House democrats' coronavirus measure provides some relief for contractors, but lacks other steps needed to help construction

Construction official says new highway funding, employee retention credits and pension relief will help, but lack of safe harbor measure, Eextension of unemployment bonus will undermine recovery.

May 13, 2020 |

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The chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, Stephen E. Sandherr, issued the following statement in reaction to release today of House Democrats’ Proposed Coronavirus Recovery Measure:

“It is encouraging to see House Democrats moving quickly on legislation intended to help the economy recover from the coronavirus. Their proposal includes measures that will help construction firms that have been hard-hit by declining demand and uncertainty about future market conditions. But the proposal’s authors missed an opportunity to address some of the most significant challenges facing the industry.

“On the positive side, the measure includes some needed relief for state highway programs that have been hammered by declining gas tax revenue amid broad economic lockdown measures. The measure also includes an expansion of the employee retention tax credit that will benefit construction firms that have worked to retain employees. It authorizes composite retirement plans, which hold great potential to address the challenges facing multiemployer retirement plans in which many construction firms participate and provides other needed pension relief. And it includes measures to help construction firms working on federal projects cope with schedule delays and other impacts related to the coronavirus.

“The measure, however, fails to include any safe harbor language to protect firms that are safeguarding workers and the public from the coronavirus from limitless litigation. Meanwhile, the proposed repeal of the net operating loss carryback provision will punish firms, especially family-owned businesses, that suffered losses of $250,000 or more this year. This will make it even harder for these firms to retain staff. And the proposed expansion of the unemployment supplement through January 31 will make it more challenging for firms to rehire employees once demand begins to rebound.

“We appreciate that this measure advances a much-needed debate about the best way to re-start the economy. That is why we will continue to work with members of both parties to craft measures, including liability protections, new infrastructure investments and pension relief, that will help the construction industry recover and rebuild.”

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