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Lawmakers Float More Worker Tax Credits, Cash For Virus Bill

By Stephen Cooper · May 8, 2020, 7:15 PM EDT

Congressional lawmakers on Friday proposed including an expansion of the employee retention tax credit and additional relief payments in the next relief bill Congress passes to ease the economic burden of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Jumpstarting Our Businesses' Success Credit Act was introduced by a bipartisan group of House members, including Reps. Stephanie Murphy, D-Calif., and Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., both whom sit on the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. John Katco, R-N.Y. The bill proposes expanding the tax credit that was enacted in late March as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act so that it would cover more of an employee's salary for a longer time period.

The tax credit is designed to encourage companies to keep paying salaries and providing health insurance benefits in hopes that normal business operations can resume quickly once the crisis ends, the lawmakers said in a statement accompanying the bill.

"We need to provide targeted, practical relief for businesses and their employees that have been impacted by COVID-19," DelBene said, referring to the respiratory ailment caused by the coronavirus.

Under current law, employers who suspended operations and lost revenue because of the coronavirus are eligible for the tax credit to pay each retained worker a maximum of $5,000 between March 12 and Jan. 1, 2021. The current tax credit is equal to 50% of up to $10,000 in qualified wages for all calendar quarters, but the newly introduced legislation would boost the credit to 80% of qualified wages of up to $15,000 per calendar quarter.

The legislation would also increase the threshold for determining a "large employer" from companies with more than 100 employees to companies with more than 1,500 employees or gross receipts above $41.5 million.

Large employers are more restricted regarding what wages they can claim for the credit. The bill would also prevent employers from double-dipping by claiming the tax credit alongside benefits under the Paycheck Protection Program.

Also on Friday, three Senate lawmakers introduced legislation to provide $2,000 payments to individuals each month, arguing that the $1,200 economic impact payment provided by the CARES Act hasn't met the needs of struggling Americans.

The Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act, introduced by Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., would provide as much as $250 billion to help families weather the pandemic.

"The CARES Act gave Americans an important one-time payment, but it's clear that wasn't nearly enough to meet the needs of this historic crisis," Harris said in a statement accompanying the legislation's release. "Bills will continue to come in every single month during the pandemic, and so should help from the government."

Under the bill, individuals and married couples with adjusted gross incomes of up to $120,000 and $200,000, respectively, would receive monthly checks of $2,000. The payments would be available to U.S. residents even without Social Security number or if they haven't filed a recent federal tax return. Eligibility data would be gleaned from federal programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

--Editing by Neil Cohen.

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