Harmful H-2B Visa Program Language Removed from Labor Appropriations Bill

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 16, 2021) ― United States Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) on July 15 offered an amendment to the fiscal year 2022 Department of Labor Appropriations bill to remove certain sections from the bill that would have made it difficult for employers to use the H-2B visa program. During committee consideration, the amendment passed yesterday by voice vote.

Specifically, the amendment struck sections 116, 177 and 118 from the bill. The language in those sections would have:

• Prohibited industries from using the H-2B program if they experienced unemployment in any of the previous 12 months over 10 percent;
• Prohibited construction industries from using the program even in seasonal locations or occupations;
• Increased the baseline for wages to at least 150% of the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher;
• Required wage compliance with a collaborative bargaining agreement for your industry in your area, even if you are not a party to the agreement;
• Banned participation in the program for labor/workforce related infractions outside of the scope of the H-2B program.

“Thank you to all who contacted their Representative regarding this issue,” said NTRA president and CEO Alex Waldrop. “We also are grateful to Rep. Harris for offering the amendment to eliminate the language that was so threatening to employers, like horse trainers, who use the H-2B visa program.”

The H-2B visa guest worker program is a nonimmigrant visa program used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

H-2B Visa Program Faces Severe Threat from Department of Labor Appropriations Bill

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 14, 2021) ― The U.S. House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider the fiscal year 2022 Department of Labor Appropriations bill on Thursday, July 15, and language within the bill could devastate the H-2B visa program. The NTRA urges industry members to contact their Representative immediately and ask for this language to be removed from the bill.

The language of concern appears on pages 46-50 of the bill and would make the H-2B visa program difficult for many employers to use. Specifically, the draft bill would:

• Prohibit industries from using the H-2B program if they experienced unemployment in any of the previous 12 months over 10 percent;
• Prohibit construction industries from using the program even in seasonal locations or occupations;
• Increase the baseline for wages to at least 150% of the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher;
• Require wage compliance with a collaborative bargaining agreement for your industry in your area, even if you are not a party to the agreement;
• Ban participation in the program for labor/workforce related infractions outside of the scope of the H-2B program.

“This appropriations bill contains alarming language for any business or industry that relies on the H-2B visa program to operate,” said NTRA president and CEO Alex Waldrop. “We ask trainers and others in horse racing to contact their Representative today to help get this language removed.”

As suggested by the H-2B Workforce Coalition, of which the NTRA is a member, industry members should:

Call your Representative today and ask him or her to urge the House Appropriations Committee leadership and their Party Leadership to remove Sections 116, 117 and 118 of Fiscal Year 2022 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Appropriations Bill before the legislation is considered by the Appropriations Committee on Thursday. You can reach your Representative through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121. Once connected to the office, please ask to speak to the staff person who handles Department of Labor appropriations.
Send an email to your Representative using this link

The H-2B visa guest worker program is a nonimmigrant visa program used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

2020 NTRA Legislative Annual Report Released

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 5, 2021) ― The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) 2020 Legislative Action Campaign (LAC) Annual Report is now available on the association’s website and can be downloaded here or at the following link: https://mk0ntrauj6jy9vera.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/21-290-029-LAC-2020-Annual-Report-FINAL.pdf.

 

The report reviews the NTRA’s federal legislative activities in 2020 and the fundraising programs that support them. Specifically, the report includes:

  • A federal legislative summary of issues that are important to horse racing and breeding, including the latest on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, Sports Betting, Three-year Racehorse Depreciation, Immigration and other legislation;
  • A list of 2020 contributors to the NTRA’s Legislative Action Campaign through the ¼% Check-off Program and other related NTRA fundraising programs;
  • Sale company calendars; and
  • Member discount information from NTRA partners like John Deere, Sherwin-Williams, Office Depot and Big Ass Fans

 

“We thank the buyers, sellers and consignors who supported our federal legislative advocacy in 2020 by participating in the ¼% Check-off Program through sales hosted by our partners at Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton, Ocala Breeders Sales (OBS), the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association (WTBOA) and the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association (CTBA),” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “We appreciate these sale companies for all they do to help facilitate the Check-off Program and we also thank the farms, breeders and National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Tour members who contributed through other fundraising programs. It was a difficult year in many ways but, once again, the industry rallied in support of our efforts on Capitol Hill.”

