Passed by Congress and signed by the President on Friday March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Response, and Economic Security Act (CARES) brings much needed relief to the many sectors of our economy. Here is a look at the key provisions of the CARES Act.
Paycheck Protection Program
To help small businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) impacted by the pandemic, $350 billion has been allocated to allow companies to make payroll and cover costs incurred between February 15 and June 30. The CARES Act expands the eligibility for small businesses to receive a loan of up to $10 million. Loans can be used for payroll, as well as paid sick, medical or family leave, costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits, mortgage payment and rent, utilities, and other debts. Loans could also be extended to sole proprietors, independent contractors, and those who are self-employed. No collateral or personal guarantee is required.
Loans can be forgiven if the business uses the loan funds for approved purposes and maintains the average size of its full-time workforce, based on when it received the loan. You can apply for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan through its website.
Payroll Tax Credit
A 50 percent refundable payroll tax credit on wages paid up to $10,000 can be claimed by employers during the COVID-19 crisis. Employers whose businesses were disrupted due to pandemic shutdowns, and those that showed a decline of 50 percent or more in gross receipts (compared to the same quarter last year), qualify to claim the credit. The credit can be also claimed for all employee wages for companies with 100 or fewer employees, and for employees who are retained but not currently working due to the crisis for businesses with more than 100 employees.
Expanded Unemployment Insurance
The new unemployment insurance provisions allow for an additional payment of $600 each week to all recipients through the end of July 2020. Benefits have been extended to self-employed workers, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and those unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic. Temporary full funding of the first week of regular unemployment will be provided by the federal government for states with no waiting period. UI benefits will be extended for an additional 13 weeks through December 31, 2020 after state UI benefits end. In addition to economic and business financing relief, CARES has many features that relate specifically to employer sponsored health insurance benefits. These changes are designed to directly address COVID-19 medical care, how we receive care in a time of social distancing, and cost savings for individuals covered by commercial insurance plan:
Testing done for COVID-19 is to be covered in full by an insurance policy, meaning no copay, coinsurance or the cost applying towards a deductible. Services can be rendered at a Physician office, urgent care, emergency room or via Tele-health. Testing can be done at a private or public lab. This regulation applies while we remain in a declared public health emergency.
Health Savings Accounts (HSA) can be used to pay for Tele-health services prior to meeting the Deductible. This is done to encourage the use of telemedicine services. This rule applies until the end of 2020.
HSAs, FSAs, HRAs can be used for certain over the counter (OTC) medical products without a prescription. This is a reversal of regulations under the Affordable Care Act. This was done to reduce the additional strain on the medical community from medical appointments simply to receive a prescription for OTC medicines and to add cost savings to individuals utilizing these tax favored accounts. Menstrual products are now included as eligible OTC products
As the pandemic continues to develop and the stimulus package is rolled out, look for more relevant guidance from Worksite Benefits in the near future.
Please check with your tax advisor or attorney for further details.