COVID-19 relief policies: impacts for architects

U.S. Capitol at sunset

Last updated : May 19, 2020

House passes additional relief – May 15

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) on May 15.

Unlike some previous legislative proposals that were pre-negotiated between the House, Senate, and White House, this bill is not expected to pass the Senate in its current form.

The HEROES Act includes some of AIA’s priorities, including expanding eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program to 501(c)(6) organizations and providing roughly $1 trillion in funding for state and local governments, which could support appropriations for capital improvement projects.

AIA continues to work with bipartisan leaders in the House, Senate, and White House to advocate for AIA’s priorities in each stage of the legislative process.

Congress approves additional economic relief – April 23

Following House and Senate passage of the Paycheck Protection Act of 2020, AIA encourages firms seeking economic relief from challenges presented by COVID-19 to act swiftly in applying for funding provided in the stimulus package.

This latest economic relief bill provides more than $320 billion dollars in funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and allocates an additional $10 billion for the emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). PPP provides a maximum loan benefit of up to two-and-a-half times the average monthly payroll costs for the previous calendar year—not to exceed $10 million—to qualifying small businesses with fewer than 500 employees and sole proprietors. EIDL provides qualifying businesses in a declared disaster zone that have fewer than 500 employees with coverage for operating costs and payroll. Qualifying businesses can apply for either loan—both are available on a first-come, first-served basis—while funding is available, but businesses cannot receive both loans.

To support the latest economic relief bill, AIA members issued more than 3,600 letters to members of Congress advocating for additional federal funding of PPP and EIDL.

Complete details on both programs are available on AIA’s website.  

COVID-19 relief package signed into law – March 27

The AIA applauded House passage of the COVID-19 relief package, which President Trump swiftly signed into law.

“Workers and employers need immediate relief, and we’re grateful that Congress acted swiftly to approve bipartisan legislation to aid businesses of all sizes,” said 2020 AIA President Jane Frederick, FAIA. “As the architecture industry does its part to help navigate this unprecedented crisis, we’ll continue to work with federal, state, and local policymakers to work toward economic stimulus and infrastructure investment policies that are critical to economic recovery.”

Senate approves relief package – March 25

The AIA praised passage of the third economic relief package, which was approved by the Senate March 25, and will provide significant financial support to small businesses and their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The House of Representatives is expected to pass the bill on Friday.

In addition to funding for hospitals and hard-hit industries like airlines, hospitality and cargo, the $2 trillion-plus emergency rescue package allocates $367 billion for small businesses.

“This is the most significant relief for businesses the Senate has approved since the COVID-19 crisis began,” said 2020 President Jane Frederick, FAIA. “We’re pleased that all of these vital businesses are rightfully recognized as a priority. Architects will be a critical part of economic recovery, and AIA has forcefully advocated for infrastructure investment to stimulate recovery, as well as relief for businesses and employees. This relief package is a good start, and AIA continues to work with policymakers to ensure our members’ priorities are included in additional legislation as we continue to address this crisis.”

Almost 80 percent of AIA members are small businesses. Approval for the latest relief legislation advances a number of AIA-supported measures to help meet the needs of firms and AIA members, including the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and sole proprietors, low interest loans to mid-sized businesses, and the Employee Retention Credit for all businesses. The package allows employers to defer payroll taxes during the crisis and provides direct payments to Americans under certain income thresholds. AIA also supports the package’s provisions to support students and those with student loan debt.

More details

Additional legislative action

Policymakers previously approved H.R. 6201, the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, on March 18.  The emergency legislation provides individuals affected by the novel coronavirus paid leave, food assistance and increased unemployment insurance. Additionally, H.R. 6201 provides tax credits to employers to offset the costs of providing emergency sick leave, as well as other provisions impacting small businesses and self-employed workers.

A previous coronavirus response measure signed into law on March 6 provided about $8 billion for immediate response efforts to the Health and Human Services Department, State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, and Small Business Administration.

More details

AIA advocacy

As policymakers consider additional relief legislation, AIA’s members are calling for significant investments in 21st Century infrastructure and temporary relief measures for business owners. Both will provide much-needed relief in the short-term; reassurance to global markets; and help prepare this country for the challenges ahead.

AIA sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on March 19 calling on policymakers to address the critical needs of business owners and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic and outlining the infrastructure investment that is critical to stimulating America’s economic recovery.

To date, AIA members have issued 4500 letters to members of Congress urging support for frontline responders, as well as a variety of economic relief measures, including:

Relief for Business Owners and Employees

To address pressing short-term economic needs, expansion of temporary relief for business owners is critical to avoid lay-offs and the sharp economic downturn that would follow. Architecture firms come in all sizes, but the majority are classified as small businesses. AIA urges the following relief for businesses:

  • Small Business Interruption Loans for businesses under 500 employees to cover the costs of payroll while employees may not be able to work due to their own health concerns or the effects of social isolation on a massive scale.
  • Increase access to unsecured credit to all employers so that they can cover costs associated with payroll, rent, and other obligations in the immediate term.
  • Suspend the collection of business taxes, including payroll tax, for the duration of the pandemic.
  • Suspend the current policy limiting what losses pass-through entities may deduct (Section 461(l)). Many architecture firms are pass-through entities, and they should be able to deduct all losses incurred this year in the next tax cycle.

Infrastructure Investment

Once this health crisis has been fully addressed, we will need sustained investment to revive the economy. Infrastructure investment is a powerful tool to stimulate the economy and provide reassurance to Americans that the coming days will be better. Infrastructure for the 21st Century should not only include investment in roads, bridges, and other horizontal infrastructure, though those updates are sorely needed. Today’s infrastructure investment must also include vertical infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, affordable housing, and other public buildings.

This global pandemic has laid bare the preexisting resource shortage currently facing many of these facilities. Buildings must be resilient in the face of these disasters, while also not further contributing to the generation of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to unhealthy air quality. We must expect more from the built environment than ever before. AIA urges policymakers to work with architects and other building professionals to meet the needs of 21st Century Infrastructure:

  • Invest a minimum of $300 billion over five years in resilient vertical infrastructure.
  • Work with architects and other professionals to modernize sanitation and change assumptions about public health practices.
  • Reimagine design of public buildings and public spaces to encourage handwashing and enable social distancing as necessary.
  • Address inequities in broadband coverage so that Americans in all regions have equal access attend work or school remotely.  

The architecture community stands ready to work with federal, state, and local policymakers to help our communities through this crisis and build facilities worthy of the future.

Image credits

U.S. Capitol at sunset

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