The bill provides $50 billion to small businesses in the form of more PPP loans, grants, and other financing options.
- FFCRA Extension
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provided many employees with COVID-19-related paid sick leave, but it expired on Dec. 31, 2020. No longer are employers required to offer such leave; however, Congress had extended the tax credit employers’ voluntary participation through March 31. The American Rescue Plan Act now extends that same tax credit again through Sept. 30.
- Unemployment Benefits
The $300 weekly supplement offered by the federal government has been extended through Sept. 6. In addition, self-employed and gig workers will receive assistance via the extended Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
- COBRA Subsidy
The American Rescue Plan Act calls for the government to subsidize 100% of COBRA premiums for laid-off employees and their dependents, which allows them to remain on their employers’ health plan through September 2021.
The legislation includes a Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, which offers $10 billion for territorial, tribal government, and state projects that address the coronavirus public health emergency. This fund provides $100 million for each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, which can be directed toward critical construction projects and other initiatives. Tribal governments will share another $100 million. The states will receive remaining funds based on the overall population, rural population and percentage of those living below the poverty line.
The plan provides counties and cities with $120.2 billion and states with $219.8 billion in COVID-19 recovery funds, and some of that could be directed toward construction projects.
Other American Rescue Plan construction-related funding options include the following:
- $125.8 billion for emergency school relief aid, which could be used for elementary and secondary school improvements and repairs
- $30.5 billion in grants offered by the Federal Transit Administration
- $25 billion for restaurant revitalization, which could be focused on constructing outdoor seating areas
- $8.5 billion for healthcare providers, who might direct some of the funds to facility improvements and retrofits
- $1.8 billion for coronavirus genomic sequencing, which could result in facility alterations and renovations
- $600 million for tribal governments, who might earmark funding for renovating healthcare facilities
As the bill moved from the U.S. House, the Senate ruled that the federal minimum wage increase to $15 an hour was not appropriate for this legislation, and removed it. This decision is likely good news for most construction companies. However, many states have already passed such an increase, so business owners in some locations will have to accommodate this change in the years to come.
Liability shields were also not included in the legislation. This exclusion of liability reform could be bad news for any companies that fear frivolous employee lawsuits. Businesses will need to remain vigilant in following COVID-19 safety precautions and guidelines.
While the politicians and the public are divided on all the merits of the American Rescue Plan, this legislation will undoubtedly have an impact on the U.S. economy and the state of the construction industry. Contractors, owners, and crew members may benefit from the funding and the resulting robust activity as 2021 progresses.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.