A Message from AAPL President, Lester A. Zitkus: AAPL and Coronavirus Resources
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, we have all endured the challenges imposed by this unprecedented public health emergency. The situation also brought numerous governmental actions aimed at lessening the burdens on Americans while keeping our economy afloat. Since this time, AAPL has provided our members critical coverage of COVID-19 legislation, regulations and executive orders. We continue that commitment to you by providing the most current information and stand alongside our members as a resource during these challenging times.
As you may have recently seen, the White House and congressional leaders have been in heated negotiations over the next coronavirus stimulus package. Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on an agreement and the price tag for extending benefits to Americans. One important provision for AAPL members, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, provided an additional federal unemployment benefit of $600/week for unemployed workers in addition to benefits provided by the states. Typically, self-employed people, freelancers and independent contractors were excluded from receiving unemployment benefits, but the PUA program provided relief to those workers as well. Unfortunately, the PUA program expired on July 31 with no deal reached on Capitol Hill. To ensure that vital benefit remained available to those in need, last Saturday President Trump signed four executive orders to extend PUA benefits as well as other programs. The PUA benefit has been extended at $400/week for both employees and independent contractors and will continue until congressional leaders can agree on a new bill package, which is not expected until September. The other orders (1) provide a payroll tax deferral through the end of the year for Americans earning less than $100,000; (2) extend a pause on student loan interest accrual and repayment through the end of the year; and (3) direct federal agency officials to find a way to limit evictions and foreclosures.
For background, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was passed by Congress with bipartisan support and signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020. This $2 trillion economic relief package delivered on a federal commitment to protecting the American people from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The law created economic impact payments to American households of up to $1,200 per adult for individuals whose income was less than $99,000 (or $198,000 for joint filers) and $500 per child under 17 years old – or up to $3,400 for a family of four. The law also provided employee retention credits and payroll tax support for businesses. A widely used provision of the CARES Act, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), provides small businesses with funds to pay up to 8 weeks of payroll costs and applies to independent contractor companies as well. Also enacted in March, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires public and private employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. And the third stimulus bill, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, enacted in March, provided among health system funding another $20 million for the Small Business Administration to support disaster loans for business and independent contractor entities. The most recently enacted bill, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, was signed into law in April and replenishes the PPP program as well as establishing the Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan program to provide economic relief to businesses that are experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. The EIDL program was tailored to allow small businesses as well as independent contractors and sole proprietors to access the funds.
Although currently at an impasse, federal lawmakers are committed to extending and expanding many of the above programs, especially for small businesses and independent contractors. AAPL will continue to keep members updated once bills are called up for consideration.
Much of the above information has been previously provided through our Governmental Affairs report, which Russell Cohen sends to members several times a month. Please watch for future reports for updated information related to this and other relevant issues. It is one of AAPL’s core objectives to provide relevant information to our members as a resource; however, please understand that AAPL cannot interpret how any of the previously passed legislation, future legislation, as well as how the executive orders would affect each individual member’s specific circumstances.
Through these challenging times, AAPL has remained dedicated to serving our members and the important work we all do. Our profession — maybe more so than many — is resilient, adaptable and skilled at riding the ups-and-downs of economic and market challenges, and I believe we will come out of this stronger together.
Lester A. Zitkus, CPL