Polis, Gardner And Bennet Want More Support For Small Businesses In The Next Relief Package

April 16, 2020
Closed signs are everywhereClosed signs are everywhereHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Closed signs are everywhere, and on this ice cream shop in Denver, during government-ordered stay-at-home measures to combat the spread of coronavirus. Some restaurants have tried to keep up business by offering to-go, delivery, and curbside pickup menus.

Updated 7:23pm

Gov. Jared Polis and Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet are making a pitch to Senate leaders about changes they’d like to see to the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, as well as additional funding in a fourth coronavirus relief package.

The three teamed up to write a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Colorado is representative of America,” they wrote. ”And like America, we have our differences, but above all, Coloradans are pragmatic—we do what works.”

Read the full letter here.

They’re suggesting improvements to the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, that can “fix the very real-on-the-ground issues” hampering many small businesses from participating. Congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are currently negotiating adding additional funds to the popular program, as well as money for hospitals, states and local governments.

“It is clear that we should provide additional funding for the PPP,” they wrote. “But we should also modify the program to ensure it is providing support for as many small businesses and non-profits as the program was originally intended.”

The suggestions include:

  • Increasing the loan amount to four times the average monthly payroll.
  • Increase the amount that can be spent on non-payroll expenses for businesses that have experienced significant revenue loss.
  • Include mortgage principal payments and inventory expenses in the list of qualified expenses.
  • Expand eligibility in the program to include health care entities, including critical access hospitals, non-profits, franchises and more.
  • Set aside funding to support minority, veteran and women-owned businesses, as well as the smallest businesses.
  • Allow businesses to participate both in PPP and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.

The threesome is also asking for more funding to critical programs — like EIDL, hospitals and health care facilities, and the SNAP program, formerly known as food stamps — as congressional leaders continue federal response to COVID-19.

Additionally, the three say that Congress should approve $500 billion in flexible fiscal relief to state and local governments, with no population thresholds. The measure in the last relief package did contain this aid, but only applied to local entities with populations greater than 500,000.

The governor believes a "robust federal response to this generational challenge is crucial" to Colorado's recovery and that "businesses need the flexibility and resources to bounce back stronger than before," Polis spokesperson Conor Cahill said. Polis also thanked Bennet and Gardner for their partnership in this effort. All three are urging Congress to move quickly.

“The ideas laid out in this letter reflect what Coloradans have told us is needed to make these programs work. We should waste no time in adopting them,” they write.

But it may take time before any of these suggestions become reality. Congress is not due back to Washington, D.C. until May 4. And attempt to pass legislation between now and then would require no objection from any member in the House or the Senate. Efforts to pass measures that way since Congress went on recess have failed.

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