By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Nevada’s 2nd U.S. House District Rep. Mark Amodei said on Nevada Newsmakers that the $350 billion in the federal government’s new program to give forgivable loans to small businesses during the Coronavirus shutdown is being gobbled up at an alarming rate.
About $180 billion of that has already been loaned out in the first five days of the program and another $250 billion should quickly be added to the loan program, called the Paycheck Protection Program, Amodei told host Sam Shad.
“Right now, the one (economic stimulus) program that is halfway out of money after just five days is the Paycheck Protection Program,” he said.
Small business owners are concerned the program won’t have enough money to help all those who were forced to close all or parts of their businesses by government mandate, Amodei said.
“So when you say, ‘Is there going to be enough money?,’ there is recognition (in Congress) that I don’t think anybody thinks that $350 billion would have done it completely,” he said. “The first week has proven that. So here’s another $250 billion. Let’s see how far that goes and if we need more.”
The PPP is considered a linchpin program for the revival of the economy since 52 percent of all U.S. workers are employed by businesses that have less than 500 workers, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Adding the $250 billion to the PPP fund is a priority in Congress, Amodei said.
“I think the money will be coming,” he said. “It is just whether or not we have to endure another round of various political agendas that want to be tagged on with that sort of stuff.”
Senate Democrats blocked a $250-billion appropriation to be added to the program Thursday, citing the need for more focus on hospitals and minority-owned businesses in the spending package.
The stress on small business owners trying to access PPP loans is exacerbated because the online application registration process is at a logjam. Amodei acknowledged that the rush to get the forgivable loans has overwhelmed the PPP system. When asked if the federal government will add employees and technical support to the program, Amodei said: “The answer is yes, generally.”
.If the PPP appropriation is approved by the U.S. Senate, it will move to the U.S. House.
“If it does, it puts a lot of pressure on the House and the majority party there (Democrats), not to be holding this stuff up,” he said. “If the Senate can find their way through to this, fine.
“Quite frankly some of the stuff they (Senate Democrats) are talking about — like more money for hospitals, more money for government stabilization, it’s like those are good things,”Amodei said. “But now, the one that’s already out of half the money after five days is Paycheck Protection Program.”
The federal government has a responsibility to help small businesses remain afloat, Amodei said.
It (pandemic) affects the whole country and by the way, a bunch of these business, small and large, were ordered to be shut down by state, local and/or federal authorities,” Amodei said.
“We have basically condemned these businesses, telling them they can’t operate for public-health reasons,” he said. “So you’ve got to basically come with something so they are still there. And this is the most important part: It’s like we need the tax base (from small businesses) to basically support state and local governments.”
“This was nobody’s fault that this happened,” Amodei said. “We can’t be chirpin’ about the Chinese and whatever. We can do that later but frankly, as far as this country goes, nobody made a mistake here.”
The federal government must help to keep the cash flow of small businesses going, Amodei said.
“One thing that this has taught a lot of us is that … cash flow is the lifeblood of their existence and if you mess with the cash flow, hey, we can’t exist without some sort of cash flow or help with that,” he said.
“This has stretched everybody, from government, to health care facilities to businesses, big and small,” Amodei said. “I guess that it is a realization that our economy, even when it is crankin’ away, is a pretty fragile thing.”