Written by Gordon Webster, Jr.
Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed legislation to bring meaningful relief to Californians experiencing pandemic hardships. This includes $2.1 billion for small business grants and the waiver of license renewal fees for businesses in industries hit hard by shutdowns.
It’s a commendable effort, but as the movement to recall Newsom gains steam, there are even more measures Newsom and California legislators could prioritize to promote economic recovery.
The California Chamber of Commerce is leading a coalition of more than 75 allied groups calling for the passage of 22 bills that would give relief to businesses in the state and also incentivize larger employers to retain their workforce in the Golden State.
Here are just a few of the measures explained by the CalChamber coalition in their most recent alert. For a copy of the letter with bill numbers, visit https://calchamberalert.com/2021/03/05/calchamber-led-coalition-calls-for-legislative-action/
In their letter, coalition members underscore the fact that recovery depends first on removing constraints on economic activity but also on providing a financial bridge while customers return and commerce is restored. A dozen bills listed by the group would help accomplish that goal.
The bills include proposals to create federal tax conformity for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans; eliminate or suspend certain taxes, fees, penalties and liabilities; allow restaurants to continue selling alcoholic beverages with take-out orders; and reopen theme and amusement parks once infection rates have reached the moderate tier.
The coalition also supports legislation to deal with pandemic-related changes in the workplace. As thousands of employees have shifted to a telecommuting model, workplace rules have not kept up.
As such, the coalition calls for passage of four bills that would eliminate existing barriers faced by employers and employees who need flexibility to work from home.
Among the bills highlighted is a measure that would allow employees to choose their own schedule and eliminate the financial penalties against employers for providing that flexibility.
Other bills would allow employees to receive all required notices and posters electronically and allow employees the flexibility to choose their own meal and rest break periods.
Correcting misuse of the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) is also a priority for the coalition. “PAGA has been misused by plaintiffs’ attorneys for over 10 years to threaten employers with costly litigation and has only served to enrich these attorneys, not protect employees,” the group states in the letter.
Two bills address some of the groups’ concerns with PAGA — one which provides relief to employers from PAGA lawsuits for pandemic-related claims and a second that creates a needed right to cure provision.
COVID-19 Emergency Rules
The coalition further calls on the Governor and legislators to fix onerous provisions of the Cal/OSHA-approved emergency regulations to address COVID-19.
One proposal would provide employers with a tax credit for the costs associated with complying with the Cal/OSHA emergency regulations and a second would provide employers with a tax credit for costs associated with cleaning and sanitation supplies purchased to prevent COVID-19 spread in the workplace.”