Opinion: Commentary: Congressional Action Is Urgently Needed

Opinion: Commentary: Congressional Action Is Urgently Needed

For local businesses to successfully navigate pandemic downturn, they need more and specific support.

The Covid-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented new strains on our local businesses as they try to keep their doors open and serve the community.

Congressional action is urgently needed for local businesses to successfully navigate this on-going situation and Mount Vernon Lee Chamber has reached out to the Virginia Congressional delegation for small businesses support during Covid-19.

Congress should allow small businesses that continue to suffer clear economic losses due to COVID-19 to apply for a second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. Streamline and simplify the PPP forgiveness process by forgiving small business loans up to $150,000 automatically. Allow businesses that were unsuccessful or failed to apply during the first PPP process to apply now.

Federal liability protections are essential for businesses. Shield small business owners from liability for Covid-19 absent evidence that the business willfully failed to develop and implement a plan to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to customers and other third parties and that such failure caused the injury.

An economic downturn is not the time to place new regulatory requirements on business such as the “beneficial ownership” mandate under consideration as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The “beneficial ownership” mandate, passed by the US House of Representatives, singles out small businesses with less than 20 employees and requires them to file additional paperwork with the US Treasury Department each time they form or change ownership of their business. Larger businesses are exempt from this requirement. This information would be placed in a Federal database where the public would have access to it endangering the privacy of these businesses and their business operations. In addition to privacy concerns, a recent study found that a beneficial ownership mandate places additional paperwork burdens and costs on small businesses estimated at $5.7 billion in new regulatory costs and 131.7 million hours of paperwork.

Congress intended for PPP expenses to be deductible as ordinary business expenses and then the IRS issued regulations negating that intent. Congress needs to clarify their intent and also allow small business owners to use both PPP and the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) by improving interaction between the two programs. Provide targeted tax relief to assist with operating expenses, reopening supplies, and personal protective equipment.

Reform unemployment insurance by prohibiting unemployment insurance compensation from exceeding an employee’s prior wages. Unemployment compensation should not create unintended consequences for both employers and employees.

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt our economy, small businesses need to have resources and protections to move forward during this health crisis.

Congress needs to listen to business and respond to these concerns for the economy to recover.

Holly Hicks Dougherty is Executive Director of the Mount Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce