(HARRISBURG) – Today, Senator Ryan Aument (R-36) announced his intent to introduce a package of bills aimed at providing both immediate and long-term relief to the Commonwealth’s struggling restaurants, bars, and small businesses.
“I continue to believe that Pennsylvania can combat the COVID-19 pandemic using a dual approach that appropriately balances the need to protect public health and preserve livelihoods,” said Aument. “Unfortunately, Governor Wolf’s unilateral orders have consistently missed this mark, and now Pennsylvania’s once thriving small business community is on the brink of collapse if we don’t act quickly.”
The legislative package includes proposals to offer no interest loans to businesses affected by the shutdowns, a temporary tax credit program, net operating loss reforms, license fee waivers, and tax liability deductions.
“While I fully understand the need to get the outbreak under control, limiting the ability for small businesses and their employees to survive financially – and in some cases, sending them into bankruptcy – without providing assistance from the same government that forced them to close in the first place is both wrong and immoral,” said Aument. “Certainly, safely reopening these businesses would be the most economically viable option; however, overturning the Governor’s punitive mitigation orders is not Constitutionally possible in the near-term, so we must offer these businesses immediate relief in some other way.”
Specifically, the five proposals in the Small Business Assistance Package would:
- Require the Pennsylvania Treasurer to, on a temporary basis, offer no interest loans funded through a long-term bond to businesses who have been shut down by Governor Wolf’s orders.
- Create a temporary business improvement tax credit program, modeled off the highly successful Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, that would allow businesses who have done well during the pandemic to make a donation directly to struggling small businesses in return for a tax credit worth 50% of their donation. This program would be capped at $500 million, resulting in $1 billion provided to struggling restaurants, bars, and small businesses in the Commonwealth, and it would expire after two years.
- Allow normally profitable businesses that experience a pandemic-related loss in 2020 to offset earnings from prior years or future years against current year losses and get refunds for prior years (carryback) or cut future tax bills (carryforward). The program would sunset in three years to allow time for struggling businesses to get back on their feet.
- Waive the state fees for retail food and liquor licenses for restaurants and bars that were forced to shut down during Governor Wolf’s emergency orders.
- Allow businesses who were impacted by Governor Wolf’s shutdown order or his business restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic to deduct their property taxes from their state corporate net income (CNI) or personal income tax (PIT) liability.
In his September op-ed, Struggling Restaurant Industry Needs Cooperation, Not Partisanship in Harrisburg, Aument noted the extraordinary measures the industry has taken to ensure proper sanitation and social distancing, stating that he was confident these businesses would continue to take all the necessary precautions to keep their employees and customers safe.
“It is more important than ever that the legislature comes together to help the hospitality industry,” said Melissa Bova, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association. “Our members have gone above and beyond to be safe and in compliance with mitigation standards, yet they continue to be under attack. We thank Senator Aument for introducing this package of bills and urge all Senators to come together to support it and ensure its swift passage. Every day our members are closing permanently, we need action now.”
Finally, Aument continues to encourage residents to eat and shop locally, stating that shopping at these small businesses, restaurants, and taverns now might be the difference between them reopening their doors or closing for good.
“Lancaster County has a diverse and vibrant small business community and an excellent restaurant scene – so pay your neighbors a visit, and shop and eat locally,” said Aument.
Helpful information on the many locally-owned restaurants and small businesses that could use the support of the community over these next few weeks and months can be found on Discover Lancaster’s Shop Local in Lancaster webpage.
CONTACT: Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420