Washington News Roundup

It has been a busy month in Washington, D.C. Below you can find summaries of three key pieces of legislation our readers should be aware of.

$1.9 trillion relief bill

On March 11, President Biden signed one of the largest stimulus packages in American history. This stimulus comes a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and is aimed at helping get the U.S. economy in general back on solid footing. You have probably heard a lot about this law, and it is impossible to summarize $1.9 trillion of spending in the space we have here, but here are the highlights most materially impacting TCIA members:

  • $1,400 direct payments to qualifying individuals, similar to the past two rounds of direct stimulus;
  • Extension of the $300 per week federal enhanced-unemployment insurance until September 6, 2021;
  • $15 billion in targeted aid for businesses seeking Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance grants;
  • An extension of the Employee Retention Credit, the refundable tax credit aimed at helping employers keep workers on the payroll;
  • Funding for vaccine distribution, housing assistance and state and local governments; and
  • Expansion of the child tax credit in 2021.

The Invasive Species Prevention and Forest Restoration Act

Recently, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) introduced H.R. 1389: The Invasive Species Prevention and Forest Restoration Act. This bill aims to prevent the introduction of invasive forest pests and help efforts to reduce the pests’ impacts. Here is a summary of the legislation:

  • Expands USDA APHIS’ access to emergency funding to combat invasive species when existing federal funds are insufficient and broadens the range of activities these funds can support;
  • Establishes a grant program to support institutions focused on researching methods to restore native tree species that have been severely damaged by invasive pests;
  • Authorizes funding to implement promising research findings on how to protect native tree species; and
  • Mandates a study to identify actions needed to overcome the lack of centralization and prioritization of non-native-insect and -pathogen research and response within the federal government and develop national strategies for saving tree species.

Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021

On March 9, the House passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021 (PRO Act). This bill is the number-one priority for labor unions in the United States but faces opposition from business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation.

Though this bill passed the House, it is unlikely to pass in the Senate due to needing 10 Republicans to join the chamber’s 50 Democrats in supporting the bill. However, TCIA members should be aware of the contents of the legislation, as this issue is not settled, and there may be similar bills introduced in state legislatures across the country. Below are some key aspects of the PRO Act.

  • Eliminate “Right-to-Work” laws in more than two-dozen states. These laws allow for workers in union workplaces to opt out of the union and not pay dues, while continuing to receive union benefits;
  • Forbid employers from becoming involved in union elections; and
  • Mandate the “ABC Test” nationwide. This test comes from California law and provides a strict system for classifying independent contractors. The ABC Test generally requires employers to treat independent contractors as employees, with some exemptions.

As a new administration and Congress get up and running, TCIA is here to bring you the latest information on the policies that could impact your business. As always, please reach out with any questions.

Aiden O’Brien is TCIA’s advocacy and standards manager. He can be reached at aobrien@tcia.org.

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