A Special Message from NAR's Bob Goldberg and Vince Malta on COVID-19
Our country is in the throes of something unprecedented. No one could have imagined or planned for the events of the past two weeks. We are so proud of our talented and devoted staff and leadership team for keeping NAR fully operational in support of our members while working remotely and weathering the near total shutdown of Chicago and Washington, D.C. Like many Americans, they are operating under extraordinary circumstances. Congress has passed two emergency bills so far to respond to this pandemic, and a third will likely pass this week. Our advocacy team has been involved in the crafting of these bills. NAR urged Congressional leaders several weeks ago to include support for self-employed professionals, small businesses, and independent contractors in any COVID-19 relief package. We sent a follow-up letter last week. Our policy team has also been fully engaged with regulatory officials to ensure our members are represented during fast-moving rule changes. We know it is a lot to keep track of, which is why our team is analyzing the information and posting updates regularly on The Hub and NAR’s website and social media pages. Check out the latest activity here. Here are some of the developments from the past two weeks:
Members and Families
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) created emergency paid sick and family leave for workers affected by COVID-19. It also created refundable tax credits designed to provide a dollar-for-dollar offset for small businesses and independent contractors to cover the cost of these new paid sick and family medical leave benefits. There are still details that need to be released from Treasury and the Department of Labor on how these new programs will operate, including potential exemptions for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. For more on the FFCRA, see here. Legislation currently under development in the Senate is expected to extend cash payments of up to $1,200 to most American adults plus $500 for each dependent child under age 17 by April. Early drafts of the measure also include $350 billion for SBA loans, $250 billion in unemployment insurance (including expanding benefits to the self-employed), and $300 billion for the Economic Stabilization Fund. NAR also signed a coalition letter that would encourage Congress to provide readily accessible, unsecured credit to employers of any size and self-employed individuals to ensure they have the cash to pay their workers, rent, and other costs during this crisis. We are advocating for an array of other tax changes to help our members through this emergency, including liberalizing rules governing withdrawals from pension plans and IRAs; delaying the payment of business payroll taxes; allowing businesses to carry back any net operating losses against previous year tax payments; suspending the limitation on interest expense deductions for tax year 2020 to avoid penalizing businesses for borrowing during this crisis; and suspending the loss limitation on pass-through businesses to allow businesses to full deduct any losses they incur this year. We have been told most of these provisions will likely be included in the third relief bill.
Consumers and Transactions
NAR is working with other trade associations and industry partners to expand access to remote online notary in any pandemic relief bills. We also called for direct rental assistance for families who have income loss due to COVID-19 and relief for property owners from the financial obligations of forbearance and foreclosures. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) noticed a foreclosure and eviction moratorium for 60 days (through May 16) for FHA single family mortgage borrowers and Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) borrowers. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has also directed Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to do the same, while many individual lenders are offering individual relief to consumers. This morning, we also saw more action out of the FHFA to temporarily expand the use of appraisal alternatives and provide flexibility around employment verification, such as acceptance of email from employer or bank statements showing payroll deposits. This is especially important as more businesses are forced to close during the pandemic and may be unavailable for oral verification. Student loan servicers are also making arrangements for relief during this time, and the Administration is temporarily waiving all interest on student loans.
Real Estate Business/Industry
NAR is working to get certain real estate services deemed “essential” in emergency declarations. Many of our state associations are reaching out to their governors on this issue. Our country is facing rapidly rising unemployment. There are 9.5 million jobs in the real estate, rental, & leasing Industry, and every two home sales generate one job. We need to drive this message home with our elected leaders. We also called for Treasury to include deadline relief for 1031 like-kind exchanges, including an extension of the 45-day period for identifying possible properties as exchange candidates and the 180-day requirement to close on the replacement property. There will undoubtedly be delays in settlements during the outbreak. NAR also asked the Treasury Department and IRS for deadline relief for the working capital safe harbor for Qualified Opportunity Funds. NAR's dedicated COVID-19 webpage will be updated in real time with analysis and changing events in Washington. We encourage you to check it regularly. We don’t know when this national emergency will end. But NAR remains open and fully capable to support you the entire way.