By Mark Valentini, Director of Legislative Affairs
Roughly two weeks after President Trump signed the CARES Act into law to inject $2.3 trillion into the U.S. economy to keep it afloat, the $350 billion allocated for small business assistance is expected to dry up by the end of the week. As of close-of-business Wednesday, 1.52 million small businesses were approved for $324 billion in loans.
Currently, the next round of COVID-19 response legislation is in its infancy regarding a further $250 billion stimulus for small businesses. The legislation would either serve as a supplement to the CARES Act, or it would be part of a more comprehensive “Phase 4” bill. Whether $250 billion in additional liquidity for small businesses is enough is another question: considering the first tranche was distributed as soon as it was, the next tranche likely won’t be the last. There’s also a question of how soon the legislation would pass. Republicans are seeking a clean bill approving the $250 billion in small business relief, which Democrats support but with conditions that include an additional $250 billion for hospitals and state and local governments; guarantees that community banks are included so that smaller businesses have better accessibility to loans that may not be afforded them by larger banks; and prioritization of loans for businesses owned by veterans, women and minorities.
The pandemic will pass, and it will leave a path of economic destruction in its wake from which it will take a few years to recover. The President has proposed, and House Democrats concur that in order to help the American economy recover from the pandemic is by passing a $2 trillion stimulus package focused on infrastructure. House Democrats would likely use the $650 billion infrastructure package they released in January, which includes $50.5 billion for water infrastructure projects, and $59.7 billion for clean drinking water projects. Obstacles for passage of this bill include finding the money, and finding the workforce to carry-out these projects. Build America bonds and public-private partnerships are part of the proposals to address the financing, while legislation such as the BUILDS Act could be the solution for the workforce gap. Assuming we can overcome these hurdles, an infrastructure package may be just what our industry needs to get back on its feet.
Director of Legislative Affairs , PHCC-National Association