November 25, 2020

Sen. Cardin: Congress must pass comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill


By:  Ben Cardin

Source: Baltimore Sun

This is not a time for small measures. As part of a larger package, Congress must get serious about helping small businesses. We support our local communities in Maryland and across the country by supporting our small businesses, many of which are in desperate straits right now.

Here in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan has reimposed new restrictions to control the spread of the virus. The cost of these necessary measures will fall most heavily on small businesses in the food services, hospitality and events, and travel and tourism industries, which are the most reliant on large gatherings to make a profit.

In addition to tackling the root of the problem, a comprehensive bill must target small business aid to the hardest-hit, most vulnerable small businesses — including Black, Hispanic, Asian and women-owned businesses — as well as small businesses in the industries that have been most affected by COVID-19.

This pandemic is not going to disappear overnight, despite advances in vaccine research. Small businesses need more than the eight additional weeks of payroll assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). As the lead Democrat on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, I have introduced legislation to reopen PPP for small businesses that did not get to apply for an initial loan before the program closed on Aug. 8, and provide a second round of PPP for vulnerable small businesses.

We in Congress must recognize that many small businesses, especially restaurants and retail shops, are not in a position to take on new debt. My bill would appropriate an additional $50 billion to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program to continue providing small businesses with low-cost, long-term loans and create a new $40 billion Lifeline Grant within the program, which would provide grants of up to $50,000 to small businesses that have suffered a significant economic loss. The bill would also provide an additional $10 billion for the EIDL Advance grants program.

The bill creates a new $15 billion grant program that will allow state and local government agencies to deploy funds to the businesses in their communities that need it the most. We have already seen the benefits of this model in Baltimore, where the Baltimore Development Corporation has provided support to small businesses based on need and other factors, not on a first-come, first-served basis. The bill also includes a new $15 billion grant program for small businesses in the events industry, including music venues, theaters and cinemas, which were among the first businesses to close and among the last to reopen.

A comprehensive COVID-19 bill is the only adequate response to the crises we face today. In March, the Senate passed the CARES Act 97-0. We must come together again as the virus rages on.

The CARES Act dealt directly with the COVID-19 pandemic itself — providing funding to public health professionals for testing, tracing and vaccine development. The bill also provided support to state and local governments, as well as small businesses, families, schools and Americans on unemployment insurance.

For the sake of the country let us sit down to negotiate a bipartisan comprehensive COVID-19 bill that will keep our communities safe, get Americans back to work and save small businesses.