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Ways and Means Lawmakers Press Mnuchin For More Relief, Clarity

April 29, 2020, 9:00 PM

House tax writers on Wednesday made their case for expanded business relief to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a conversation that comes as Congress is beginning negotiations on the next phase of its virus response.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) urged Mnuchin in a teleconference to expand a tax credit for employers that retain their employees during the pandemic, a lawmaker on the call said.

The employee retention credit was part of the third virus relief law (Public Law 116-136), known as the CARES Act. The fully refundable tax credit is equal to 50% of up to $10,000 wages paid to each employee. But questions about how the benefit will apply have kept some businesses from applying for it.

Mnuchin has been President Donald Trumps key negotiator with Democrats, helping to shape pandemic relief legislation that would appeal to both parties while also prioritizing the administration’s goals. His support for a provision would be essential to getting it into the next legislative package.

Treasury didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

Other Asks

Democrats on the call also raised concerns about the ability of small businesses to access funds from the Payroll Protection Program, $349 billion in small business loans created in the relief law.

According to a statement from Neal’s office, Democrats also brought up “the quick deadline for certain economic impact payment recipients with dependents to provide their updated information to the IRS; and the need for cities and states to receive federal funds and and flexibility with that assistance.”

Mnuchin said on the call that Treasury is working on a plan that would allow banks with less than one billion dollars in capitalization to file PPP applications for their clients during a specific time daily.

Members discussed another issue with the CARES Act that gives direct financial assistance only to municipalities with a population over 500,000. Neal said earlier on a Wednesday call with the United States Conference of Mayors that the provision doesn’t make any sense.

On the call with Mnuchin some members suggested that the states getting the money should share it with smaller municipalities, the lawmaker said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kaustuv Basu in Washington at kbasu@bloombergtax.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Patrick Ambrosio at pambrosio@bloombergtax.com; Colleen Murphy at cmurphy@bloombergtax.com