The following provides an overview on bills that have either passed or been introduced in Congress. Jewelers of America and our legislative counsel in D.C. will continue to monitor what’s out there and make changes as needed. JA members can use our action alert to reach out to lawmakers and push for measures that will help the industry.


(Updates as of 7/6/2020)

Legislation that has Passed


CARES Act

The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law by the president on Friday, March 27. We’re still following what’s happening in Congress and asking for Congress to do more to help businesses to get through this, you can use our action alert here to respond. The CARES Act includes the following major provisions to help businesses:

Paycheck Protection Program
Launched in early April, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which is administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), initially provided $350 billion to support emergency loans to help small businesses cover near-term costs during the most severe part of the coronavirus crisis, while giving them incentive to retain employees.

The program has had several hiccups since it was introduced and further legislation has been passed to support it.

First, it quickly ran out of funding, but got an infusion of $310 billion at the end of April with passage of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. The additional funds included a carve out of about $60 billion for “underbanked” businesses that had difficulty getting approved for loans during the first round of funding, reserving the fund for small banks, credit unions and non-profits.

Latest Updates to the PPP
Even with the additional funding, businesses continued to push for changes to make the program more accessible and flexible. After several failed attempts to move fixes forward, including as part of the expansive HEROES Act which passed the House, but faltered in the Senate, Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020, signed into law on June 5. It received near unanimous support, first passing in the House 417-1 and by unanimous consent in the Senate.

Highlights from the Act include:
  • Extends the covered period from June 30, 2020 to December 31, 2020, allowing businesses to use the loans toward covered expenses until the end of the year.
  • Allows loan forgiveness for expenses beyond the 8-week covered period to the earlier of 24 weeks after disbursement or to December 31, 2020.
  • Increases the current limitation on the use of loan proceeds for non-payroll expenses from 25 percent to 40 percent
  • Extends loan terms (payback) from two years to five years
  • Ensures full access to payroll tax deferment for businesses that take PPP loans

The PPP Flexibility Act also adds two new exemptions:
  • The forgiveness reduction will not apply if the borrower, in good faith, can document an inability to rehire the same or similar employees that were in place as of February 15, 2020.
  • The forgiveness reduction will not apply if the borrower, in good faith, can document an inability to return to the same level of business activity before February 15, 2020, due to COVID-related social distancing, sanitation, and other safety requirements or guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, Health and Human Services, or Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.

The following key details about the PPP have been updated to reflect changes from the PPP Flexibility Act – further guidance on the loans is also expected:
  • Businesses with 500 or fewer employees qualify and the program provides loans of up to $10 million to cover costs including payroll, rent, utilities and healthcare benefits.
  • Loans will be forgiven if the employer continues to employ its workers or rehires them when they reopen for business by December 31, 2020.
  • Loans will be available until the end of June through SBA-certified and other qualified lenders including banks, credit unions and other financial institutions.

Loans are forgiven provided they are used toward payroll costs, most mortgage interest, rent and utility costs over the 24-week period the loan is made. During this time, employee and compensation levels must be maintained and payroll costs are capped at $100,000 annually for each employee. With passage of the PPP Flexibility Act, 40 percent of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs. Loan payments will be deferred for six months. Loan forgiveness is reduced if businesses decrease full-time employee headcount and/or decrease salaries and wages by more than 25 percent for any employee that made less than $100,000 in 2019.
Businesses now have until December 31, 2020 to restore your full-time employment and salary levels for any changes made between February 15, 2020 and April 26, 2020.
All businesses – including sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors – with 500 or fewer employees can apply.
Download the application here. Applications will be accepted until August 8, 2020.
Yes, as of July 6, loans are still available.
Businesses can apply through any existing SBA lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. We recommend consulting with your current lender or a local lender to see if they are participating. Visit www.sba.gov for a list of SBA lenders. You can also contact your local SBA Development Center for more information.


