Legislative Response


Congress has taken significant actions to address 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.

House Democrats Introduce Heroes Act, H.R. 6800

On May 12, House Democrats introduced a $3 trillion coronavirus response package called the Heroes Act. It is an extremely wide-ranging bill that builds on the tenets of and goes far beyond the CARES Act. It provides another round of stimulus checks for individuals, an extension of expanded unemployment insurance benefits, housing assistance, medical research funding, postal service funding, more small business loans, tax relief, massive amounts of aid for state and local governments, food assistance, broadband support, a COVID-19 Heroes Fund for essential workers, etc. The text of the bill can be found here. A 90-page summary of the bill can be found here. Here are links to two articles that provide broad, but shorter overviews of the bill: Politico and Roll Call. The House Committee on Small Business has also issued an overview.

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

ASLRRA is conducting 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.

 

Register Now

The Heroes Act is an opening bid from House Democrats and is currently scheduled to be marked up by the House Rules Committee on Thursday with full House consideration on Friday. It is likely to pass the House and then be ignored by Senate Republicans. Most Senate Republicans feel that there isn’t an urgent need for another coronavirus response bill at this time, and Majority Leader McConnell says the next package must include liability protections for reopening businesses; this bill does not include any such provisions.

While the bulk of the bill does not directly impact short line railroads or their employees, here are some relevant highlights:

  • $1 billion for railroad unemployment insurance
  • Extends CARES Act expanded unemployment insurance benefits through the end of the year; provides parity for RUIA benefits (Secs. 190602-190606)
  • $4.5 million to help the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) administer railroad unemployment insurance benefits
  • $500,000 for the RRB Office of Inspector General
  • Eliminates the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act sequester that automatically cuts unemployment and sickness benefits provided to railroad workers under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, allowing railroad workers to receive the full benefit amounts to which they are entitled and creating parity with the treatment of other unemployment insurance benefit programs.
  • $200 billion for essential workers “hazard pay” via grants to employers
  • Paycheck Protection Program improvements (summary can be found here)
  • Ensures the next round of stimulus checks (provided by the bill) go to railroad retirement beneficiaries
  • Increases and modifies employee retention tax credit (would cover a larger percentage of workers’ pay)
  • Payroll tax credit to subsidize certain fixed expenses like rent and utilities
  • Extends and expands credits related to paid sick and family leave
  • No TSW provisions

There are additional provisions aimed at helping essential workers, including ones that are intended to help pay for child and adult care of dependents, bolster the availability of and access to personal protective equipment (PPE) 



Resources for Small Businesses


Coronavirus Legislation #1:

H.R.6074 - Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020: Became Public Law 116-123 on March 6, 2020.

The text of the legislation is here. A summary of the Legislation here.

Coronavirus Legislation #2:

H.R.6201 - Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Became Public Law 116-127 on March 18, 2020.

The Department of Labor has created a poster to be used to inform employees of the benefits of this action.

The text of the legislation is here. A helpful tax impact overview provided by the IRS is here. Below are several helpful summaries.

Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell Summary
Conner & Winters Employment Law Firm 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


Coronavirus Legislation #3:

H.R.748 - Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act: Became Public Law on March 27, 2020.

The bill text can be found here. Summaries of the bill text 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


Coronavirus Legislation #3.5:

This week Congress is passing a small bill referred to as CARES 2.0 or CV3.5, which increases funding for the Paycheck Protection and Emergency Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) Grants programs, as well as for hospitals and coronavirus testing. The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday, and the House is scheduled to follow suit on Thursday.

You can find the bill text here; a summary of the paycheck protection and EIDL section here; and a summary of the hospitals and testing section here. A summary of Small Business Support provided in the bill by Senate Democrats is here.

If your railroad is eligible for PPP and hasn’t yet applied or applied but were stalled because the program had run out of money, ASLRRA urges you to move very quickly and apply again.


Coronavirus Legislation #4:

TBD

Congress is considering coronavirus legislation #4, aimed at economic stimulus and further targeted aid as the situation develops.