Consolidated Appropriations Act Includes Important Provisions Affecting Short Line Railroads
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA) includes 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.
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.
One of the most significant changes to the ERC is the ability of companies that received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to now qualify for the ERC, which was prohibited in the CARES Act. However, a company cannot claim wages eligible for the ERC that were paid using a PPP loan that was forgiven. Eligibility is retroactive to March, 2020.
Also included in the CAA was permanency for the 45G short line tax credit, which ASLRRA applauded in a recent press release.
More information on the specifics of this Act can be found on the Legislative response page.
Railroad Workers are Critical Infrastructure Workers per CISA
Freight railroad workers, including those that support maintenance of rail and transportation infrastructure, have been designated as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” to our country during this crisis by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and on April 17, 2020 advisory guidance on defining essential critical infrastructure workers was issued. The CDC has issued updated guidance on implementing safety practices for employees who have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 for critical infrastructure workers, such as railroaders.
As essential workers, the freight rail industry is not affected by the DHS’s announcement on border crossing restrictions between the US and Canada.
As essential critical infrastructure workers, the CSC has issued guidance regarding the prioritization of recipients of a vaccine.
As essential critical infrastructure workers, the CSC has issued guidance on implementing a vaccination plan, including identifying and prioritizing critical populations, including infrastructure workers.
Please find attached a one-pager provided by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) discussing the importance of state and local authorities providing rail workers with prioritized access to COVID-19 vaccines. Specifically, this document discusses CISA’s guidance that identified rail workers as essential critical infrastructure workers, public health agencies’ recommendations for prioritizing essential workers’ access to COVID-19 vaccines, and the importance of preserving the health of the rail workforce in ensuring the continuity of supply chains and avoiding a second economic downturn.
The ASLRRA has joined AAR in a letter urging that transportation professionals, including railroad employees, have timely access to COVID-19 vaccines as part of the nation’s critical workforce.
FRA Grants Temporary Regulatory Relief for US Railroads
The FRA has responded to ASLRRA’s request to extend certain temporary waivers through September 18, 2020. Weekly reporting of waivers utilized is still required with the same waiver-specific reporting requirements.
For a listing of waivers no longer in effect, click here. ASLRRA has provided an updated summary here.
COVID Relief Laws
State-by-State Response Small Business Resources
Reopening Resources Short Line Response