U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell, D-Selma, and Mike Rogers, R-Saks, voted in favor of a bipartisan bill aimed at improving the Paycheck Protection Program, dubbed the Payroll Protection Program Flexibility Act.
“The Paycheck Protection Program has been a lifeline for tens of thousands of Alabama businesses, but there are still too many small businesses that have been unable to access necessary resources because of the program’s strict stipulations,” Sewell said.
Sewell said many small businesses have not applied despite their urgent need because they do not believe they can meet current standards, and many are afraid to use the money because of the program’s strict requirements.
“The bills the House passed today would both make the PPP program more flexible so it can reach more small businesses in need, and also increase the program’s transparency to ensure funding is going to main street businesses that need support the most,” Sewell said.
Rogers said he was pleased the act passed the House.
“The bill will add more flexibility to these loans to help small businesses even more,” he said. “It will extend the loan forgiveness period, allow businesses that receive forgiveness to also receive payroll tax deferment and will allow businesses to spend different amounts on payroll costs and mortgage, rent, and other expenses. I hope these modifications will further help our small businesses that are the heartbeat of our local economies.”
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than 60,000 Paycheck Protection Program loans have been issued to small businesses in Alabama with each recipient receiving an average PPP loan of about $100,000.
According to Sewell’s office, the new bill would provide needed flexibility to the Paycheck Protection Program — originally created by Congress in the CARES Act in April — in order to make this key program functional for the small businesses that need it the most.
Sewell’s office provided a lengthy explanation of what the legislation does:
Under the current Paycheck Protection Program, the PPP loan converts to a grant as long as the small business uses the loan within eight weeks of the CARES Act enactment – that is, by June 30 – and uses at least 75 percent of the loan proceeds on payroll and the rest for such necessary expenses as rent, mortgage interest, and utilities. Many small businesses, particularly very small businesses, have reported that, with these restrictions, the loans do not meet their needs.
The bill makes the PPP program more flexible in the following key ways, in order to make it more accessible and usable for the vulnerable small businesses that need it the most:
Allowing loan forgiveness for expenses beyond the 8-week covered period to 24 weeks and extending the rehiring deadline. Back in March, the PPP program was established as an eight-week program, ending on June 30. However, it is clear that the economic effects of the pandemic will impact small businesses long past June 30. The current eight-week timeline does not work for local businesses that could only very recently have customers and those that are only allowed to open with very heavy restrictions. Small businesses need the flexibility to spread the loan proceeds over the full course of the crisis, until demand returns.
Increasing the current limitation on the use of loan proceeds for nonpayroll expenses from 25 percent to 40 percent. Currently, under regulations issued by the Trump Administration, the PPP loans require that no more than 25 percent of loan proceeds can be spent on non-payroll expenses such as rent, mortgage interest, and utilities. This limitation has prevented many small businesses, such as independent restaurants, from applying to the program because their rent is significantly more than 25 percent of their monthly expenses. The 40 percent limitation in this bill is much more realistic.
Extending the program from June 30 to December 31. By ensuring the PPP program will operate for 24 weeks, rather than only eight, this bill will ensure that many more truly small businesses will be able to take advantage of the program.
Extending loan terms from two years to five years. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, full recovery for that industry following both the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the 2008 recession took more than two full years. This was also true for many other industries. If the past is any indication of the future, it will take many businesses more than two years to achieve sufficient revenues to pay back the loan.
Ensuring full access to payroll tax deferment for businesses that take PPP loans. The purpose of PPP and the payroll tax deferment was to provide businesses with liquidity to weather the crisis. Receiving both should not be considered double-dipping. Businesses need access to both sources of cash flow to survive.
The Payroll Protection Program Flexibility Act passed on a 417 to 1 vote. Alabama Congressmembers Bradley Byrne, Mo Brooks, Robert Aderholt, Martha Roby, and Gary Palmer also voted for the legislation. It now heads to the Senate for their consideration.
Rogers represents Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District. Sewell represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.
State unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 percent last month
Alabama’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.7 in September to 5.8 percent in October.
