Senate Approves Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation
The Senate recently passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act by a vote of 69-30. The legislation would provide $550 billion in new funding for infrastructure projects over the next five years including investments in roads, bridges, ports, rail, waterways, airports, public transit, broadband and environmental remediation. Importantly, the bill does not raise taxes on individuals and small businesses. The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives where it remains unclear whether the bill has enough support to pass the chamber in its current form. The House is expected to take up the bill in September. BSCAI is closely tracking the legislation and will keep members updated on the latest developments.
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – Key Provisions
- Physical Infrastructure Investments: Includes $550 billion for new infrastructure projects over the next 5 years:
- Roads and bridges: $110 billion;
- Passenger and freight rail: $66 billion;
- Public transit: $39 billion;
- Airports: $25 billion;
- Ports and waterways: $17 billion;
- Electric vehicles: $15 billion;
- Power infrastructure: $73 billion;
- Broadband infrastructure: $65 billion;
- Water infrastructure: $55 billion;
- Resiliency and western water storage: $50 billion; and
- Environmental remediation: $21 billion.
- No Tax Increases: Does not include any new tax increases on individuals or small businesses.
Senate Approves FY 2022 Budget Resolution
The Senate recently voted to pass a $3.5 trillion budget resolution on a party-line vote of 50-49. The resolution is the first step in the budget reconciliation process which directs committees to begin drafting a bill that could spend up to $3.5 trillion on several legislative initiatives supported by President Biden and congressional Democrats.
The resolution sets the top-line spending levels for each committee and includes a series of legislative recommendations for the committees to consider as they draft the bill. The Senate Budget Committee is requesting that the committees examine provisions relating to climate change, housing, education, immigration, child care, health care, paid leave and other social programs. To offset the cost of the legislation, Democrats have instructed the tax-writing committees to examine tax increases on individuals making over $400,000 per year and corporations. It is important to note that these are just recommendations and it is unclear which provisions will have enough support to be included in the final reconciliation bill.
The House of Representatives announced recently that they will be returning early from recess on Aug. 23 to vote on the budget resolution. Once the resolution is approved by the House, Congress can get to work on drafting a final bill for consideration later this fall. Budget reconciliation bills only require a simple majority of the vote in both the House and Senate for passage. Due to concerns among moderate Democrats, the final bill is expected to be narrower in scope than the $3.5 trillion proposed level.
BSCAI is closely monitoring the budget reconciliation process and will be tracking provisions related to immigration, taxes, labor and other relevant issues that would impact building service contractors.
USCIS Accepting H-2B Petitions for Returning Workers for FY 2021
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that employers may file H-2B petitions for returning workers under the FY 2021 H-2B supplemental visa temporary final rule. Employers may take this action if they are likely to suffer irreparable harm without these additional workers. A petitioner must file a new Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, together with an approved and valid temporary labor certification that states an employment start date for the second half of the fiscal year, and attest that these noncitizens will be returning workers.
Returning workers are defined as workers who were issued an H-2B visa or otherwise granted H-2B status in FY 2018, 2019, or 2020. USCIS will accept petitions for returning workers until Sept. 15, 2021, or until the remainder of the cap is reached, whichever occurs first. Any petitions that arrive after this cap has been reached will be rejected.
SBA Launches Streamlined PPP Loan Forgiveness Portal
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced the launch of a new streamlined application portal to allow borrowers with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans of $150,000 or less to apply for forgiveness directly through the SBA. The loan forgiveness portal began accepting applications from borrowers on August 4th, 2021.
In addition to the new portal, the SBA is establishing a PPP customer service team to answer questions and directly assist borrowers with their forgiveness applications. Borrowers that need assistance or have questions should call (877) 552-2692, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. EST.
Treasury Department Expands Paid Leave Tax Credit
The U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced that eligible employers can claim tax credits equal to the wages paid for providing paid time-off to employees to take a family or household member or certain other individuals to get vaccinated, or to care for a family or household member or certain other individuals recovering from the vaccination.
Earlier this year, the Treasury Department and the IRS announced eligible employers, such as businesses and tax-exempt organizations with fewer than 500 employees and certain governmental employers, could receive paid leave tax credits available under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) for providing leave for each employee receiving the vaccine and for any time needed to recover from the vaccine.
For guidance on how the paid leave tax credits from the American Rescue Plan will work for employers to enable employees to take family and household members to receive and recover from after-effects of vaccination, as well as for other purposes, see the updated FAQs released by the IRS.
OSHA Releases Small Business Safety and Health Handbook
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have updated their workplace safety and health handbook for small businesses. The Small Business Safety and Health Handbook summarizes the benefits of an effective safety and health program, provides self-inspection checklists for employers to identify workplace hazards, and reviews helpful workplace safety and health resources for small businesses.
More than 20 states and territories operate their own OSHA-approved State Plans. A list of states that operate their own State Plans can be found on OSHA’s website. While the safety and health compliance requirements in these State Plans may differ in some respects from federal OSHA requirements, employers in all states may benefit from using this handbook.
Please note that this handbook is a general guide to safety in the workplace and employers should not use it to assess compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) or federal OSHA standards. This handbook does not provide legal interpretations of the requirements in OSHA standards, nor does it create any additional compliance requirements for employers.
IRS Releases Additional Guidance on Employee Retention Credit
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released additional guidance on the employee retention credit, including guidance that addresses changes made by the most recent COVID-19 relief law (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021). These changes are applicable to the third and fourth quarters of 2021.
The changes made to the employee retention credit in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 include:
- Making the credit available to eligible employers that pay qualified wages after June 30, 2021, and before January 1, 2022;
- Expanding the definition of eligible employer to include “recovery startup businesses”;
- Modifying the definition of qualified wages for “severely financially distressed employers”; and
- Providing that the employee retention credit does not apply to qualified wages taken into account as payroll costs in connection with a shuttered venue grant or a restaurant revitalization grant.
The guidance also responds to miscellaneous questions that the Treasury Department and the IRS have been asked about the employee retention credit that apply to both 2020 and 2021, including:
- The definition of full-time employee and whether that definition includes full-time equivalents;
- The treatment of tips as qualified wages and the interaction with the section 45B credit;
- The timing of the qualified wages deduction disallowance and whether taxpayers that already filed an income tax return must amend that return after claiming the credit on an adjusted employment tax return; and
- Whether wages paid to majority owners and their spouses may be treated as qualified wages.
Reporting: Eligible employers will report their total qualified wages and the related health insurance costs for each quarter on their employment tax returns (generally, Form 941) for the applicable period. If a reduction in the employer's employment tax deposits is not sufficient to cover the credit, certain employers may receive an advance payment from the IRS by submitting Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19.
SBA Announces National Small Business Virtual Summit
The Small Business Administration (SBA) recently announced its 2021 National Small Business Week Virtual Summit for September 13-15, 2021. The event will include educational webinars, updates on resources for small businesses, and a networking chat room for business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. Interested members can register here.