COVID-19 Updates

For the latest information on Alaska’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, these sites newshealth mandateseconomic stabilization, and the DHSS situation report are useful. More pandemic information can be found at the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization websites.

NAR Wins Major Provisions for REALTORS®

The U.S. Senate passed a $2 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package Wednesday night with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The bill now goes to the U.S. House, where it is expected to pass, and President Trump has said he will sign it into law.

The measure includes $350 billion for the Small Business Administration 7(a) loan program. Under the terms, eligible businesses (500 employees or fewer) can get up to $10 million toward mortgage interest, rents, utilities, and payroll costs. A portion of these loans will be forgivable.

“We worked with the drafters of this legislation to ensure that independent contractors and those living on a commission-based income will be eligible for the loans as well as the forgiveness provision,” said Shannon McGahn, senior vice president of government affairs for NAR.

The self-employed and independent contractors are also included in a dramatic expansion of unemployment insurance that could provide benefits for up to 39 weeks. These workers are not usually covered under traditional state unemployment benefit programs.

In addition, the bill contains:

  • A delay in payment of employer payroll taxes, with half due by the end of 2021 and the other half due by the end of 2022;
  • $500 billion to support large businesses like airlines affected by the virus
  • A one-time payment of $1,200 to most adult Americans and $500 per child

“This is the largest financial rescue package in our nation’s history,” McGahn continued. “Combined with two other relief packages that have already been signed into law and a likely fourth bill in the near future, this action represents a seismic and definitive action to help Americans and the economy through this national emergency.”

“We have worked closely with Congressional leaders and the administration during the past several weeks to ensure all three bills bring relief to the self-employed, independent contractors, and small businesses,” McGahn said. “The real estate industry is responsible for millions of jobs and is key to our national recovery.”

NAR will provide a complete analysis of the bill and how it affects REALTORS®. Watch for regular updates on nar.realtor.

More information on NAR’s advocacy efforts on COVID-19.

The COVID-19 health crisis is a challenge, unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetime. NAR is taking steps to support you now. Today, we’re launching Right Tools, Right Now, a program first activated in 2009 in the midst of the financial crisis.

Through Right Tools, Right Now, we’re making new and existing NAR products and services available for FREE or at significant discounts to REALTORS® and REALTOR® associations. The program includes products, resources, and services from all areas of NAR, including:

Webinars to help members manage their finances;
Education courses to expand their skills;
And timely market reports informing their business and clients.

Hotline: 800-874-6500

If you need help finding any resources, or have questions related to COVID-19 and real estate, NAR’s Member Support Team is ready to help. You can call our new hotline, 1-800-874-6500, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central Time, Monday–Friday.

Right Tools, Right Now is one of many ways NAR is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are also having a huge impact in the advocacy arena, working with Congress to ensure relief for our industry during this unprecedented time.

I encourage you to visit nar.realtor/coronavirus for regular updates. And I hope you’ll take advantage of the many benefits available through Right Tools, Right Now.

Our national leaders have called the COVID crisis a war against an invisible enemy. I can’t thank you enough for your frontline leadership. Together, we will ensure that, when the battle is won, real estate comes back stronger than ever.

On March 23, 2020, Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2020-5, Selling Guidance Related to COVID-19, which contains temporary guidance on appraisal requirements. Under the guidance, lenders will be allowed to use desktop appraisal and exterior only appraisals for purchase transactions through May 17, 2020. Freddie Mac has also provided language that the appraiser must copy and paste into their report in order to accommodate the revised scope of work, statement of assumptions and limiting conditions, and certifications for some of the scenarios presented.

guide.freddiemac.com/app/guide/bulletin/2020-5

What REALTORS® Need to Know

Congress is speeding toward the passage of emergency coronavirus legislation. The bill passed by a wide margin early Saturday in the House and is headed to the Senate next week, where it is expected to pass easily. You can find a summary prepared by NAR staff here.

Last week, NAR’s advocacy team urged Congressional leaders to include support for self-employed professionals and other small business owners in this bill. We are pleased robust measures targeting these groups were included.

We expect few if any changes to the bill in the Senate, so here is where the measure stands now:

Family Medical Leave Expansion…

Allows up to 12 weeks of certain virus-related family medical leave through the end of 2020
Covers employees at businesses with between 50-500 employees
Provides a refundable tax credit for eligible self-employed individuals equal to their qualified family leave equivalent
Provides employers with a refundable tax credit equal to certain family leave wages paid to employees

Paid Sick Leave Expansion…

Allows two weeks of certain virus-related paid sick leave through the end of 2020.
Covers employees at businesses with fewer than 500 employees
Provides a refundable tax credit for eligible self-employed individuals equal to their qualified sick leave equivalent
Provides employers with a refundable tax credit equal to certain paid sick leave wages paid to employees

Medicare, Medicaid, Health Insurance and Unemployment Changes…

Requires insurers, Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health programs to fully cover testing and related services for COVID-19, without cost-sharing
Increases funding to Medicaid to help cover uninsured populations
Provides additional funds for certain programs aiding elderly Americans
Increases funding for emergency transfers to state unemployment programs and increased flexibility for states to modify unemployment policies based on effects of COVID-19, such as waived work search requirements.

About the Tax Credits

Refundable tax credits are considered especially generous since any amount above taxes due is paid in the form of a refund. The payroll tax credit provided to employers will provide cash to them relatively quickly as it is creditable against their portion of an employee’s Social Security tax liability, which is generally due monthly or semi-weekly. And since most self-employed persons are required to pay quarterly estimated tax payments, they will not have to wait until the end of the tax year to see the cash.

A Final Note

Many of the tax credits and benefits mentioned above have limits and/or qualifications, so we encourage you to explore NAR’s comprehensive briefing document for more details.

This bill mainly addresses employment issues–NAR’s advocacy team expects legislation targeting the overall economy to come later.

Small business owners and the self-employed are crucial to the growth and stability of the national economy and also face disproportionate burdens if they are forced to shut down, temporarily lose employees, or see their customer base drop.

They deserve equal access to emergency funding and programs, and we will continue to engage with Congress as this public health emergency unfolds.