Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.
As the country grapples with multiple emergencies, from the ongoing pandemic to a border crisis and two mass shootings, President Biden remains focused on a more longstanding challenge whose solution has eluded his predecessors: addressing the nation’s dilapidated infrastructure. For the CRM industry, the effort offers both opportunities and risks.
The White House is preparing to unveil a massive legislative package that could spend as much as $4 trillion on infrastructure, while also addressing climate change and equity. Although the details of the plan are still not set, the plan could include hundreds of billions of dollars for projects to build or repair roads, bridges, rail lines, ports, electric vehicle charging stations, schools, energy efficient houses, schools, rural broadband and more.
In addition to the physical infrastructure provisions, the plan could include a number of social programs, including universal pre-kindergarten, free community college, expanded childcare support and increased subsidies for the Affordable Care Act. To pay for the plan, the White House is considering a number of tax increases, including raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent and increasing taxes on wealthy investors, although Biden has pledged to not raise taxes on individuals earning under $400,000.
What does this plan mean for the CRM industry? If the plan is enacted, it would lead to a sizable number of new projects subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, creating demand for CRM firms. However, the desire to “streamline” regulations could pose problems. Although there is no indication from the White House that the plan would try to exempt projects from Section 106, there are a number of bills before Congress to do just that, particularly for telecommunications and electrical grid projects. ACRA is making clear to policymakers that short-circuiting the Section 106 process does not save time or money, and threatens our nation’s heritage.
Of course, all of this is moot if the plan cannot pass through Congress. With Democrats holding razor-thin margins in both the House and Senate, Biden has little room for error if he wants to gain support for his plan. To that end, there is talk of splitting the proposal into multiple parts, keeping the infrastructure provisions that may gain bipartisan support separate from the more contentious provisions around climate and social programs. But, as the Democrats-only COVID relief bill that was enacted a few weeks ago showed, getting the two parties to agree is not easy these days. Even if Senate Democrats try to jettison the filibuster, there is no guarantee they can win over the 50 votes they would need to approve legislation with the Vice President’s tiebreaking vote.
That does not mean that bipartisanship is dead. Congress took steps on two important issues last week that impact businesses, including CRM firms. First, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation last week to extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application deadline from March 31 to May 31. Under the bill, the SBA also will have an additional month, until June 30, to process applications. The bill, which passed the House the week before, now goes to the President for his signature.
Second, House members took the first steps to address an issue that has been a particular concern to CRM firms. The House Small Business Committee's Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure held a hearing last week on the impact of forgiven PPP loans on firms that seek contracts from federal agencies and state DOTs. Under federal rules, firms that have PPP loans forgiven need to credit the value of the loan back to agencies when they contract for projects, potentially leaving CRM firms in the position of losing money on government contracts. ACRA wrote to the Committee two weeks ago to raise concerns about the problem.
At the hearing, lawmakers from both parties expressed a desire to make sure that small businesses that received forgivable loans and contract with federal agencies and/or state DOTs are treated fairly, while ensuring that taxpayers still received good value. Committee members agreed to work on the issue.
This issue is an example of how advocacy by ACRA and its members can have results. As Congress gets ready to discuss a major infrastructure bill and begin debating budget levels for the upcoming fiscal year, it’s more important than ever for CRM professionals to engage with their lawmakers.
That’s why ACRA is holding its first-ever Virtual Advocacy Week April 19-23, where CRM professionals can meet via phone or Zoom with their elected representatives to talk about the issues of greatest importance to the industry, including support for Section 106, funding for the Historic Preservation Fund, and policies that help firms recover from the pandemic and economic crisis. ACRA will set up the meetings for you and provide all the information and support you need for a successful engagement.
If you are interested in taking part in ACRA’s Virtual Advocacy Week, click here to register.
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