The California Chamber of Commerce is leading a coalition of more than 75 allied groups in urging Governor Gavin Newsom and California Legislators to pass measures to promote economic recovery in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a March 1, 2021 letter, the coalition calls on lawmakers to pass 22 bills that would give relief to beleaguered small businesses in the state and provide incentives for larger employers to retain their workforces in California. Additionally, the group specifically asks for policymakers to pass bold and aggressive proposals to create more affordable and market price housing in California.
Below are descriptions of a few of the major areas highlighted by the coalition for needed reform (bill numbers and descriptions appear in the text of the letter linked above):
Financial Relief/Elimination of Fees, Costs
to Struggling Employers
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 PPP loans, eliminate or suspend certain taxes, fees penalties, and liabilities, allow restaurants to continue selling alcoholic beverages with take-out orders and re-open 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 Attorney 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 Regulations
The coalition further calls on the Governor and Legislators to fix onerous provisions of the CalOSHA approved emergency regulations to address COVID-19. One proposal would provide employers with a tax credit for the costs associated with complying with the CalOSHA 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.