Compromise Needed Now to Save Small Businesses

Business support, which means ensuring millions of jobs won’t be forever lost, should not be a partisan issue

By Lorraine Clarno and Tom Ray

Some of the most important and far-reaching legislation passed by Congress in past decades, on issues such as Social Security, the Affordable Care Act and taxes and welfare, were the result of input from and compromise between the two parties. It is essential that Congress put partisan politics aside and find compromise to help our businesses. As governors continue to mandate stricter guidelines and reduce the ability for businesses to operate and keep people employed during the COVID spiking, help is needed and it’s needed now.

As a founding member of the Save Small Business Coalition, our chamber of commerce is feverishly working to align our objectives and maximize impact in what happens in Congress to support our Flathead and Kalispell business community.

We work with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and executives such as former Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz, joining their coalition of more than 100 CEOs across the country calling on Congress to do more to help business.

Not one of the numerous bills introduced or moved this summer by either the House or Senate is going to survive as written. Discussions now on the table are focused on broad topics that needed to be agreed upon by both sides. We are working to align with the most attainable and effective goals to create clear and urgent help for our businesses.

We champion four areas that resonate within the various legislative options. Our primary focus and goal remain to push for legislation that quickly and effectively provides the assistance needed for our businesses:

Payroll Protection Program (PPP) Reform

PPP reform needs to include allowance for a larger percentage of operating expenses (which would include safety and personal protective equipment as well as employee protection costs to be in compliance) to be included in the forgivable expenses or extend the forgivable period from 24 weeks to 11 months.

We believe in good-faith certification for forgiveness of loans under $150,000.  Payroll protection eligibility should be expanded to include 501(c)6 organizations of 300 or fewer employees. A second round of PPP loans with authorization for an additional $190 billion would benefit businesses struggling to manage through this unprecedented time and the predicted recession.

Workforce Development

Provide a total of $1.3 billion through a combination of new and existing programs, including $500 million for a new state formula (60/40 local/state) and $150 million Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) for adults, $150 million WIOA funding for dislocated workers, $150 million WIOA funding for youth, and $350 million for employment services.

Business Liability Protection

Congress must act to protect businesses from COVID-19 related exposure liability to those entities that follow applicable federal, state or local government guidelines related to COVID-19.

Liability protection protects healthcare workers and facilities from medical liability claims arising out of the provision of COVID-19 care or other care affected by COVID-19 with an exception for gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Local Aid and Local Municipalities Financial Support

Aid should be provided on a quarterly basis based on actual costs and revenue shortfall with an overall cap on funding. Many localities require additional funding beyond what was provided in the CARES act to address increased costs and losses in revenue. The funding to local communities needs to be direct and flexible so it can get where it is needed efficiently and as fast as possible.

Business support, which means ensuring millions of jobs won’t be forever lost, does not need to be – and should not be – a partisan issue. It’s time to get things done. This is not a comprehensive list but rather primary focus areas to which both parties can agree. This work will help accomplish our goal to provide meaningful support to businesses across the country and here in Flathead County.

It is crucial both parties to work together to fund meaningful support to our businesses, our communities, and our people. This is leadership.

Lorraine Clarno is president and CEO of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce; Tom Ray is the chairman of the board for the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce.

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