Small trucking companies and other businesses in danger of permanently closing their doors as a result of COVID-19 can apply for immediate relief under the stimulus package expected to be approved tomorrow.
After the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate late yesterday by unanimous vote, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said her chamber will be taking up the legislation on March 27 "with strong bipartisan support."
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-Missouri) said the bill's funding "will ensure these dedicated workers can continue to do what they do best and transportation businesses can keep their doors open as we move into the next stage of this nationwide fight against the coronavirus."
The 880-page legislation creates a "paycheck protection program" that provides $349 billion for small employers – generally those of 500 employees or less, as well as for independent owner-operators – that provides eight weeks of cash-flow assistance through federally guaranteed loans to small employers who maintain their payroll.
"If the employer maintains payroll, the portion of the loans used for covered payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, and utilities would be forgiven, which would help workers to remain employed and affected small businesses and our economy to recover quickly from this crisis," according to the House Ways and Means Committee. The program is retroactive to February 15, 2020, to help bring back onto payrolls workers who may have already been laid off.
The bill requires that the Small Business Administration (SBA) enact the program no later than 15 days after it is signed into law.
"At its core, trucking is an industry of small business," commented American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear. "More than 90% of motor carriers in this country have fewer than six trucks, and it is critically important for the health of our nation's supply chain that small- and midsize carriers have access to liquidity so they can keep their drivers paid, trucks running, stores restocked and hospitals supplied."
U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue also praised the Senate's passage of the bill and urged immediate passage by the House to help businesses stay open and reduce the potential of future layoffs. "The CARES Act could make the difference between keeping a business up and running or being forced to reduce salaries, lay off employees or shutter businesses entirely," Donohue said.
As passed by the Senate, the bill also provides $17 billion in small business debt relief by requiring the SBA to pay all principal, interest and fees on all existing SBA loan products for six months. In addition, $10 billion would be provided to expand eligibility for disaster loans from the SBA. It includes emergency grants, and an advance of $10,000 within three days to be used for:
- Providing paid sick leave to employees unable to work due to the direct effect of the COVID–19.
- Maintaining payroll to retain employees during business disruptions or substantial slowdowns.
- Meeting increased costs to obtain materials unavailable from the applicant's original source due to interrupted supply chains.
- Making rent or mortgage payments.
- Repaying obligations that cannot be met due to revenue losses.
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