CARES Act Tax Provisions
The bill includes tax provisions that offer retailers more liquidity to help offset costs during the economic crisis. These include:
  • Delay of payroll taxes due in 2020
  • 50 percent refundable payroll tax credit for employers whose businesses have been fully or partially suspended due to government limitation on commerce or whose businesses have experienced a 50% decline in gross receipts
  • Correction of an error in the 2017 Tax Act related to store improvements, that allow retailers to amend returns and get refunds for overpaid taxes in 2018 and 2019
  • Allowing businesses to carryback losses from 2018, 2019 and 2020 to previous 5 years and get refunds against taxes paid in profitable years
  • Allow greater deductibility of interest expenses incurred

Unemployment Insurance Provisions 
The CARES Act expanded unemployment benefits for a broad range of individuals, including self-employed workers and independent contractors. Covered individuals include those who are otherwise able to work and available for work based on State law, but are unable to do so related to COVID-19 for reasons such as caring for a sick family member, school closures, inability to reach place of employment or place of employment is closed. Coverage is for weeks of unemployment, partial unemployment, or inability to work due to COVID-19 beginning on or after January 27 and ending on or before December 31, 2020. Benefit amount is the individual state compensation (which varies) plus $600.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It expands the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) on a temporary basis and includes new requirements for paid sick leave. Among the key changes, FMLA expands from covering employers with 50 or more employees to covering those with fewer than 500 employees and lowers the eligibility requirements for paid family and medical leave to any employee who has worked at least 30 days prior to the designated leave. It does, however, include language that allows the Secretary of Labor to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if the required leave would jeopardize the viability of their business.

Changes to paid sick leave include covering up to two weeks for eligible employees (employers with 500 or fewer employees) who take sick leave because they are subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to the virus, are advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine, have symptoms and are seeking medical diagnosis, or are caring for someone who is subject to quarantine or isolation.

In order to offset the burden to small businesses, the Act provides a series of refundable tax credits for employers who are required to provide Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave.

The new requirements for the FMLA and paid sick leave will become effective on April 2 and will remain in effect until December 31, 2020.

Visit COVID-19 and the American Workplace for more information from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Legislation that has been Introduced


Pandemic Risk Insurance Act

Legislation that offers insurance protection for future pandemics was introduced in the House on May 26.

The bill, the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act, would require insurance companies to offer business interruption insurance policies that cover pandemics while ensuring there is capacity to cover these losses and bolster the economy in the event of a future pandemic.

The proposed legislation is like the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), enacted shortly after 9/11. Under the plan, the federal government would serve as a backstop to maintain market stability and share the burden alongside the private insurance industry.

The program would not be retroactive to cover COVID-19 losses but would be triggered after $250 million in aggregate industry losses and following any future declaration of a covered public health emergency or pandemic. If passed, it would establish a backstop for business interruption or event cancellation losses resulting from future pandemics or public health emergencies declared on or after Jan. 1, 2021.

The bill would likely face an uphill battle, as major insurance industry associations, including the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies and American Property Casualty Insurance Association, have argued that pandemics are much broader in scale than terrorist attacks and are therefore uninsurable.

HEROES Act

The U.S. House of Representatives passed  the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, an approximately $3 trillion package geared toward COVID-19 assistance. It includes nearly $1 trillion toward state, local, territorial and tribal governments to pay workers such as first responders, health workers and teachers. The bill would also establish a $200 billion Heroes Fund to provide hazard pay for essential workers, enhance the employee retention tax credit and provide $10 billion for COVID-19 emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. The HEROES Act would also provide a second round of economic impact payments of $1,200 per family member. Introduced by House Democrats, it passed that chamber, but stalled in the Senate.

What’s in the Bill for Small Businesses?
  • It amends the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding by setting aside funds specifically for small Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Development Institutions (MDIs), SBA microlenders, and SBA Certified Development Companies (CDCs) and mandating that 25 percent of the funds be used for small businesses with 10 or fewer employees and that another 25 percent of the funds be used solely for nonprofits.
  • The bill includes measures that have since passed as part of the PPP Flexibility Act,such as extending the covered period for PPP loans from 8 to 24 weeks,giving firms until the end of the year to hire back workers and still qualify for loan forgiveness and allowing businesses that receive PPP loans to defer payroll tax payments.
  • Includes proposals to better support SBA’s core programs, including waiving fees associated with the SBA 7(a) and 504 loan programs for borrowers and lenders and increasing the annual lending limit of the 7(a) programs from $30 billion to $75 billion.
  • Expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) to increase the value per employee per quarter from $5,000 for the remainder of the year to $12,000 by increasing the credit percentage from 50% to 80% of qualified wages and increase the per-employee limitation from $10,000 for all calendar quarters to $15,000 per calendar quarter ($45,000 for all calendar quarters)

Can it Pass?

While the bill was unable to make it through the Senate in May, lawmakers have indicated that there could be one more major COVID-19 bill out of Congress. While unlikely to pass as is, the HEROEs Act could serve as the basis for negotiations on a compromise package further down the road.

Additional Information/Resources

Please note that with the passage of the PPP Flexibility Act, we expect that the following resources will be updated to reflect the recent changes.
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