Associations with 300 or fewer employees would be eligible for PPP funds under the broad COVID-19 relief bill proposed by Senate Republicans this week. But differences with Democrats on many provisions make the bill’s future uncertain.
Senate Republicans on Monday introduced an approximately $1 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package that, among other provisions, expands access to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for all 501(c)(6) associations with 300 or fewer employees.
The HEALS Act comprises a series of bills, including an updated measure from Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that expands PPP access to 501(c)(6)s with the 300-employee cap and removes a $500,000 loan cap for 501(c)(6) organizations that was in an earlier draft. The bill does, however, prohibit access to the PPP for any 501(c)(6) whose “lobbying activities comprise more than 10 percent of the total activities of the organization.”
The bill also provides $190 billion in new and existing funding for the PPP and reauthorizes the program through the end of the year, as ASAE called for in its July 21 letter to Congress.
ASAE applauded Rubio, Collins, and others for addressing the needs of 501(c)(6) associations in the package and is seeking changes to the lobbying restriction language. ASAE says the language is open to interpretation and likely to create confusion in the (c)(6) community about whether groups are eligible to apply.
The HEALS Act would also trim unemployment benefits, send another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to eligible Americans, and shield businesses, schools, and nonprofit groups from lawsuits by employees and others who contract the coronavirus. Unemployment benefits are an especially sticky point in negotiations with congressional Democrats, as the $600-per-week increase in unemployment benefits that Congress approved in March is set to expire at the end of this week.
More than 20 million Americans are currently receiving these benefits as the economy endures a severe contraction caused by the pandemic. The federal government reported this week that the U.S. economy shrank 9.5 percent from April through June, the largest quarterly decline since the government began publishing data 70 years ago.
The GOP package has been panned by Democrats, and negotiations are off to an especially rocky start. House Democrats prefer the $3.5 trillion HEROES Act, which they passed more than two months ago, and repeated visits to Capitol Hill this week by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have made little progress toward compromise. There are also splits on the package among Senate Republicans and between the Senate and the White House.