$ 900 billion stimulus throws rope, but retail needs more – WWD
The $ 900 billion stimulus package that Congress passed last month offers key ways to support struggling retailers, including $ 248 billion to the Small Business Administration to facilitate another round of paycheck protection program loans.
With Senate control changing on Wednesday, as Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won in the second round of elections in Georgia, retail lawyers hope more help comes from Congress and the new Biden administration.
“I think with Georgia, [Congress] will really have an impact, as I think the new Biden administration will do a lot more to retailSaid Staci Jennifer Riordan, partner at Nixon Peabody LLP.
Part of that would also require increasing stimulus payments to citizens, she said. It is unclear how the latest stimulus bill will affect consumer spending, as it distributed the much controversial $ 600 in stimulus payments to citizens, although it also includes additional unemployment assistance, assistance rent and temporary relief from evictions. With Biden and the Democrats in charge, one might hope for another stimulus round sooner, and potentially with higher stimulus payouts.
Meanwhile, the latest package renews the paycheck protection loan program, which was rolled out under the CARES law in March, when pandemic-related lockdowns were put in place across the country. The program, overseen by the Small Business Administration, is intended to provide forgivable loans to businesses, with the apparent mission of preventing layoffs and helping businesses pay rents. The original PPP loans were made available to companies with less than 500 employees, while the new cycle restricts it somewhat to companies with less than 300 employees. But the objective is again to cover about two months of salary costs.
The latest legislation includes tax benefits associated with PPP loans, including provisions to make tax deductible for spending money with canceled loans, a benefit that was not so evident in the previous round of PPP loans.
Businesses that applied for PPP loans in the previous cycle could reapply under this second stimulus package, especially if they are able to show continued financial hardship, the lawyers said.
“This will save small businesses billions of dollars,” said Ilana Lubin, partner at Crowell & Moring LLP.
At the same time, clothing retailers continue to see low foot traffic as the coronavirus pandemic spreads in the United States in need of stronger financial support and a resolution to the ongoing question of how manage rent payments, the retail lawyers said.
Retailers who managed to avoid bankruptcy court had to make concessions with landlords, which in some cases meant deferring rent payments.
“So this is a very difficult time, and the money is great, the clarifications are fabulous, but I don’t know if it’s enough to save the small businesses that are really suffering,” Riordan said.
“Congress needs to understand this in a way it perceives to be fair, and they could correct that part,” she said. “It’s commercial leases that will eventually put people out of business.”
Other provisions of the bill include potential longer-term and indirect benefits for retailers in the form of potential tax breaks for renewable energy. The bill provides $ 7 billion to support broadband internet, including $ 300 million for rural areas.
“When you think about sustainability trends in retail, to the extent that retailers can make investments, there is an incentive to invest in sustainable energy,” Lubin said.
Separately on Wednesday, the Labor Department released a final rule that should broaden the definition of who qualifies as an independent contractor rather than an employee. The rule, if it were to come into force, would have to affect not only workers in market economy companies, but also delivery drivers, cleaning crews and other contract workers.
“This broadens the definition of the independent contract for many workers,” said Michael Hayes, associate professor of law at the University of Baltimore.
Workers classified as independent contractors are generally exempt from federal labor law protections, including minimum wage, overtime, and even safety protections under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
But the DOL’s final rule is not expected to come into effect until March, and the Biden administration is expected to issue a regulatory freeze that would block last-minute rule changes in the final weeks of the Trump presidency.