Alabama’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.7 in September to 5.8 percent in October, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. October’s seasonally adjusted rate represents 130,329 unemployed persons, down from 153,338 in September. That compares to 61,210 in October 2019.
“We’re glad to see a drop of almost an entire percentage point in our unemployment rate this month,” said ADOL Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We will continue to see fluctuations in these economic indicators as pandemic concerns remain, but this month showed growth in both the number of jobs we are supporting and the number of people who are working.”
The number of people counted as employed in October was 2,121,505, up from 2,119,297 in September, but down from the 2,186,771 measured in October 2019.
There were 9,262 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, up from 8,764 the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
Of the claims filed between Nov. 8 and Nov. 14, there were 3,001, or 32 percent, that were related to COVID-19, down from 38 percent the previous week.
Governor announces $200 million “Revive Plus” small business grant program
Revive Plus is the second wave of funding for organizations with 50 or fewer employees and will award grants of up to $20,000 for expenses.
Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced Revive Plus, a $200 million grant program to support small businesses, non-profits and faith-based organizations in Alabama that have been impacted by COVID-19. Revive Plus is the second wave of funding for these organizations with 50 or fewer employees and will award grants of up to $20,000 for expenses they have incurred due to operational interruptions caused by the pandemic and related business closures.
“As the state has rolled out over $1 billion of the CARES Act monies to the individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19, it became evident the group most overwhelmingly hurt during the pandemic were the small ‘mom and pop’ shops,” Ivey said. “A second round of assistance through Revive Plus will ensure that the small business owners who have borne the brunt of the downed economy can be made as whole as possible. As we head into the holiday season, my hope is that this will be welcome news for our businesses and help ease their burdens from what has been a very hard year.”
Entities may receive up to $20,000 to reimburse qualifying expenses if they have not received federal assistance for the corresponding item they are claiming with the state of Alabama. The Revive Plus grant is in addition to any state of Alabama Coronavirus Relief Fund grant previously received, including the Revive Alabama Small Business, Non-Profit, Faith-Based, and Health Care Provider grants. There is no set cap on the number of entities that may be awarded a Revive Plus Grant. Grants will be awarded to qualifying applicants on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds are exhausted.
“The Revive Plus program is much needed in our small business economy,” said Senate General Fund Chairman Greg Albritton, R-Atmore. “I commend Governor Ivey for taking this action, recapturing unspent dollars and using a proven program to bring economic relief to our small business owners.”
Alabama received approximately $1.9 billion of CARES Act funding to respond to and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. Alabama Act 2020-199 initially designated up to $300 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund for individuals, businesses, non-profit and faith-based organizations directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. After the initial $100 million for small business that was reimbursed starting in July 2020, legislative leadership approved a second round of $200 million from allocations made to reimburse state government and from other grant programs that have ended with the full allocation unspent.
“This second round of funding for Alabama entities will provide much needed resources for our state’s economy,” said Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. “I appreciate the governor and the Finance Department’s work to ensure we utilize these funds to the benefit of our citizens.”
Entities may access grant information and the grant application through the Coronavirus Relief Fund website. The application period for the Revive Plus Grant Program will open at noon, Nov. 23, 2020 and run through noon, Dec. 4, 2020.
“This is welcome news for small businesses, non-profits and faith-based organizations that are continuing to feel the adverse effects of the Covid-19 virus,” said House General Fund Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark. “Time is of the essence and I urge all qualified entities to apply as soon as possible beginning Monday, November 23rd.”
A coalition of the Business Council of Alabama, the National Federation of Independent Business of Alabama (NFIB Alabama) and the Alabama Restaurant Association worked closely with the governor’s office to revisit the grant program after the initial round of Revive Alabama reached the $100 million cap.
“Businesses throughout the state are working diligently to keep their employees and customers safe, all while ensuring commerce throughout Alabama continues to move,” said Business Council of Alabama President and CEO Katie Britt. “Revive Plus will be essential in giving Alabama businesses access to the necessary and needed funding to keep their doors open and keep hard working Alabamians employed. Our broad coalition of businesses, associations and chambers commend Governor Ivey and her administration for putting these critical funds into the hands of businesses who need it most.”