Additional H-2B Visas Soon To Be Available For Trainers During 2nd Half of Federal Fiscal Year 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 20, 2021) ― The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Labor have agreed to offer 22,000 additional H-2B visas to employers for the second half of the federal fiscal year that ends on September 30, 2021. These visas are used by employers, such as racehorse trainers, who seek seasonal guest workers. They are capped at 66,000 annually, with an even split of 33,000 available for each half of the federal government’s fiscal year. The additional visas will be made available later this spring or early summer via a temporary final rule in the Federal Register.  Six thousand of these visas will be reserved for nationals of the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

“We are pleased to learn that additional H-2B visas will be available for trainers soon and applaud Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh for this action,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “At the same time, the NTRA supports relief from the burdensome annual H-2B visa cap through a permanent returning worker exemption and urges both departments to reform the program accordingly, enabling affected employers to stabilize their businesses.”

This past December, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 became law and included a provision that provides the DHS with the discretionary authority to release an additional 64,176 H-2B visas when significant need is demonstrated. The NTRA, through its involvement with the H-2B Workforce Coalition, supports all efforts to make additional visas available to seasonal businesses struggling with labor issues.

The H-2B visa guest worker program is a nonimmigrant visa program used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

Demand for H-2B visas often exceeds their availability and the cap level is quickly reached, leaving employers in need. For the second half of federal fiscal year 2021, DHS announced that by February 12 it had received enough H-2B worker petitions to reach the congressionally mandated cap of 33,000 visas allotted.

NTRA Safety And Integrity Alliance Releases Best Practices For Spectator-Free Racing

May 7, 2020

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Safety and Integrity Alliance today released a document outlining best practices for North American racetracks determined to prioritize the health and safety of all participants and employees, when conducting live racing in a spectator-free environment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The comprehensive document will assist racetracks that wish to resume live racing by establishing the safest public health environment possible, while also enabling gainful employment and economic activity at a time of uncertainty for so many. These best practices are based upon the most current information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), input from racetracks across the U.S. that are already conducting live racing and/or training, and feedback from a newly established Public Health Advisory Council consisting of experts in public health, epidemiology and horseracing who have agreed to contribute their expertise to racetrack re-opening efforts.

In addition to public health protocols established by the CDC, the document includes detailed racetrack-specific operational guidelines. These include the establishment of a COVID-19 Safety Team to manage the myriad issues and situations that may arise when conducting live racing, cleaning and sanitation protocols, frontside operations involving essential employees only, racing and stable area operations that facilitate maximum physical distancing, health and safety requirements specific to jockeys, as well as other public health and safety recommendations.

Initial members of the Public Health Advisory Council include:
· Dr. Rick Greenberg, Infectious Disease Specialist, University of Kentucky
· Dr. Hiram Polk, Former Public Health Commissioner, Kentucky Dept. for Public Health
· Dr. Kelly Ryan, Family and Sports Medicine Specialist, MedStar Health
· Dr. Barry Schumer, Track Physician, Keeneland

“The current economic situation facing many in the horse racing industry make it critical that we work with relevant local authorities to help tracks across the country return to racing as soon as is safely possible,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “To this end, the NTRA has engaged a variety of stakeholders and consulted with multiple public health experts to produce comprehensive guidelines that will serve as a blueprint for tracks seeking to operate safely and responsibly in the current public health environment. We urge racetracks to tailor these protocols to fit their unique conditions by working closely with their state and local health department officials, as so much about the safest response to this pandemic is local in nature.”

Version 1.0 of the full document outlining all of the best practices can be found here: https://mk0ntrauj6jy9vera.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/NTRA_Covid_19_Plan_5.6.20-V6-FINAL.pdf

Updates to these best practices will be made on an ongoing basis as necessary.

ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOAN APPLICATION PROCESS RESUMES FOR BREEDING FARMS

ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOAN APPLICATION PROCESS RESUMES FOR BREEDING FARMS
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has reopened the application process for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)-COVID-19 related assistance program after a short delay. Farms with fewer than 500 employees whose primary activity is breeding horses may now apply for these loans offered to businesses that have suffered economic hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is welcome news and a terrific opportunity for horse farms that are currently facing a number of daunting challenges,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “The NTRA encourages quick action by those interested, as the loans are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Click here to access the EIDL application.
The NTRA lobbied the SBA for several weeks after farms were excluded from earlier federal emergency aid packages. On April 24, President Trump signed into law another package providing relief to small businesses, including farms and ranches.
NTRA partner Dean Dorton, one of the nation’s leading experts on equine tax matters, posted an update to the COVID-19 microsite on NTRA.com that outlines the new provisions that will positively impact horse breeding farms. That PowerPoint can be found here.

