Congresswoman Michelle Steel introduced new legislation March 1 that seeks to incentivize businesses to improve their ventilation systems to reduce the transmission of airborne diseases such as COVID-19.
The legislation, called the Filtering and Retrofitting the Environment for Safe and Healthy Activities Indoors and Revenue (FRESH AIR) for Businesses Act, offers participating businesses the chance to get a tax credit in exchange for modernizing their ventilation systems.
The bipartisan bill is co-authored by Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-GA), and bicameral due to it having a companion measure in the senate introduced by Senators Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
The bill will help keep small businesses on their feet during what is an unusually tough time to stay in business, Steel said.
“Independently owned restaurants and small businesses are the backbone of our local economies,” Steel said in a prepared statement. “They have been some of the hardest hit during the pandemic, with prolonged lockdowns leading to almost 50 percent of small businesses in California at risk of closing and never reopening.
“These tax credits will help local businesses to keep their employees and customers safe, keep their payrolls active, and their doors open.”
Bourdeaux shared a similar sentiment, noting the hundreds of thousands of businesses already closed due to the pandemic.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, more than 400,000 small businesses across the country have closed their doors, and thousands more, including many in my district, struggle every day just to stay afloat,” Bourdeaux said in a prepared statement.
“By incentivizing best safety practices, while at the same time offering businesses much-needed tax relief, our bipartisan and bicameral FRESH AIR for Businesses Act will help support at-risk businesses and make our communities safer from COVID-19.”
Various organizations have endorsed the effort, including the National Restaurant Association, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the Small Business Roundtable, the Georgia Restaurant Association, the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce, and the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.
Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association, said: “Restaurants remain committed to providing a safe environment for customers and employees alike. The FRESH AIR Act would provide important support for restaurants investing in new and improved ventilation systems… At a time when restaurants are struggling to remain open, this targeted tax credit will both improve safety and help local businesses sustain the effects of COVID-19.”