On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act became law, providing a series of stimulus payments to individuals and additional financial support for businesses that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This new legislation offers many notable benefits for local governments and businesses, including:
- Tax-free federal grants for specific businesses such as restaurants, non-profits, and event venues.
- Extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides loans to small businesses.
- Grants for local education agencies and universities to support reopening, student safety and distance learning programs.
How Stimulus Supports Investment in Business TechBesides saving organizations that might have otherwise had to discontinue operations, the American Rescue Plan gives businesses and local governments the tools needed to thrive in a post-pandemic world. With the available grants and loans, organizations can adopt business tech to reach goals for efficiency, employee health and safety, and effective workforce management. Here are some of the key ways the new stimulus package can support those goals:
Paycheck Protection Program LoansTo receive full forgiveness on the PPP loan, organizations must dedicate at least 60 percent of the loan to employee payroll costs, but the rest of the balance can be used on related expenses. Employers can use PPP funds to cover the costs of rent, utilities, employee health and safety costs related to COVID-19, and “operational expenditures,” which can include tools to improve workforce management.
With a PPP loan—many of which are forgivable under certain circumstances— organizations can both pay employees and seek workforce management solutions that support a range of activities, such as employee time and attendance, scheduling, and leave management. For example, you can invest in time-tracking business tech that also supports workplace safety initiatives, such as touchless time clocks with thermal sensors.
Employer Tax CreditsThe American Rescue Plan provides expanded benefits coverage for current and former employees. Under the new stimulus package, employees who lost their benefits because of the pandemic are eligible for a 100 percent subsidy of COBRA continuation coverage through September 2021. Employers with eligible employees cover their COBRA costs and receive reimbursement in the form of tax credits.
You have another opportunity to receive tax credits if you voluntarily choose to extend leave benefits from the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) to your employees. Employers who continue to offer FFCRA paid family and medical leave can receive tax credits through September 2021. Keep in mind that if you offer this benefit, it is essential to have technology that helps you accurately track the duration of all employee leaves, so you don’t miss out on earned tax credits.
Public Sector GrantsIn addition to grants for restaurants, non-profits and event venues, the American Rescue Plan also offers specific benefits to the public sector. For example, state and local governments will share $350 billion in aid to cover investments in COVID-19 response, as well as infrastructure improvements and government services that were curtailed due to the pandemic. With this extra funding, governments can identify technological solutions to help support employees working remotely, in the field or on-site.
The new stimulus package also provides $170.3 billion in grants to the education sector—the federal government’s largest-ever single investment in U.S. schools, according to the Learning Policy Institute. Funds will be allocated, in part, according to each school’s share of federal Title 1 funding, and can cover costs related to:
- Enrichment programs
- School facility upgrades
- Community services
- Services to support the educator workforce, such as tools for time tracking and substitute management