Benchmarking the first 100 days of a presidency began in 1933, in reaction to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s frenetic pace upon taking office in the depths of the Great Depression. President Roosevelt famously pushed for and signed into law 76 bills within the first 100 days of his presidency, spurring relief, reform, and hope. No other president has even come close to this achievement, yet it is still a well-worn expectation that a president’s priorities in that first 100 days frame the values, interests, and goals that will largely define his or her administration.
President Biden and his transition team outlined many of the priorities they will tackle in the first 100 days of the new administration. Top priorities include rolling back some of the previous administration’s executive orders and tackling the COVID-19 crisis. The Biden transition team has made it clear that getting the pandemic under control is the President’s number one priority–and it is expected that any legislation to that end will have a major impact on the ability of small businesses to build back better. Let’s go over the Biden administration’s game plan for tackling the multi-faceted health and economic problems wrought by the pandemic, and the impact to small businesses owners and operators who optimistically await change.
Rescue and Recovery
Tackling the pandemic head on and getting COVID-19 under control is President Biden’s top priority. To get there, the President proposes policies to accelerate vaccinations. Simultaneously, the administration aims to support small businesses and the broader economy with an array of tools, from additional fiscal stimulus to clean energy initiatives. The bulk of these policies, general and specific, can be found in the administration’s COVID-19 Plan and in the American Rescue Plan.
The President's aggressive $1.9 trillion plan for rescue and recovery addresses a range of goals, including 100 million vaccine shots in the first 100 days, and focuses on the investments needed to (1) mount a national vaccination program that will curb the spread of the virus and allow schools to reopen safely, (2) provide relief for working families who are suffering in the midst of the economic crisis, and (3) support small businesses that have been hit hardest by the pandemic–all while advancing racial equity in our healthcare system and in our economy.
A recent survey conducted by Rocket Lawyer found that taxes, COVID-19 relief, and healthcare are the areas of utmost concern for small business owners when it comes to government policy in 2021. Along the same lines, more than half of small business owners wish to have access to more low- or no-interest loans and grants, and to see the process for receiving that relief simplified and accelerated.
With over 400,000 small businesses shuttered, and many more on the brink of closure, the first 100 days and the months to follow will be critical to changing the course of the pandemic and helping small businesses and their employees survive and successfully recover.
Economic Relief for Small Businesses
Small businesses stand as a key pillar of the American economy, and the Biden administration has not forgotten them. Direct economic relief and institutional support seeks to get money into the hands of small businesses quickly and efficiently. The administration also proposes policies targeted toward reopening businesses and getting millions of Americans back to work.
Tax relief is not central to the American Rescue Plan, except to ease the expense of increased employee benefits. We should expect a new tax bill soon, and hopefully one that exempts small businesses from any tax increases.
The American Rescue Plan does include the following proposed tax changes:
- Implementing guaranteed emergency paid leave eligibility for up to 106 million workers, including those employed by businesses with less than 50 people–with a corresponding tax credit that provides 100% reimbursement of the cost for employers with less than 500 employees.
- Expanding child care tax credits to cover more costs for working parents.
- Increasing both the Child Tax Credit for lower-income families and the Earned Income Tax Credit for workers without children–raising the value of each tax credit and expanding the eligibility requirements to provide relief more widely.
Emergency Funds, Grants, and Loans
Small businesses employ half of the private-sector workers in America, so it will be critical that they continue to receive the funding necessary to endure the pandemic, reopen, and rebuild. Included in the President’s COVID-19 relief plan is a goal to provide $15 billion in equitably-distributed grants to help businesses hardest hit by the pandemic. Another $35 billion would be leveraged to generate $175 billion in small business loans and venture capital investments. Businesses that have suffered disproportionately, including restaurants and bars, may find additional support available as a result of the package.
President Biden also calls for an overhaul of the Paycheck Protection Program to ensure that every qualifying small business with 50 or fewer employees gets the relief they need, especially those that have been under-served. The President recently appointed Isabel Casillas Guzman to lead the Small Business Administration (SBA) to ensure a successful and equitable rollout of these investments. Guzman served as deputy chief of staff at the SBA during the Obama administration. In 2019, she became the director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate, where she helped implement a grant program for businesses affected by the pandemic.
Many SBA loan programs rely on partnerships with banks and other financial institutions that issue the loans and receive an SBA guarantee. Guzman’s experience should help bridge the gap between lenders and small business owners, getting assistance into the hands of small businesses as quickly as possible.
