On CNBC, Portman Discusses the Importance of Healthy Workplace Tax Credit in Next COVID Package

July 29, 2020 | Portman Difference

This morning on CNBC’s Squawk Box Senator Portman discussed the prospects for the next COVID-19 relief package and how the proposal outlined by Majority Leader McConnell is a credible starting point in negotiations. Portman believes Congress has an opportunity to work together in a bipartisan way to help the American people deal with the ongoing health care and economic crisis.

Portman discussed the benefits of McConnell’s proposal, including the inclusion of the Healthy Workplaces Tax Credit Act he introduced last week. The bill is designed to help businesses and nonprofits continue to safely reopen while ensuring the safety of employees and consumers through a refundable tax credit against payroll taxes for 50 percent of the costs incurred by a business for increased testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfecting, extra cleaning and reconfiguring work spaces to adhere to social distancing guidelines. The package also expands and repurposes the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Employee Retention Credit from the CARES Act into a more encompassing employment or hiring credit to incentivize hiring and job creation. 

Excerpts from the interview can be found below and a video can be found here

PORTMAN ON THE BENEFITS OF THE NEW HEALS ACT LEGISLATION 

“I think the McConnell proposal is a good starting point, Becky. It has a trillion dollars of new spending, which, as Joe just indicated, is an incredible amount of money. It used to be a lot, it still is. It also addresses all the key issues. It addresses our health care system, including more money for research, more money for antiviral medications, for the vaccine, also for testing. It has significant funding for our schools -- in fact, slightly more than was in the original Democrat proposal -- so that our schools can reopen safely. It’s got money for employment. One thing I like about it is it has some tax incentives for people to hire folks because right now I think that's important to get people back to work and get them back to work safely. It also has a tax incentive to create a safe workplace, so if you're spending money on things like Plexiglas shields or more PPE or more hand sanitizer, or testing, or thermometers, you can actually get a tax credit for that. So there’s a lot of good in this bill and I think on the unemployment insurance front, the 70 percent of wages is something that a lot of folks would appreciate, including a lot of people who were just polled, if they were told if you lose your job you can have 70 percent wage replacement. That's generous. That’s more generous than what states provide currently and that’s where the McConnell proposal ends up. As you know, I’ve supported in the past this return to work bonus. That’s what I’ve been promoting. If you have the number that's so high that you're making significantly more on unemployment insurance than you are at work then you need to have a return to work bonus also. But if you have the 70 percent of replacement of wages, I think that's a reasonable place to start.” 

PORTMAN ON LIABILITY PROTECTIONS FOR EMPLOYERS, SCHOOLS & NONPROFITS

“Listen, [Majority Leader McConnell has] been very clear about that from the start and of course we hear about that back home a lot. By the way, we don't just hear it just from businesses, we hear it from school teachers, we hear it from health care professionals, we hear it certainly from people who are running restaurants who are saying if someone gets sick, you know, and it may come from anywhere but if I get a lawsuit this will put me over the top and could bankrupt me. So you have to have something here, I think, and I think Democrats acknowledge there needs to be something here. The question is the details. How does it work? How does it work with state laws that are already in effect? But I think it's a misnomer to say it's just about big business. It's really more about small business and all these other entities, including nonprofits. 

“I think following the CDC guidelines should apply to that as well as to the tax provisions we talked about. I mean, we want people to return to work and we want them to return to work safely, and there's way to do both. Again, that's why I like some of the provisions in this legislation that actually incentivize a safe workplace, including providing a credit, an offset to the payroll tax, if you do make your workplace safer. So I think that has to be part of it and part of the compromise to get to something that makes sense and it has to be COVID-19 related, of course.”

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