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A V-Shaped Recovery

October 5, 2020
Column

In a typical year, the six months from the start of spring to the start of fall fly by: we celebrate summer breaks, family vacations, weddings, and graduations; crops are planted and grown, and harvest begins. These last six months could not have felt more different. Almost every portion of our lives was somehow impacted by the coronavirus and our efforts to fight it. To get back to “normal,” we have work to do.

 

It may seem like a long time ago, but just six months ago the U.S. economy was at record heights. Unemployment was the lowest in 50 years at 3.8 percent, more jobs had been created than lost for the 113th month in a row, and consumer confidence was near an all-time high. Now, because of shutdowns to stop the spread of COVID-19, industries such as restaurants, hotels, transportation providers, and theatres, which were leading beneficiaries of a strong consumer confidence and a thriving economy, are among the most threatened in our economy.

 

Last week, the Select Revenue Subcommittee, on which I serve, held a hearing about the plight of restaurants during the pandemic. In the hearing I asked the restauranteurs participating how they had felt about the economy prior to this pandemic. All agreed restaurants were benefiting greatly from the strong economy, and one even noted the first quarter of 2020 was the busiest quarter in the 115-year history of their restaurant.

 

We know what we must do to return to the strong economy of six months ago – provide a bridge for hurting small businesses, safely develop therapeutics and vaccines as quickly as possible, and find the best possible pathway to safely reopening schools and businesses. Earlier this year we came together on three separate bipartisan packages of legislation with this aim, most notably the CARES Act. Through these bills we funded a massive effort with the goal of developing and distributing a safe, effective vaccine in record time and created economic bridges like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses stay open and keep employees on their payrolls.

 

Unfortunately, rather than answer bipartisan calls to finish work on new relief legislation, Speaker Pelosi has prioritized moving another partisan package, which passed the House on party lines, filled with unrelated items over negotiating seriously with President Trump. Legalizing banking for marijuana businesses and overriding state voter identification requirements won’t defeat COVID or help our economy. If we can’t agree on a comprehensive COVID package, we should at least be able to move pieces of the package which we know are necessary and have bipartisan support.  

 

However, the authorizations for programs like PPP are expiring. Six months of major lockdowns have taken their toll on these businesses. While millions of Americans have returned to work and our economy has shown signs of rebounding strongly, there is bipartisan desire to give our small businesses one last push to ensure they outlast this virus. At our hearing with the restaurants, every witness agreed moving an extension of PPP as soon as possible should be a top priority. In response to that call, this week I signed onto a discharge petition calling on the Speaker to bring up standalone legislation extending PPP as soon as possible.

 

Small business owners like the ones from last week’s hearing aren’t interested in partisan fights. They need results. It is our duty in Congress to do our jobs and work together. I will continue to push policies which keep businesses open and get our economy back to where it was before.

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