New SBA Guidance Makes Tracks Eligible for Paycheck Protection Program; Farms Can Now Apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans

President Trump signed into law today (4-24-20) an emergency aid package providing additional relief to small businesses and health care facilities, and the Small Business Administration released updated guidance that will assist the horse industry.

 

The new law provides $310 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses, which was oversubscribed. The additional appropriation will allow financial institutions to make additional forgivable loans to eligible small businesses in order to keep employees on the payroll for eight weeks.

 

The new law also includes $60 billion in loans and grants for a separate Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, and makes farms and ranches eligible for the loans. Farms with 500 or fewer employees whose primary activity is breeding horses are now eligible to apply.

 

Separately, the Treasury and SBA released updated interim final rules that contain a key clarification that will provide essential relief to racetracks and other businesses who rely on gambling income and otherwise qualify for an SBA loan. Under the new rules, businesses that receive legal gambling income are eligible to apply for this loan forgiveness program.

 

The NTRA has been lobbying the SBA for this updated guidance for several weeks.

 

“We thank the SBA and our allies on the Hill for providing clarification that will allow broader participation in the PPP and EIDL loan programs by racetracks, farms and others in our industry who have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop.

 

NTRA partner Dean Dorton, one of the nation’s leading experts on equine tax matters, has posted an update on its Covid-19 microsite at NTRA.com that outlines all of these new provisions that will positively impact horse racing and breeding. That PowerPoint can be found here.

Summary of Benefits to Horse Owners Under the New Federal Covid-19 Legislation

 

 

All businesses are feeling economic hardship right now, and horse owners are no exception. Congress and the Trump Administration have provided several mechanisms to keep businesses afloat and provide some financial relief. Every business and every financial situation is unique, however, so it is critical that you have a conversation with your tax or financial advisor to ensure that you are accessing all the benefits to which you are entitled under the new law.

 

1.     Tax Benefits. Owners may be entitled to some new tax benefits that allow them to file amended returns for prior years and get cash in the form of tax refunds.

 

a. Net operating losses can now be carried back for up to 5 years. This applies to C corporations and individuals who generate net business losses. The IRS is currently accepting faxed refund requests in order to expedite these cash refunds.

b. The excess business loss limitation for individuals, trusts and estates is now deferred until 2021. Those who were subject to this limitation in 2018 and 2019 may file amended tax returns to receive cash refunds.

c. The prior year AMT credits in C corporations, originally refundable through 2021, are now fully refundable in 2018 or 2019. The IRS is currently accepting faxed refund requests in order to expedite these cash refunds.

 

2.     Emergency Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) are available to owners regardless of whether they have employees to assist in funding working capital needs (e.g., payment of training and board bills). In some instances, the borrower may be entitled to a $10,000 forgivable loan advance. The initial loan disbursements (in addition to the $10K advance) are available based on two months of working capital, with a maximum of $15,000 per applicant. The first loan payment back to SBA on EIDLs is deferred for one year.

 

a. The EIDL program does not require a business to have employees who receive W-2 wages but the SBA is currently distributing the $10k EIDL advances that are not required to be repaid to only those businesses with employees or self-employed individuals. They are calculating these as $1k per employee up to $10k maximum per applicant.

b. Through the EIDL program, the SBA is also supposed to be quickly distributing two months of working capital up to $15k per application. So, racing stables, trainers, and others without employees should still apply thru the EIDL program, although these loans will have to be repaid. Loan applications for the EIDL loan program will be available on the SBA’s website once the SBA has posted it.

 

3.     The Main Street Lending Program will enhance support for small and mid-sized businesses that were in good financial standing before the crisis by offering 4-year loans to companies employing up to 10,000 workers or with revenues of less than $2.5 billion. Principal and interest payments will be deferred for one year. The Federal Reserve and the Treasury recognize that businesses vary widely in their financing needs and are still working on the specific guidelines for this program, which are expected to be finalized by May 1st.

 

4.     The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been funded with an additional $310B in the latest Congressional act passed on April 24, 2020, $60B of which is designated for smaller banks and credit unions. Those loan terms include two-year loans at 1% interest, deferral of payments for six months, interest accrued from the date the loan is received and no prepayment penalty. Also, the PPP loan may be forgivable if spent on qualifying expenditures (payroll, rent or mortgage interest and utilities). The exact forgiveness calculation for the PPP loan is pending additional guidance from Treasury.

