As thousands of small businesses confront a prolonged period of no income, the need for ready capital to pay employees and remain viable is urgent if they are going to be able to ride out the coronavirus social distancing mandate.
New Jersey legislators reacted swiftly to the outbreak, passing a legislative package this week to replace wages of workers sidelined by mandatory business closings and business income lost from customers staying home to prevent the spread of the diseases. But the Legislature stopped short of the kind of capital infusion companies will need if they are to continue paying their employees without any revenue coming in.
To that end, NJBIA has already urged lawmakers to adopt two specific policies: A short-term suspension of New Jersey payroll taxes, such as unemployment insurance or income tax withholding, and a 60-day delay in remitting the sales tax.
“The steps being taken now are to make sure people stay healthy through the pandemic,” said NJBIA Vice President for Government Affairs Chris Emigholz. “Now we need the Legislature to act to make sure our economy comes out of this healthy too. Right now, thousands of small businesses have zero revenue coming in. If we want them to continue paying employees and paying for benefits, we have to get them money in some fashion.”
Emigholz said the two tax deferment ideas have the benefit of putting money into businesses’ hands immediately. The move would be especially beneficial for businesses that cannot function with employees working from home—manufacturers, brick-and-mortar stores, hotels, restaurants and social service providers, to name a few.
The payroll taxes would eventually have to be paid, but Emigholz said legislators could use that as an extra incentive by forgiving the payback for small businesses that maintained their employment and wage levels.
The 60-day delay in sales tax payments would function similarly, but would be especially important to the bars and restaurants that have been ordered closed. They are still able to offer takeout and delivery, but have expenses like rent and energy costs for large dine-in facilities that are now not producing any revenue.
“Speed is the key to these two ideas,” Emigholz said.
NJBIA has also suggested two additional ideas that would provide relief in the long term. One would allow businesses greater ability to write-off their coronavirus-related losses over multiple years, giving them greater tax savings to recoup the revenues they have lost. Additionally, Emigholz suggested tax credits tied to maintaining employment.
“Businesses are going to get hit hard by coronavirus even if the state adopts these measures,” Emigholz said. “But that should not stop us from doing everything we can to mitigate the economic fallout. We’ve heard a lot lately about ‘flattening the curve’ when it comes to the spread of COVID-19 and the state has taken unprecedented steps to do so.