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State business rep: Improvements in pending COVID relief funding

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Businesses await president’s decision on bill

The COVID-19 relief package approved by Congress this week could mean several important changes for small businesses compared to the previous business recovery funding package, according to a state business representative.

“The fact that there is an acknowledgement that the economic pain is ongoing is important,” said Ron Black, president of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce. “There are a lot of improvements. I wish it had been done months ago. … We have folks who are desperately in need of these resources.”

It was still unclear as of press time what provisions of the massive appropriations and relief bill that passed Congress Monday would be signed into law. The bill had been sent to President Donald Trump Friday, but he already had made public announcements about his dissatisfaction with several aspects of the legislation, asking Congress to increase the amount of relief checks for individuals and to cut what he considered to be unnecessary spending, including several foreign aid provisions. Congress was unable to reach an agreement about changes prior to the Christmas holiday and forwarded the bill to Trump as originally passed.

The 5,593-page bill — H.R. 133 — consolidates about 12 appropriation bills for various federal agencies and departments, providing $1.4 trillion in government funding. It also combines that with about $900 billion for the second major federal coronavirus relief package of the year. The first bill was the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law in March.

Of that $900 billion in relief funding in the pending legislation, $325 billion has been allocated for small businesses through the Small Business Administration.

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The Payroll Protection Program (PPP) would receive $284.45 billion. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program would receive $20 billion. Another $15 billion would go to independent theaters, cultural organizations and live venues, with the remaining business relief meant for other types of assistance programs.

Black said that his organization intends to host webinars on the new versions of the loan programs once the final legislation is signed and after federal officials develop guidance for the programs, which could take weeks after legislation is signed.

A representative with the New Mexico District Office of the Small Business Administration has said the organization also plans to hold informational sessions through its various business advising partners, including the state’s Small Business Development Centers and WESST (formerly known as the Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency Team). Mike Espiritu, president of the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp., also has said that he anticipates helping get information to businesses about the funding programs once final legislation passes.

Black said the legislation as it exists now has several provisions he considers to be beneficial to smaller businesses and eligible nonprofits.

First, organizations are eligible for second loans and grants even if they received funding under the CARES Act. Businesses do not have to count PPP or EIDL funds as income for tax purposes. They also would be allowed to take tax deductions for expenses, even if those were covered by a federal relief award. In addition, the legislation seeks to ensure that true small businesses are the recipients of the money through several of its provisions, including by lowering the maximum number of employees to 300 or fewer.

Also, the bill allows 501(c)(6) organizations to be eligible for funding. Those are membership-based nonprofits, such as trade associations, chambers of commerce and real estate boards.

“It will take working with our bankers and our businesses and our accounting teams to really understand all the changes,” Black said, “because they will have implications for the coming tax year.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.