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Updated: Stimulus plan includes funds for businesses and employees

Issue Date: February 24, 2021
By Kevin Hecteman

More relief for small businesses suffering under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more funding for housing of agricultural employees diagnosed with the disease, will soon be forthcoming in a series of bills approved Monday night by the state Legislature.

The bills emerged as part of an agreement between legislative leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom, and will take effect immediately upon his signature.

One bill allocates nearly $2.1 billion from the General Fund to the California Office of the Small Business Advocate for another series of grants to eligible small businesses.

Taylor Roschen, a California Farm Bureau policy advocate, said there have been two previous rounds of such grants, the second of which closed earlier this month. This time, she said she expects three rounds.

Under Senate Bill 87 by Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, eligible small businesses whose applications are approved would be awarded as follows: Those earning gross revenue of up to $100,000 per year would receive $5,000; those earning between $100,000 and $1 million would receive $15,000; and those earning $1 million to $2.5 million would receive $25,000.

Roschen said the grants are not competitive.

"We expect the next rounds to be first come, first served," she said.

Of the previous grants, she added, "If you weren't awarded in the first round, you were automatically re-enrolled for the second round of grants."

Once the bill becomes law, information concerning the grants and the application process will be found at careliefgrant.com.

Roschen said another aspect of the relief legislation concerns businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government last year, then had those loans forgiven.

Companies that took PPP loans will be allowed to deduct as much as $150,000 in expenses covered by the loan from their state taxes; companies that took out less than $150,000 in PPP loans will be able to maximize their deduction for state tax purposes.

The agreement also provides for two years of fee relief for about 59,000 restaurants and bars licensed through the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Stimulus payments of $600 will go to people who fall under one of two categories: low-income people who qualify under the earned-income tax credit, and noncitizens who make less than $75,000 per year before taxes.

"That's trying to get at the employees who are here in California who operate under an ITIN and weren't recipients of the federal stimulus," Roschen said, referring to the Internal Revenue Service form that establishes an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, used in lieu of a Social Security number.

About $6 million will go to college students newly eligible for CalFresh, the state-administered federal program for supplemental food assistance.

The bill package also allocates $24 million to the Housing for the Harvest program, under which the state helps arrange for hotel rooms for agricultural employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 and cannot isolate safely at home. The money will go to local governments that choose to enroll in the program.

"Local governments coordinate to identify participants, and then they work with the state to reserve hotel rooms for farmworkers," Roschen said.

Local nonprofit groups partner with counties to help house and feed farm employees needing to use the program, which is currently available in 14 counties.

For more information about Housing for the Harvest, see covid19.ca.gov/housing-for-agricultural-workers.

The package also included a legislative proposal, not ultimately approved, to begin opening elementary schools in April. Gov. Newsom and the Legislature continue to negotiate whether school employees should be guaranteed vaccinations prior to resuming in-school learning.

(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at khecteman@cfbf.com.)

Editor's note: The online version of this story was updated Feb. 23, 2021, to reflect passage of the legislative package.

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.




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