U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., is making a bipartisan pitch to increase a tax break designed for employers to keep their employees even if they are not working.
This week, Murphy appeared at a media event with U.S. Rep. John Katko, R-NY, and U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., to promote expanding the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC). The tax credit encourages companies to keep workers by paying up to $5,000 of the employee’s wages.
Murphy said this will help the economy recover.
“Keeping workers connected to their jobs ensures that both workers and employers are better positioned to resume normal operations once the pandemic ends,” Murphy said.
The proposed tax credit increase could be a boon for Florida’s largest employers, including theme parks in Orlando. Murphy insisted expanding the ERTC would benefit many different companies in the region.
“I think this is a good program for a lot of businesses in our region, small, medium, and large,” Murphy said. “A worker is a worker is a worker. If they have a job, they really just care that they have a job.”
Murphy added that she worries about the district’s and Florida’s long term prospects for recovery.
“Particularly, it is important for Central Florida because we are so tourism and hospitality dependent and our restart will likely be slower than some other industries. Because this program is available through the end of this year, it gives a lot more flexibility to employers and employees in Central Florida,” Murphy said.
The bill to extend and expand this tax credit is attached to the latest stimulus package unveiled by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., this week. While that proposal will never pass the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate or get signed into law by President Donald Trump in its current form, Murphy called it “a negotiating start point.” That’s one of the reasons Murphy has already garnered the support of five Republican cosponsors including Katko who told Florida Daily compromise is not a dirty word.
“It’s not an accident that Stephanie, who represents the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, and I, who represent the moderate wing of the Republican Party, are teaming up on a lot of bills like this during the pandemic,” Katko said.
Murphy said getting something passed is the most important part of her efforts.
“There’s no time for message bills or bills that don’t have bipartisan backing and can’t become law. We don’t need to create a brand new or untested program at this stage of the game in the middle of a crisis. We just need to dial up this existing credit that we worked so hard to get into CARES in the first place,” Murphy said.
The CARES Act included $55 billion put into the ERTC at the end of March. This latest effort would add another $157 billion which would be available to companies of all sizes that have suffered significant losses or were forced to shut down.
Katko said he will appeal to the GOP during the negotiations just as he has with the Payroll Protection Program (PPP).
“The name of the game for both PPP and this program is to keep people off unemployment insurance and off government-supported health insurance if that is necessary,” he said.
On the Democratic side, Murphy said she will talk about what her leadership cares about.
“Part of ensuring that we don’t have spread of the virus is ensuring that people have access to health care, and keeping them tethered to their incomes and their health benefits is a key component of why this program is worthwhile,” Murphy said.
Companies that already got assistance through PPP could get more help but both programs cannot be used at the same time. The ERTC can be used for 12 weeks as opposed to the PPP which can be used for eight weeks. A key selling point for both sides in the deal will be that Trump has called for a cut in the payroll tax. Since there seems to be little agreement between the two parties on doing that, the program may be similar enough that Trump would be willing to sign it.
In the meantime, Murphy’s bill is before the U.S. House Ways and Means and the U.S. House Small Business Committees. Murphy sits on the Ways and Means Committee. There is no companion bill over in the Senate.
Reach Mike Synan at email@example.com.