By Mark Valentini, Director of Legislative Affairs
Last week, a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers rallied around a $908 billion COVID relief package that would extend the PPP program, expand eligibility to 501(c)6 organizations, provide liability protection for businesses against COVID litigation, $300 per week per individual in federal unemployment benefits, and provide funding to state and local governments for emergency response. While its warm reception gave Americans some hope that Congress would finally act, leaders from both parties object to key provisions in the bill, and President Trump wants another round of stimulus payments to be included in any package. Leader McConnell continues to prefer a Senate Republican proposal from earlier in the autumn that costs $500 billion, and continues to object to funding for state and locals. In fact, he offered to remove liability protection if Democrats removed state funding language, to no avail. If there is an agreement, it would be tied to a continuing resolution funding government for FY2021.
Speaking of the FY21 budget, the continuing resolution (CR) keeping government funded expires at midnight on Friday, December 11. The House just passed a continuing resolution extending the CR for another week as Congress hashes out a few funding details.
The House also passed this week the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to fund the military through next year. It is expected to pass the Senate, whereupon the President has threatened to veto the bill because it does not contain the repeal of Section 230, which provides liability protection for social media platforms based on the content they post. While there is bipartisan support for Section 230 reform, most lawmakers agree the NDAA is not the appropriate vehicle for it. The bill passed the House with more than the 2/3 majority needed to override a presidential veto, but it remains unknown if enough Republicans will rally behind the President to maintain his veto should that happen.
More importantly for PHCC members, the legislation contains a provision (the Corporate Transparency Act) which requires businesses with 20 or less employees to report to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN, an agency under the Department of Treasury) via their financial institutions any individuals with at least 25% beneficial ownership in the business. The language gives FinCEN the broad authority to define what “beneficial ownership” means, and the data would be entered into a database managed by FinCEN that allows law enforcement authorities access without a judicial warrant. PHCC is opposed to the Corporate Transparency Act. If the NDAA is vetoed and that veto is not overridden, Congress will likely opt for a clean CR funding the military into next year, and PHCC will continue to advocate against inclusion of the Corporate Transparency Act and its Senate companion the ILLICIT CASH Act in any must-pass legislation or as a stand-alone bill in the next Congress.
If that’s not all, Congress must still consider a tax extenders package to keep certain tax provisions alive into next year lest they expire on midnight December 31. Included in those provisions are Sections 25C and 179D, which provide tax credits for residential and commercial energy efficiency upgrades that incentivize consumers to invest in new HVAC systems. A reversal of IRS guidance from earlier this year prohibiting deductions for qualified expenses paid with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds is also expected to be part of the extenders package as well. Debate on extenders has been lost in the hubbub surrounding COVID relief, the FY2021 budget, and the NDAA. Congress has very little time to act, and they may even reconvene over the holidays to conclude unfinished business. Your PHCC government affairs team will continue to monitor the situation in Washington and keep you apprised of any updates.
Director of Legislative Affairs , PHCC-National Association