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Sustaining Small Businesses

September 29, 2020
Weekly Columns

Throughout most of this year, the coronavirus pandemic has greatly disrupted our lives and dealt harsh hits to our economy out of nowhere. Sadly, some of the most ruthless economic hits have been felt by America’s small businesses. While the federal government has done a lot already to help save and sustain struggling small businesses and their workers, there is more that could be done if Speaker Nancy Pelosi would allow the U.S. House of Representatives to vote on a simple and commonsense piece of legislation related to the Paycheck Protection Program. 

For background, the Trump Administration and Congress worked together earlier this year to create and provide initial funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) through passage of the CARES Act. As you might remember, once the PPP opened to potential applicants, it was so popular and successful that Congress replenished funding for the program just a few weeks later back in April. Since then, the PPP has saved approximately 51 million American jobs across the country. In Oklahoma alone, the PPP has directly helped more than 66,000 businesses stay afloat and retain their dedicated employees.

While funding that Congress provided specifically for the PPP is not yet used up, the program unfortunately became closed to new applications on August 8 – nearly two months ago. In fact, there is roughly $135 billion of unspent funds that could be helping small businesses if the program were reopened. Indeed, as the pandemic continues, pausing business as usual as we race toward a vaccine and cure, it is absolutely in our country’s best interest to keep existing resources available to our small business job creators. As the lifeblood of our economy, small businesses are key in our nation’s economic recovery in the short-term and the long-term.  

Though a simple extension of the PPP shouldn’t be a point of contention, Speaker Pelosi has decided to make it one. Amid weeks of stalling meaningful negotiation with the Trump Administration for needed additional coronavirus relief, it seems Speaker Pelosi thinks it wise to hold a PPP extension hostage in the meantime. That approach is incredibly misguided. So too is her belief that Congress and the Administration must agree on everything before they can agree on anything in terms of another coronavirus relief bill. It’s worth noting that members of her own party are becoming dissatisfied with Speaker Pelosi’s tactics.

I certainly hope that Speaker Pelosi will change course and put the livelihoods of the American people first. A worthwhile place to start would be consideration of legislation authored and introduced by House Small Business Committee Ranking Member Steve Chabot. His legislation would simply extend the PPP through the end of the year, make some practical modifications to the application process and enable certain eligible businesses to apply for a second loan. Last week, I was proud to sign a discharge petition led by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler to allow a vote on the legislation. Once 218 signatures are collected, the petition will be able to force a vote in the House. While it is disappointing that Republicans must resort to a discharge petition to pressure Speaker Pelosi to free up money already provided and intended to aid small businesses, I am hopeful a majority of House members will sign it and allow this important vote to occur.

Again, this is not and should not be a controversial or partisan issue. It is a matter of protecting American livelihoods that remain at risk because of a deadly virus that originated in China. While we should all be encouraged by how rapidly the U.S. is racing toward a safe and effective vaccine to restore our way of life, struggling small business job creators need our help in the meantime. Congress can and should do its part by reopening the Paycheck Protection Program. However, as we were reminded last week during National Small Business Week, we can all help by supporting our favorite local businesses on Main Street. Even in this era of social distancing, there are plenty of ways we can show our support, whether by shopping online, ordering to-go or buying gift cards.

Finally, while the coronavirus crisis has caused unprecedented hardships and challenges for us all, I am encouraged that Republicans are committed to working with President Trump to restore our way of life and rebuild our economy as quickly as possible. Remember, before the deadly invisible enemy struck the world, America’s economy was booming and unemployment was at 50-year low. We can and will get there again. Indeed, one of the best ways we can recover and rebuild our economy is by helping small business job creators survive these difficult times. Our future success depends on their existence. Learn more at CommitmentToAmerica.com.