WASHINGTON, DC — Three United States senators, including Chris Van Hollen, (D-Md) have introduced a proposal that would make grants -- not loans -- available to small businesses and non-profit organizations rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill -- if approved -- would pour an initial $600 billion into the program, including the needed administrative supports to quickly process applications. Successive applications could be submitted quarterly if the business or non-profit still meets the criteria.
It would also boost the unemployment insurance program by ensuring that an employee's job would be there for them when the crisis ends.
The Main Street Emergency Grant Program would give these businesses a cash infusion through the US Treasury Department to address fixed costs such as rent and payroll.
Small to mid-sized businesses with less than $100 million in revenue and less than 2,000 employees that have sustained a loss of at least 50% revenue would be eligible.
“Small businesses are desperate for a cash infusion now – not two or three months down the road. This proposal will ensure capital is immediately available to the businesses that need it and help them weather the storm so they can avoid long-term, irreversible damage to their operations. It’s crucial that we provide this relief in Phase 3 to support small businesses and their employees,” Van Hollen said in a Friday release.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) urged passage of the measure.
“If we don’t act quickly, small businesses that have closed due to the coronavirus won’t reopen. This is a crisis I am seeing play out in Connecticut, with small businesses already laying off workers and weighing the need to close for good. They need cash to cover payroll, make rent, and meet their costs immediately, and a loan doesn’t cut it for them. The Main Street Emergency Grant Program will help companies stay afloat during this crisis. Our economy—and the American people—need this relief as soon as possible,” Murphy said.
The dismal story is the same in Oregon, home of US Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)
“Small businesses in Oregon are getting hammered by the economic implosion triggered by the coronavirus. The same is certainly happening all across America,” said Senator Merkley. “We need bold, urgent measures to help these businesses—and the families that rely on them—weather the storm. These grants are a critical part of that equation.”
The executive director of the Main Street Alliance, Amanda Ballntyne, called the bill "am important ingredient in a response package that will help us avoid a prolonged economic crisis."
“We support the Main Street Emergency Grant Program. It is essential that we work to immediately provide assistance to small business owners in impacted industries to support them to maintain their payroll and remain solvent through this crisis," she said. "It provides urgently needed liquidity to small businesses to keep their employees on payroll and avoid taking on too much debt."
Businesses would apply by showing an active business license, previous year’s payroll taxes, and income taxes. They would need to have been operating for at least six-months prior to enactment, and could include self-employed individuals.