Legislative Response

Congress has taken significant actions to address the economic impact of COVID-19. We will examine our industry and the legislation for opportunities for short lines to aid in the economic recovery that will be necessary following what will undoubtedly be some near-term pain. Below are the most recent actions, including the text of each bill, and Summaries that make the contents a little easier to understand.

H.R.6074 - Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act

Enacted on March 6, 2020 (Public Law 116-123), this $8.3 billion package fully funded a robust response to coronavirus, including vaccine development, support for state and local governments, and assistance for affected small businesses.

The text of the legislation is here. A summary of the Legislation, detailing the titles in the bill provided by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, is here.

Outlining the Impact of COVID-19 Legislation on Small Businesses & Railroads

ASLRRA has conducted a series of webinars to help members understand how the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) legislation impacts small railroads and industry suppliers. Recorded webinars are available in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinars Library.


Learn More

H.R.6201 - Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Enacted on March 18, 2020 (Public Law 116-127), this law provided for Unemployment Compensation, paid Sick Leave, paid Family and Medical Leave, provisions for diagnostic Testing and other Health Services, funding to for School Nutrition Programs, WIC, SNAP, Senior Food Programs, and waiver of liability for medical device manufacturers.

The text of the legislation is here. Below are several helpful summaries.

Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell Summary
Dept of Labor Regulations re: Coronavirus Sick Leave and FMLA Provisions
Department of Labor Summary
Families First Impact on Individuals
IRS Summary
Speaker of the House - Families First, COVID-19 Toolkit
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Summary

H.R.748 - Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

Enacted on March 27, 2020 (Public Law 116-136), this comprehensive package was designed to protect the health and well-being of all Americans. More than 80% ($274.231 billion) of the total $339.855 billion provided in the coronavirus emergency supplemental appropriations package goes to state and local governments and communities. Highlights include:

$117 Billion for Hospitals and Veterans Health Care
$45 Billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund
$16 Billion for the Strategic National Stockpile
$4.3 Billion for the Centers for Disease Control
$11 Billion for Vaccines, Therapeutics, Diagnostics, & Other Medical Needs

(Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies received $48.5 million.)

The text of the legislation can be found here. Summaries of the law are below.

PB Mares Summary of Available Benefits for Businesses
PB Mares Summary of Benefits for Individuals
CARES Act Section-by-Section of full bill
House Transportation Appropriations Summary
Official Congress FAQ
Senate Democratic Appropriations Summary
Senate Republican Appropriations Summary
Senate Democratic Summary
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Summary

H.R.266 - Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act

Enacted on April 24, 2020 (Public Law 116-139), this law increases funding for the Paycheck Protection and Emergency Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) Grants programs, as well as for hospitals and coronavirus testing.

You can find text of the legislation here. Summaries Summaries of certain sections of the law are below.

Paycheck Protection and EIDL
Hospitals and Testing
Small Business Support

H.R.7010 - The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act

Enacted on June 5, 2020 (Public Law 116-142), this law improves the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by extending deadlines and providing more flexibility for borrowers who will seek loan forgiveness. Specifically, it:

  • Increases the minimum term from 2 years to 5 years for maturity of the loan;
  • Gives PPP recipients 24 weeks (or until the end of the year) to spend their funds, instead of only 8 weeks as previously mandated;
  • Extends the loan application period from June 30, to December 31, 2020;
  • Extends the deadline from June 30, to December 31, 2020, for the rehire exemption to forgiveness reduction;
  • Lowers the threshold required to be spent on payroll to receive loan forgiveness from 75 percent to 60 percent;
  • Allows recipients of loan forgiveness under the PPP to defer payroll taxes; and
  • Extends deferral of payments on PPP loans, allowing borrowers to defer payments until they receive compensation for forgiven amounts.
    • If a borrower does not apply for forgiveness within 10 months after the program expires, they must begin making payments.

The bill text can be found here; and a bill summary can be found here.

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA) was a wide-ranging piece of legislation that included Appropriations, and COVID relief. There were many sections important to railroads, including permanence of the 45G short line tax credit, changes to the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (including Railroad Retirement Benefits) and Employee Retention Credit provisions.

ERC & PPP Impact

The CAA includes an extension of the Employee Retention Credit (ERC), which was first introduced in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. The ERC is a fully refundable tax credit meant to encourage businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to retain employees on their payroll.

Under the CAA, the ERC has been extended through June, 2021 and the credit amount is increased to 70 percent of qualified wages, capped at $7,000 for each of the first two quarters of 2021. The law also changes employer eligibility, allowing those with gross receipts less than 80 percent of receipts in the same quarter in 2019 to qualify. Businesses with 500 employees or less are also eligible, up from the previous 100-employee threshold.

Under the CARES Act a company receiving a PPP loan was ineligible for the ERC credit, and this disallowance extended to instances of railroads under common ownership; one railroad’s loan could make other railroads under the same ownership ineligible for the tax credit. As a result of the CAA, a company receiving a PPP loan can also now pursue an ERC credit under certain circumstances where the PPP loan has not yet been forgiven. In addition, the eligibility is now retroactive to March of 2019. The IRS will have to provide procedural guidance on how this may be implemented.

A helpful overview from ASLRRA member Bowers & Company is provided here.

RUIA Impact

The recently passed Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA) included changes to railroad retirement benefits.

Of note, the sequestration order has been lifted until 30 days past the expiration of the Emergency Order related to COVID, the availability $600 per pay period/$300 per week for furloughed workers through March 14, and extension of maximum weeks paid from 39 to 50 weeks. For more information on RUIA benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak, see the RRB website for details and a FAQ.

EPSLA Impact

Under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA), established last March in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, employers having fewer than 500 employees were required to provide paid sick leave to employees. The EPSLA mandated that full-time employees could receive up to 80 hours of paid leave depending on the circumstances. At the same time, Congress also enacted the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLEA) to provide for sick leave in the event of school and child care facility closures resulting from COVID, providing partial pay for as many as 10 weeks. Both EPSLA and EFMLEA expired at the end of 2020.

As a result of the December enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA), an employer may elect to continue providing paid leave in accordance with EPSLA and EFMLEA to employees after the Dec. 31 expiration of the two mandates. An employer doing so will continue to receive federal tax credits/refunds for work performed through March 31, 2021, which can apply to April employee compensation for work occurring in March.

Further, employers are now permitted to review requests for leave on a case-by-case basis rather than providing blanket protections for all employees. However, where an employee has fully utilized the permissible leave, the employer cannot receive the federal tax benefits for leave incurred in 2021 even in the instance of the employee having drawn upon the leave benefits while working for a prior employer. Employers are advised to document all instances of paid leave, and employers will have to comply with the return-to-work standards from EPSLA and EFMLEA.

Summaries of the CAA are below:

Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell Summary
Bloomberg Summary of Coronavirus Aid Package

FY21 Omnibus

The text of the package is available here
Senate Republican bill summary, section by section here 
Senate Democrat bill summary, section by section here
House Democrat bill summary here, section by section here
House Republican summary here