MURPHY: WE MUST MEET THE UPCOMING NEEDS OF BUSINESSES AS STAY-AT-HOME ORDERS ARE LIFTED

The Rebuilding Main Street America Act Helps Businesses With Fixed Costs Like Rent and Insurance As They Begin to Reopen

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) joined a press call with Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) this week to announce a new legislative proposal to help small businesses and workers deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19. The senators’ proposal, the Rebuilding Main Street Act, would allow employers to share their payroll costs with the federal government and receive a grant for a portion of their other costs to weather the storm and reopen when it is safe to do so.

On the new challenges businesses face as they begin to reopen, Murphy said: “…[C]onsumers are going to decide when our economies actually reopen. And there will be many patrons of retail businesses and restaurants who will very slowly come back to their favorite stores and eateries. That means that businesses are going to continue to need help in order to maintain the commitment they’ve made to their employees through the PPP program or other assistance programs and keep their doors open for the long run.”

On the Rebuilding Main Street Act, Murphy said: “[W]hat we've tried to do is build a program that's tailored to the upcoming needs of businesses. PPP isn't perfect, but it has allowed many businesses to stay open and continue to pay their employees. Once businesses start to reopen, they're going to need help with fixed costs. Because without a steady stream of customers coming in the door, many businesses are not going to be able to pay the rent, the insurance, equipment costs.”

In March ahead of the CARES Act, Murphy, Van Hollen, Merkley introduced the Main Street Emergency Grant Programan alternative to the Paycheck Protection Program—that sought to allow small businesses to apply for grants through the Treasury Department to cover fixed costs like payroll and rent. Those grants would revert to loans that would have to be paid back only if the business fails to prove it is meeting criteria under the proposal. It would also allow mid-size businesses to access forgivable loans.

A full transcript of Murphy’s remarks is below:

“Thanks Jeff and thanks Chris for leading this effort. I’m happy to be a part of this launch and I hope that our colleagues will look favorably upon it as we try to figure out how to assist businesses as we begin to slowly reopen our economy.

“In Connecticut, we will start to reopen businesses on Monday of next week. But in reality, consumers are going to decide when our economies actually reopen. And there will be many patrons of retail businesses and restaurants [who] will very slowly come back to their favorite stores and eateries.

“That means that businesses are going to continue to need help in order to maintain the commitment they’ve made to their employees through the PPP program or other assistance programs and keep their doors open for the long run.

“We saw some pretty shocking statistics this week—one of them being the Federal Reserve's estimate that 40 percent of households making under $40,000 have had someone lose a job since March. That is a nuclear meltdown of our economy and it means that Congress' work is not done in supporting job retention and job regrowth.

“So, what we've tried to do is build a program that's tailored to the upcoming needs of businesses. PPP isn't perfect, but it has allowed many businesses to stay open and continue to pay their employees. Once businesses start to reopen, they're going to need help with fixed costs. Because without a steady stream of customers coming in the door, many businesses are not going to be able to pay the rent, the insurance, equipment costs.

“So we think this program is going to meet businesses where they are as they reopen and I'm proud to support it with both of my colleagues. The three of us, not incidentally, also proposed in Main Street Emergency Grant program, that was effectively an alternative construction to the PPP.

“One of the critical differences between our proposal and the PPP was that we would run our grants through the federal government rather than through banks. And our fear was that banks would end up,  sort of, helping their customers not necessarily those in greatest need or everyone that qualified.

“I think we still share those concerns. We still think there is merit to doing this program a different way as we had proposed and this proposal seeks to learn from PPP.

“Instead of putting this program in the hands of private financial institutions who are going to collect money according to a business plan, this money goes out to whomever is eligible. And I think that's an important correction from the PPP. And I appreciate Senator Van Hollen, sort of, leading this effort to learn lessons.

“We've got some good experts on the phone and I'll let Chris turn it over to them, but I'm excited to push this proposal forward with my colleagues.”

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