WASHINGTON, D.C. — Many of Ohio’s nearly one million small businesses are continuing to struggle through the coronavirus pandemic, as Congress tries to decide what more it can do to help.
“We have a responsibility to secure funds to help America’s small businesses survive this crisis,” Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-New York) said on Wednesday.
Expanded federal unemployment insurance is set to expire at the end of July; the Paycheck Protection Program is scheduled to stop accepting applications in August; and lawmakers have yet to reach a deal on a Phase 4 relief bill.
Combined, it creates a potential recipe for disaster for small businesses.
“Some have warned we could be in only the beginning of the worst wave of small business bankruptcies and closures since the Great Depression,” Rep. Steve Chabot (R, 1st Congressional District) said Wednesday.
Chabot, who is the top Republican on the House Small Business Committee, took part in a hearing on Wednesday focused on what can be done in the long-term.
Pete Blackshaw, the CEO of the Cincinnati-Based innovation hub Cintrifuse, testified that the government can help provide tools so small businesses can quickly adapt and restructure like the startups he works with.
“The best way to help small business owners thrive in this very uncertain world is to help them think and act like startups,” Blackshaw said.
A New York restaurant owner explained she’s only been able to hire 17-percent of her staff back and will need significant outside funding to stay afloat.
“My PPP loan allowed me to reopen, but it is not going to allow me to stay open, even if it is forgiven,” Amanda Cohen, of Dirt Candy, testified.
Cohen pushed for the RESTAURANTS Act, which Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan (D, 13th Congressional District) is cosponsoring. It would provide small restaurants, bars and food trucks with $120 billion in grants — not loans — to stay open.
But restaurants are just some of the estimated 7.5 million small businesses at risk of permanently closing because of COVID-19.
Those who testified on Wednesday said steady, long-term funding that won’t have to be immediately paid back is going to be necessary.
“Access to patient capital is the core to many of the solutions to the challenges we face,” said Brett Palmer, with the Small Business Investor Alliance.
Congress returns to session next week to begin formally negotiating what another relief package may include.