This week, with less than 100 days into President Joe Biden’s administration, Congress delivered on his 628-page, $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Non-business specific provisions included $350 billion in direct stimulus to cities and states, $170 billion for K-12 schools, $25 billion in rental assistance, and $100 billion for public health efforts – not to mention direct stimulus checks of $1,400 to most adults and extended unemployment benefits to September 2021, including a $300 per week increase in assistance. Notably, nonprofits will receive 75% relief on their Unemployment Insurance for benefits paid March 31, 2021, through September 6, 2021.
Perhaps the most important piece included for businesses and our local community is the creation of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), funded to the tune of $28.6 billion. The RRF creates a new federal program for restaurant owners with 20 or fewer locations to apply for tax-free grants of up to $5 million per location or up to $10 million for multi-location operations. The grant amount is determined by subtracting 2020 sales from 2019 revenues. As always, please consult your financial institution about these programs.
These RRF grants and the funding provided may be spent on a greater variety of expenses than previous federal relief efforts. Permitted expenses include food and beverage inventory, utilities, mortgage/rent, supplies, payroll, and operational expenses. Restaurants with gross receipts under $500,000 will have access to $5 billion in funds set aside specifically for them. Additionally, the Small Business Administration will prioritize women, veterans, or socially and economically disadvantaged-owned businesses for RFF grants during the first three weeks of the application period. For more information on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, be sure to consult your financial institution and give this overview by the National Restaurant Association a look.
Congress isn’t the only one moving vital legislation; our own Missouri state legislature made progress on a couple of important priorities before jetting off for Spring Break, particularly transportation funding and Wayfair (online sales tax collection).
This week, the Missouri Senate gave final approval to SB262, a bill by Senator Dave Schatz, President Pro Tem of the Senate, which would raise the gas tax by 2.5 cents per year for five years. This effort would raise more than $500 million in additional funding for Missouri’s roads and bridges, increase fees for electric vehicles, and provide a mechanism for Missourians to receive a rebate for the increase in tax. The bill will now move to the House for consideration.
Update on Chamber Priorities
On Wayfair, both the Missouri House and Senate approved similar yet competing pieces of legislation that would authorize the collection of online sales tax by local governments. The House passed HB544, sponsored by Representative J. Eggleston, while the Senate passed SB153, sponsored by Senator Andrew Koenig. Both Chambers will now have to consider the other’s Wayfair legislation and hopefully find a way to thread the needle. Missouri remains one of two states left in the nation to pass a so-called Wayfair fix.
Ultimately, we are glad to see the legislature making strides to address issues important to the Columbia business community and our region. As always, Chamber staff will continue to monitor and update members on legislation impacting their businesses and the community-at-large. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the Chamber.