A Rocket Lawyer survey found that 79% of small business owners who received COVID-19 relief in the form of a government-sponsored loan or grant felt that it helped them avoid a business bankruptcy. The SBA, under Guzman’s leadership, will revamp the program and cast the lifelines of small business relief more widely and more fairly than before.
Sustaining Local Communities
President Biden has released detailed proposals and taken direct action to support the nation’s economic recovery and to help Americans weather the financial impact of the pandemic. The President’s COVID-19 relief bill includes direct payments of $1,400 to most Americans. It also proposes an extension and expansion of unemployment benefits, $25 billion in emergency funding for childcare centers, and aid to state and local governments, which often results in additional support for residents.
President Biden asked agencies to extend the nationwide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and he extended the pause on student loan payments and interest. The American Rescue Plan also calls for more relief for renters and small landlords, including assistance with power and water expenses and arrears.
All of these efforts serve to put money into the pockets of individuals and families, including those who own small businesses and those who support their local small businesses and communities.
Accelerated Vaccine Rollout and Reopening
President Biden's COVID-19 task force plans to accelerate vaccine deployment and scale access to testing. The task force is set to include doctors and top public health experts. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert who was a member of the Trump administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, will stay on to serve the Biden administration as Chief Medical Advisor.
Better Vaccine Deployment
The President has indicated that he is all-in on a faster vaccine rollout, saying he would invoke the Defense Production Act to require that companies make the materials needed for the vaccines. At our current pace, the President is optimistic that we can reach 1.5 million vaccine shots per day. Three of the individuals named to his COVID-19 response team are coordinators in charge of supply chain management, vaccinations, and testing.
Testing and Contact Tracing
President Biden proposes doubling the number of drive-through testing sites and investing in faster tests. The administration’s COVID-19 plan also includes the deployment of a Public Health Jobs Corps in coordination with state, local, and tribal leaders to mobilize 100,000 people, and more if necessary, to support local contact tracing efforts in at-risk communities.
In addition to bolstering the public health response to COVID-19, the President proposes that COBRA continuation coverage be subsidized by the government through September 2021. While this coverage is typically paid for by terminated employees, any business covering COBRA costs as part of a severance package might benefit from this change.
Further, President Biden proposes that Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace health insurance premiums be eliminated or lowered (by means of a tax credit) and that a cap be implemented to ensure that enrollees don't pay more than 8.5% of their income for coverage. This is good news for small business owners who don't rely on employer-sponsored health insurance.
Access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The President’s plan to solve our persistent PPE problems includes using the Defense Production Act to get companies to produce the masks, face shields, and other PPE that is desperately needed by our healthcare, frontline, and essential workers. To avoid future shortages, the President supports using American manufacturing to make critical supplies in the United States. The Biden administration has also proposed a separate "restart package" to help small businesses reopen and operate safely by helping to cover the costs of procuring PPE and plexiglass to keep their employees and customers safe.
All of these proposals are key to reopening small businesses quickly and safely, while rebuilding consumer confidence along the way.
New Regulations Possible
After several years of rollbacks of occupational safety, environmental and consumer protection regulations, the Biden administration likely will move in the opposite direction of its predecessor on the regulatory front. Here are some early changes to keep an eye on: :
- Hazard pay requirements for essential workers.
- New Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards for COVID-19 protection.
- Raise in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
President Biden signals that he would prefer to move forward with a bill that has bipartisan support. Since the administration plans to negotiate with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in an effort to pass legislation that will help small businesses and employees, we can expect some changes to these proposals as the process plays out.
Our Rocket Lawyer survey data suggests that a majority of small business owners are optimistic about the Biden administration's ability to deliver a positive impact on their business compared to the last four years. These first 100 days of the Biden presidency will set the tone and the pace for economic recovery and the healing that is required to put our nation back on track. Small businesses stand to gain the most from having the virus under control and Americans ready to spend again, and so the optimism is real.
Now’s the Time to Speak Up and Be Heard
As the details of the recovery plan enter into negotiation, now is the time to make your voice heard. Learn more about the Biden administration’s proposed legislation and contact the White House and your representatives in the House and Senate to let them know what you need, and to advocate for what you do or don’t want passed as part of the next COVID-19 relief package. That’s how a well-functioning democracy is supposed to work after all.
Originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse: How Can President Biden’s First 100 Days Jump-Start Small Business Recovery?
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.