 

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans are available to owners but only under specific circumstances:

 

a. Owners are generally required to have employees who receive W-2 wages to take advantage of the PPP.

b. Owners in Partnerships with both employees who receive W-2 wages and self-employment income of partners should include both the W-2 wages and the partners’ self-employment income when calculating the partnership’s PPP loan. The partnership only should file the application.

c. Self-employed sole proprietorships and pass-through single-member entities (e.g. LLCs) may qualify for a PPP loan if they have 2019 Schedule C or Schedule F net profit (2019 Net Profit). If 2019 Net Profit is less than zero, then that entity is not eligible for a PPP loan. PPP loan forgiveness for sole proprietors is limited to 8/52nds of 2019 Net Profit.

d. Employers who have received a PPP loan, but whose loan is not yet forgiven, may defer deposit and payment of the employer’s share of Social Security taxes beginning on March 27, 2020 until the loan is forgiven. These taxes will continue to be deferred under the normal payment terms for the PPP program. Once the employer’s PPP loan is forgiven, this deferral is no longer available.

 

5.     Employee Retention Payroll Tax Credit. The CARES Act created payroll tax credits for employers who retain W-2 employees if the business is fully or partially suspended due to COVID-19 orders from a government agency or if there is a 50% decrease in gross receipts when compared to the prior calendar quarter. This is essentially a refundable payroll tax credit of up to 50 percent of the “qualified wages” paid by an employer to an employee from March 13 through December 31, 2020. Qualified wages include salaries and employer-provided health benefits and cannot exceed $10,000 per employee. This credit for an employee who earns at least $10,000 annually is capped at $5,000. This credit is only available to employers that do not receive a PPP loan and additional restrictions apply for those with more than 100 employees. An advance of this credit may be requested via the IRS Form 7200; otherwise, this may be claimed on the quarterly payroll tax return.

 

As a reminder, owners need to consult their tax and financial advisors for their specific situations.

 

The NTRA acknowledges the contributions of Jen Shah, CPA, and Director of Tax Services for the Lexington, KY accounting firm, Dean Dorton, and Lauren Bazel, Vice President and tax policy advisor for the Washington, DC lobbying firm, The Alpine Group, in the preparation of this tax advisory release.

Racetracks, Horse Ownership Entities Now Eligible For Paycheck Protection Loan Program

by | 04.24.2020 | 1:24pm

President Trump signed into law today an emergency aid package providing additional relief to small businesses and health care facilities, and the Small Business Administration released updated guidance that will assist the horse industry.

The new law provides $310 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses, which was oversubscribed. The additional appropriation will allow financial institutions to make additional forgivable loans to eligible small businesses in order to keep employees on the payroll for eight weeks.

The new law also includes $60 billion in loans and grants for a separate Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, and makes farms and ranches eligible for the loans. Farms with 500 or fewer employees whose primary activity is breeding horses are now eligible to apply.

Separately, the Treasury and SBA released updated interim final rules that contain a key clarification that will provide essential relief to racetracks and other businesses who rely on gambling income and otherwise qualify for an SBA loan. Under the new rules, businesses that receive legal gambling income are eligible to apply for this loan forgiveness program.The NTRA has been lobbying the SBA for this updated guidance for several weeks.

“We thank the SBA and our allies on the Hill for providing clarification that will allow broader participation in the PPP and EIDL loan programs by racetracks, farms and others in our industry who have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop.

NTRA partner Dean Dorton, one of the nation’s leading experts on equine tax matters, has posted an update on its Covid-19 microsite at NTRA.com that outlines all of these new provisions that will positively impact horse racing and breeding. That PowerPoint can be found here.

Homeland Security to Issue 35,000 Additional H-2B Visas

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 5, 2020) – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier today communicated to Congressional offices its intent to release 35,000 additional H-2B visas for the summer season of Fiscal Year 2020. This nonimmigrant visa program is used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, racehorse trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

While DHS has not yet released a final rule outlining specific details, the agency has provided the following:

  •  Federal regulators will release the supplementals in two phases. The first batch of 20,000 will be available for employers requiring start dates  beginning April 1, and 15,000 to those having start dates beginning May 15.
  •  DHS will “generally limit” issuance of supplemental H-2B visas to returning workers “who are known to follow immigration law in good faith.”
  •  And in a first-time effort to align visa policy with the Administration’s border security goals, DHS will award 10,000 supplemental visas to citizens of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, countries DHS has designated as “key Central American partners” on border security policy.

“We are pleased that the Administration and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf decided to allocate an additional 35,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2020,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “Hopefully, this will provide relief to horse trainers who continue to struggle to hire foreign workers for backstretch positions that U.S. citizens are not filling. While this number of supplemental visas is 5,000 greater than in Fiscal Year 2019, it is likely to fall short of demand.”