Qualifying entities must have been in business March 1, 2020, are currently in business and have a valid W-9 to apply for a Revive Plus Grant.
Applications open the Livestock Auction Market Direct Payment Program, Poultry Processor Reimbursement Program
Each program will assist Alabama’s agriculture with costs associated with disruptions experienced due to COVID-19.
Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate announced that both the Livestock Market Direct Payment Program and the Poultry Processor Reimbursement Program applications are open.
The applications are available at agi.alabama.gov or crf.alabama.gov. The deadline to submit applications is Dec. 1, 2020. Each program will assist Alabama’s agriculture with costs associated with disruptions experienced due to COVID-19.
Pate and agricultural stakeholders developed a broad-based relief plan to support agribusiness in the state of Alabama, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus crisis and the resulting supply chain interruptions.
In August, Gov. Kay Ivey announced that $26 million of CARES Act Funds could be used to assist Alabama agriculture impacted by COVID-19. These funds were used to establish the Alabama Agricultural Stabilization Program (AASP).
Pate said on Monday that the Livestock Market Direct Payment Program is a $500,000 program to provide direct payments to stockyards affected by the crisis. Payments cannot exceed $25,000. Only licensed Alabama cattle auction markets are eligible.
Pate said the Poultry Processor Reimbursement Program is a $1.2 million program to reimburse Alabama poultry processing facilities for purchases of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), disinfectants, workstation dividers and COVID-19 testing kits to protect their employees from COVID-19.
Reimbursements for these expenses would be capped at a maximum of $40,000 per facility. Additional eligibility requirements will be posted at agi.alabama.gov or crf.alabama.gov.
The state has until the end of the year to spend nearly $1 billion in CARES Act money or it goes back to the federal government.
Sewell’s annual job fair will be virtual this year
Job seekers will have the opportunity to connect with employers from 10 different industries.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s annual job fair is open for registration. This year, the job fair will be virtual, hosted via Zoom.
Sewell announced the opening of registration for Alabama’s 7th District 9th Annual Job Fair. Job Fair 2020 will be a two-day event held virtually on Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 18 and 19, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. central time.
Job seekers will have the opportunity to connect with employers from 10 different industries. Registration is required via Eventbrite. Participation in the job fair is free and open to the public.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, I know so many jobs have been lost, and now more than ever our annual Job Fair is needed,” Sewell said. “For the past 8 years, the Job Fair has been a space for job seekers in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District to connect directly with employers. We are very excited to continue our tradition with a robust 2020 virtual program! Over the course of two days, job seekers can learn about jobs available right NOW in Alabama.”
This year’s virtual event will feature employers from more than 10 types of industries, including automotive, restaurant and food management, transportation and construction, hospitality and retail, health services, utilities and telecommunications, manufacturing and production, staffing agencies, government agencies and law enforcement.
Sewell said she made a commitment to work to improve the lives of people in the 7th Congressional District when she was elected. Getting people jobs and growing the economy of the district has been the goal of the job fair.
Sewell said that when she was elected, the counties of the district had some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Coming out of the Great Recession, the district had an unemployment rate about 14 percent.
That rate is now down to 6 percent — still double the national average but a tremendous improvement for the people in the district. Then COVID hit.
Sewell said that the district, like the rest of the country, was hard hit by the coronavirus crisis and many jobs, particularly in the hospitality sector, were lost.
Sewell said that they don’t have as many employers participating in this year’s job fair as in some in the past but it is “still a great opportunity.”
“We have a pretty good track record,” Sewell said. According to surveys, 25 to 30 percent of participants in past job fairs found jobs through the Job Fair, Sewell’s office said. Since that is dependent on participants responding to the surveys, they suspect the number is higher.
“We do have very strong participation from all the largest employers in the state,” Sewell said. There are opportunities there for people with a variety of skill sets.
Sewell said that she is very proud of all of the investments that have been made by manufacturers in the 7th Congressional District and cited the expansions at Hyundai and Golden Dragon in Wilcox County.
“We have a very good track record,” Sewell said of past job fairs. “Everywhere I go I meet people who tell me how their lives changed because of our job fairs.”
On Nov. 3, Sewell was elected to her sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives.