WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned Lisa Mensah, President and CEO of Opportunity Finance Network; and John Hoey, President and CEO of The Y in Central Maryland about EIDL support for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the need for indoor air quality improvements to restore consumer confidence. A transcript of the Senator’s full exchange can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found here.
ROSEN: Chairman Cardin, thank you for holding this hearing to examine the effectiveness of the Paycheck Protection Program and how we can continue to serve our small business community as they recover from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I was proud to join you, Senator Collins, and Senator Shaheen in co-sponsoring legislation to extend PPP through the end of May, and I look forward to working with the committee to pass that legislation before PPP expires in two weeks.
COVID-19 has impacted our country in profound ways, and it has been particularly challenging for many of our small businesses in Nevada, where our travel and tourism industry has been hit hard and where 99% of our businesses are small businesses. And while we are on the road to recovery, our economy won’t rev back to life with the flick of a switch – it is going to take time.
That’s why two weeks ago, I reintroduced my bipartisan EIDL for Small Businesses Act with Senator Cornyn. Our bill would lift the SBA’s caps on EIDL loans and EIDL Advance grants, providing all eligible small businesses with loans up to $2 million and the full $10,000 grants, regardless of size or location – just as Congress intended when we passed the CARES Act just about one year ago.
So while we are here to discuss PPP, as our small business continue to struggle we cannot lose sight of other critical lifelines like EIDL.
Ms. Mensah, in your written testimony you talked about the impact of important reforms Congress has made to SBA relief programs, including repealing the requirement to deduct EIDL Advance payments from PPP loan forgiveness.
Can you talk about the impact of that policy on small businesses? And thinking about the businesses that CDFIs work with every day, can you discuss what a full $10,000 EIDL advance grant might mean to these businesses in allowing them to keep their doors open?
MENSAH: Thank you Senator Rosen for your concern, and your understanding of the nature of the small business economy. We think you got so much right, and it’s disheartening when our CDFIs work with a business, only to conclude that the very thing that helped them reduces the amount that they were supposed to get. That’s tragic, that’s hard, it’s disheartening to go through all the work.
So, you’ve got the right proposal and we urge you – we also think the key to this whole recovery is the time on task to get these reforms engrained. When a business can receive this kind of support and receive it skillfully it’s game changing, and it’s the bridge they need to retake their place in the economy. This is that kind of bridge.
So, we are thankful for the work you’ve already done. I agree with also Senator Duckworth’s point – streamlining the forgiveness phase will also help our CDFI supported businesses, particularly when the loans for many were well under $150,000. That’s what Congress’ direction was. I think if we can keep that focused then our businesses can fully participate in the recovery.
ROSEN: Thank you. I want to move on and talk a little bit about our indoor air – making it germ free, clean our indoor spaces to build consumer confidence to help our small businesses reopen safely. Of course, our tourism industry, hospitality, lodging, restaurants, retail, conventions, all of that, live events.
And so, I just reintroduced with Kevin Cramer a bipartisan act called the FRESH AIR for Small Business Act. This legislation would provide refundable tax credits for small business that upgrade their HVAC systems to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 and the air we breathe. I want people to go back indoors and feel confident.
Mr. Hoey, as someone whose organization brings the community together indoors, can you talk about the importance of making investments to ensure that indoor activities safer for workers and the public? How have investments in PPE, ventilation, and other modifications, how does this help us bring back members and protect workers?
HOEY: Yeah, it’s very important. Obviously most organizations or entities or companies have indoor spaces, and they vary in size, so ventilation is a complicated issue and it’s so dependent on size and structure of the building. But, the truth is most businesses, most organizations like ours did not anticipate something of this nature and a lot of the systems we have – H-VAC systems – do not have the requirements. We were fortunate, a lot of our buildings are newer, so we were in a little better shape, but some of them are not. These are very expensive systems we’re talking about.
So, I think support for that is wise, not just now, but I think going forward. Improving air quality inside, in buildings is very important and I think it will be a good investment, even when we hopefully all get vaccinated and move back to a more normal world.
ROSEN: Thank you. I couldn’t agree more. I yield back my time.