Over 8,700 small business owners have written to Congressional leaders in support of the RESTART Act, a bill sponsored by Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana.
“At this moment of crisis, we urge you to transcend partisanship and forge meaningful agreement on an assistance package to help our struggling small businesses and, in turn, tens of millions of Americans,” stated the letter from business owners, including more than 80 Colorado small business owners.
While the Paycheck Protection Program provided short-term relief, many businesses have argued that the scope and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic calls for longer, flexible and more sustained assistance.
Bennet, speaking at an American Enterprise Institute event, said that is what the RESTART Act will do. The bill provides loans for up to six months of operating expenses. Part of the loan would be forgivable, based on how much revenue the business has lost. And companies would have seven years to repay the loan.
“This is the support small businesses need to stay afloat through the end of the year, into 2021,” Bennet said. “And unless we do something, we’re going to see a lot of [small businesses] close there doors and never reopen, turning millions of temporary job losses into permanent ones.”
Sen. Young, who hails from a small business family, said it’s personal for him. He pointed out 80,000 small businesses in the country closed permanently from March to July of this year.
“That’s incredibly sobering. I hope it will catalyze Congress into bold action, into passing the RESTART Act,” Young said.
The bill currently has 55 co-sponsors, including fellow Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, and is pretty evenly split among Democrats and Republicans. Young said that others have come to him saying they would vote on the bill if it comes to the floor.
But the bill has yet to move in the chamber, as negotiations over another coronavirus relief bill have stalled. Instead, Republicans will vote on a much smaller, targeted relief package Thursday that does not include RESTART.
Young said this procedural vote will highlight where Senate Republicans are in agreement.
“I hope that it will jumpstart negotiations between the [Trump] administration and the House of Representatives,” he said. “I think we’re going to have to get through these procedural votes and negotiations will have to resume on some of these other priorities, but we do have an opportunity in the next couple of weeks to pass the RESTART Act or something very closely aligned.”
While Bennet would prefer a vote on RESTART today, he thinks this test vote will lead to an opportunity for negotiations among a bipartisan group of senators who want to get this done.
“Our small businesses have no time left here. And they need the certainty of knowing that this loan program is set up and has been passed into law.”
The clock is ticking. The Senate is expected to finish this work period by the first week of October when it will break until after the election.