Due to its massive scale and severity, the COVID-19 pandemic is a natural disaster unlike any other our nation has encountered in modern history. While the unprecedented disruptions have been felt across the whole of society, small businesses have undoubtedly taken some of the hardest, fastest and most damaging economic hits. In doing their part to heed social distancing guidance and help slow the spread of this coronavirus, many businesses on Main Street have been forced to rethink their daily operations or close their doors completely, jeopardizing millions of American jobs.
In recent weeks during telephone town halls with constituents and virtual meetings with local chambers of commerce, I’ve heard firsthand about the challenges facing small business owners and workers in the Fourth District of Oklahoma due to COVID-19. When I hosted a call last week, I was grateful to have a special guest expert on the line. As the top Republican on the House Small Business Committee since 2015, Congressman Steve Chabot, along with members of his staff, helped provide information and answer questions about the federal resources available to small businesses during these uncertain times. Throughout the conversation, it became ever more apparent just how devastating and damaging this pandemic is for small business owners and their workers – and by no fault of their own.
While I am proud that Congress delivered some much-needed support for small businesses, I am also baffled and disappointed that Democrats irresponsibly and needlessly allowed funding for the popular and effective Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to dry up last week – less than two weeks after rollout. Established by the CARES Act, this program allows small businesses to receive forgivable loans backed by the Small Business Administration to sustain their workforces and prevent layoffs. Since applications were first accepted on April 3, more than 35,500 Oklahoma businesses have already borrowed roughly $4.6 billion from the program to retain the jobs of tens of thousands of Oklahomans.
Certainly, struggling small business job creators and workers need our support to stay afloat right now. To do just that, Republicans in both chambers of Congress remain ready and willing to generously replenish PPP funding. Thus far, however, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have unfortunately chosen to make a bad crisis even worse – first by allowing this funding to lapse and then shamefully using the critical nature of the situation as leverage to demand other things. While I remain hopeful that Congress will settle on a funding solution soon, it is unacceptable that Democrats have wasted precious days that many small businesses don’t have the luxury of weathering. Indeed, such a delay could cost millions their jobs and thousands their businesses.
If you are a small business owner or worker, know that my office is here to help you get answers and keep you informed as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic. For resources and the latest updates, please visit cole.house.gov/coronavirus. You can also call my office at (405) 329-6500.