The AVMA’s Washington, DC, staff is advocating on Capitol Hill to protect and promote the veterinary profession and ensure the viability of veterinary businesses, associates and staffs. We are regularly updating information about the laws and regulations enacted to assist veterinary small business owners, veterinarians and veterinary students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Highlights of COVID-19 legislation for the veterinary profession
Congress has taken unprecedented steps to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on individuals and families, the health system and medical supply chain, and the economy. Two extensive packages of legislation were enacted in March 2020—the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Together, these bills temporarily expand access to paid leave, direct support to individuals and families, suspend federal student loan repayment, broaden unemployment benefits to include support for those who are self-employed, and provide financial support for small businesses to maintain their workforce and operations with an opportunity for substantial loan forgiveness.
Congress sought to support individuals and employees should they become ill, need to care for a sick family member, or remain home due to school closures or a childcare provider being unavailable, by providing new paid leave requirements in light of COVID-19. The leave requirements are effective April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Congress also recognized this would put a strain on small businesses, so the bills provide a range of relief—through loans and tax policies—to help employers absorb these costs and remain viable during the COVID-19 outbreak.
New leave requirements
- Employers with fewer than 500 employees are required to provide Emergency FMLA to employees as well as paid sick leave. This includes Emergency FMLA providing 12-weeks of job protected leave for childcareand 80 hours of paid sick leave, with daily and aggregate pay caps per employee. Learn more.
- Includes an exemption if requirements jeopardize the business’ financial viability. The legislation provides an opportunity for businesses with fewer than 50 employees to be exempt from the leave requirements should they threaten the business’s financial viability. Learn more.
Supports for small businesses, employee retention and ongoing operations
- Access to forgivable loans.The legislation expands access to Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and establishes a new, temporary paycheck protection program to provide loans for payroll and other qualified costs for small businesses, sole proprietors, self-employed and independent contractors. The paycheck protection includes substantial loan forgiveness for qualified expenses. Learn more about how to access these programs and find more information here.
- Tax credits and tax deferrals to support small businesses. While guidance from the Internal Revenue Service is needed, the law allows employers to receive an advance tax credit instead of having to be reimbursed on the back end. There are a number of tax policies included, such as:
- Payroll tax credits, also available to self-employed individuals
- A new retention tax credit to encourage businesses to keep workers on payroll during the crisis
- A new tax-free benefit for employers providing student loan repayment (up to $5,250; for 2020 only)
- Find more information here.
- Expands the size and scope of unemployment benefits. Provides benefits to self-employed and independent contractors and others who may not have been previously eligible for unemployment. It also expands benefits by providing an additional $600 weekly federal benefit. Find more information here.
- Individual “recovery rebates.” Provides a tax credit of $1,200 for individual filers ($2400 for joint filers) plus $500 per child. The credit is phased out for individuals with adjusted gross income over $75,000 ($150,000 joint filers). The credit phases out completely at $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for joint filers. The Administration is expected to advance the “rebate” tax credit as rapidly as possible. Find more information here.
- Provides federal student loan relief for 6 months. Provides six months of relief on federal student loan payments and suspends interest accrual (through Sept. 30, 2020). During this time, borrowers would receive credit for making payments in order to remain on track for loan forgiveness programs such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. Find more information here.
- Relaxed rules on retirement accounts. The law waives the 10% penalty on early distributions from retirement accounts for 2020. Any amount required to be included in income is allowed to be spread over three years. Find more information here.