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 through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) dried up. As of close-of-business Wednesday, April 15, more than 1½ million small businesses were approved for $324 billion in loans. The fund was completely depleted the following day. The next tranche of money allocated for emergency small business relief is likewise expected to be exhausted relatively soon.
To date, almost $3 trillion has been appropriated between March and April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate reconvenes next week, and they will be negotiating another aid package with Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats while small businesses hurt for liquidity. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has offered to support allocating more money for states in exchange for limiting liability for COVID-19 litigation claims, a contentious issue that is expected to delay passage of the next round of COVID legislation longer than the previous two bills.
Pressure will be strong on Congress to appropriate more funds or reopen the economy when public health is still at risk. If going “back to normal” happens too soon, we risk another spike in COVID-19 cases that will send us back into quarantine and make our economic situation worse. This is the political reality in which we live.
The President has proposed, and House Democrats concur, that the way in order to help the American economy recover from the pandemic is by passing a $2 trillion stimulus package focused on infrastructure. House Democrats likely would use the $760 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.
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. An infrastructure package may be just what our industry and our country need to get back on our feet.
Director of Legislative Affairs , PHCC-National Association