January 20, 2021

Senators Host Discussion On COVID Business Aid

Last week, U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen hosted a public panel on federal COVID-19 relief for small businesses and non profits.

 

Participants discussed how small businesses and non-profits can access the re-opened Paycheck Protection Program, new relief for performance and entertainment venues, and the Employee Retention Tax Credit as the work to keep their businesses afloat during the pandemic.

 

Those programs were created or continued through the $900 billion COVID relief bill passed by Congress late last year.

 

 

The following are highlights of the discussion:

 

• Amy Bassett, district director of the New Hampshire Small Business Administration, noted high interest in the reauthorized Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs, as well as the newly created Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program.

 

Bassett said the PPP program opened up to small lenders last week, and all lenders as of Tuesday. Details on the other programs will be forthcoming. The EIDL grants (up to $10,000) will be targeted to first-time recipients.

 

• Kristy Merrill, president of the New Hampshire Bankers Association, said prospective PPP applicants should come ready.

 

They should be prepared to prove their average monthly payroll, and show their quarterly revenue statements, particularly if they are first-time applicants, she said.

 

She said the re-authorized PPP program has a streamlined, one-page forgiveness process for loans of $150,000 or less, and the streamlined process can be used for first-round PPP loans as well.

 

• Allison Perrella, member of the N.H. Society of Certified Public Accountants, outlined changes to the Employee Retention Tax Credit, a refundable payroll tax credit designed to help businesses retain and compensate employees.

 

The program was extended through the end of June 2021.

 

 

Maximum credits were increased from 50 percent of qualified wages per employee (capped at $10,000 per year) to 70 percent of wages per employee (called at $10,000 per quarter).

 

In addition, business eligibility was expanded, from those who experienced a 50 percent or more decline in gross receipts (compared to the previous annual quarter) to those that experienced a 20 percent or more decline in gross receipts.

 

Also, the “large employer” threshold was changed from more than 100 employees to more than 500 employees.

 

Although companies cannot double dip, and use PPP and ERTC tax credits for the same employees, changes allow companies to qualify for both programs, provided the funds are used to cover different employees. That change is retroactive to 2020.

 

• Liz Gray, state director of the N.H. Small Business Development Center, said a Small Business and Community Resiliency Academy will bee launched in April through the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

 

It will help small businesses to assess risks and form resiliency plans, to guide them through major disruptions like the pandemic.

 

• John Nyhan, of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce, requested more federal aid be provided directly to state and local governments, to facilitate more state-administered programs like New Hampshire’s Main Street Relief Fund.

 

Hassan and Shaheen, both former governors, agreed with Nyhan.

 

Shaheen said Democrats attempted to include funding for state and local governments in the latest COVID relief package, but were rebuffed by Republicans.

 

Hassan said direct-to-state funding is considered one of the top ways to prevent layoffs and preserve front-line municipal jobs such as firefighters, police officers and teachers.