HB 2408 (Markosek—D, Allegheny) was unanimously amended to clarify that payroll used via the PPP program is NOT subject to state and local taxes. Pennsylvania needed to pass this amendment to ensure state and local forgiveness.
The House advanced legislation to allow struggling restaurants and taverns to serve “to-go cocktails” during the COVID-19 emergency declaration. The bill, House Bill 327 (Warren—D, Bucks), would allow R and H licensees that lost more than 25 percent of their average monthly total sales because of restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 disaster emergency to sell prepared beverages and mixed drinks for off-premises consumption. The Senate is expected to take up the bill when it returns.
Relief From Charges
While legislation has been passed to ensure “relief from charges” to employers for employees collecting unemployment, computer systems have not yet been updated to stop the automatic mailing of the “relief from charges” form to employers. If you receive this notice, complete section E (Disaster) on the form. Further, legislation is being pursued to extend “relief from charges” beyond the State of Emergency in recognition that it will take time for businesses to reach full operations.
Halting Evictions & Foreclosures
Sen. Tom Killion (R-Chester and Delaware) introduced Senate Bill 1116, which would temporarily halt evictions and foreclosures of businesses affected by measures implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Further, the legislation would stop late fees and loan defaults from being assessed on businesses during the crisis.
Business Interruption Insurance
Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) introduced SB 1114, which would temporarily change business interruption insurance during the pandemic. Sen. Hughes hosted a virtual press conference in April announcing his bill and invited PRLA and several restaurateurs to participate and give a face to this particular issue. SB 1114 was referred to Banking and Insurance Committee.
Liability Protection for Businesses
Sen. Stefano (R, Fayette) will introduce legislation to provide Pennsylvania employers with reasonable protection from targeted lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we look forward to reopening Pennsylvania, this proposal would ensure business owners can resume operations without fear of being held liable for things beyond their control.
Proposed Salary Threshold
The House passed a resolution disapproving the Governor’s proposed salary threshold increase by a vote of 109-93, which is slated to take effect January 1, 2021. The resolution now moves to the Senate for approval.
Property Tax Relief
On April 20, Gov. Wolf signed SB 841(Martin—R, Lancaster) into law. Now known as Act 15, this legislation enables local governments to push back the due date for property taxes. It extends the early payment of property taxes to August 31, 2020, and extends property tax payments to December 31, 2020, with no late fees being assessed. While the state is authorizing this action, it is up to each local government to adopt their own ordinances.
Allegheny County Council proposed paid sick leave legislation in the midst of the pandemic. PRLA sent a letter to Council expressing our opposition to its proposed paid sick leave legislation.
Bethlehem City Council is exploring creating a licensing process and perhaps capping fees on third-party delivery apps. [Council is set to consider a measure drafted by Reynolds to get the administration to study the issue Tuesday, May 5 evening.]
Philadelphia City Council has introduced legislation expanding paid sick leave and making it retroactive to the beginning of the crisis.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is in effect and is now being enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor. This legislation allows employees in businesses with less than 500 employees to use paid sick leave and paid family leave as it pertains to the Coronavirus. This leave is available until December 31, 2020, and the leave is reimbursable.
The National Restaurant Association, American Hotel & Lodging Association, and US Travel continue to advocate for fixes to the CARES Act:
- Extending the date to use the PPP loan past June 30, 2020
- Providing more funding to the PPP loan
- Changing the 75/25 percent ratio as it relates to use of the loan to 50/50
- Allow other non-profit organizations to access the PPP
Hopefully by the time you read this article, the Treasury Department will have provided details on what the basis will be for loan forgiveness under the PPP.
EIDL and ERTC
Don’t forget that if you are not eligible and/or have not applied for a PPP loan, you can still apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and/or utilize the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC).
Congress has returned and talk has begun about the “next” recovery package and what it will contain. AH&LA and NRA continue to push for the previously highlighted changes relating to the PPP, financial assistance similar to what business interruption insurance should have provided in addition to tax breaks/incentives to help businesses come out on the other side of the crisis.
Business Interruption Insurance
Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, along with bipartisan co-sponsors, introduced the Never Again Small Business Protection Act to provide small businesses access to business interruption insurance that will help keep them afloat during national emergencies in the future. Unfortunately, the bill is not able to be retroactive at the federal level, but it an attempt to draw attention to this issue and advocate for funding to businesses.
PennDOT announced that expiration dates for driver licenses, identification cards, and learner’s permits, will be extended for Pennsylvania residents in response to statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Those scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020, through May 31, 2020, are now extended through June 30, 2020.
PRLA testified at a Senate hearing on May 6 regarding how the PLCB responded to the coronavirus pandemic.
All state stores are reopened and accepting licensee orders via LOOP. Once a county enters the yellow stage of re-opening, operations and in-store shopping will be permitted.
Pa. Department of Agriculture
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in April adopted the temporary FDA Food Labeling Policy. State food safety inspectors will allow restaurants and food manufacturers the flexibility to sell bulk foods and ingredients to their customers without the usual labeling requirements. If your restaurant is interested in adding a corner market concept, please reach out to your distributors and broadliners for guidance and assistance.
Department of Revenue
The Department of Revenue is asking businesses to simply remit through e-tides the sales tax that they collected during the prior month. The due dates to remit sales tax will be May 20 and June 22, which follows the standard due dates for monthly filers who have no prepayment requirement.