“It didn’t solve the problems,” Rich Fierro told CNN in an interview. “What he did was support us for a few more months.”
The program, as it was drafted in the early days of the pandemic and the consequent business closures across the country, was intended to do just that – to serve as a bridge for small business owners who saw their revenues vanish into thin air without no fault of theirs.
“It’s such a fluid situation that nobody really knows when it will start to die,” Jessica Fierro told CNN. “And then when we start to see him die and he starts reaching the right peak.”
What to do with $ 1
Lawmakers on both sides of the corridor are deeply aware that more needs to be done – and they have the initial capital to do just that. The small business program left over $ 130 billion in unused funds unused.
Small Business Senate President Marco Rubio of Florida, the main Republican negotiator for a new stimulus measure, said he had no objection to the extension, “but the vast majority of small businesses that wanted to benefit from the program have already used it “.
“What we really need to get through very soon is targeted help for those who need a second round of aid,” tweeted Rubio on Tuesday evening.
“My concern is that the unspent money is now the money we are discussing should be retained and used for a new round of small business assistance,” he said earlier this week.. “So as long as the deadline is open, you can’t do it.”
Rubio led the writing of the program and worked to address implementation problems during his nearly three months of existence.
The reality of the ongoing crisis has shifted the dynamics from the original intent of the program, he said.
“My sense is that the biggest need right now is in companies that have received this assistance but now need new or different types of assistance,” said Rubio.
There had been some requests to extend the deadline for applications, but given the depth of the economic crisis, there is general agreement that based on the way the initial program was structured, it simply won’t be enough. The success was particularly acute for first-line service industries such as hotels and restaurants, where 67% of job losses originated until May – although these industries received over 40% of the funds disbursed, according to an S&P report.
The small business program has served to distribute more than $ 513 billion in business loans, but as the arrests continue, the structure of how that money needs to be used for loans to be forgivable has changed. The requirement that 75% should go to employee wages had dropped to 60% and the timeline in which it was to be used – eight weeks – was extended to 24 weeks.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made clear on Tuesday that he supports the reuse of unused funds.
“I think it should be done,” said Mnuchin during a hearing by the House Financial Services Committee.
Negotiations are already underway
There are already new proposals in the pipeline, some of which would allow smaller and more affected companies to access a second round of financing. A proposal from the Senate Democrats including Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire would do just that.
Rubio has indicated that he would like to keep any subsequent round of funding within the existing program structure – which has taken weeks to perfect in an initial rocky launch and a changing set of rules.
“We created this channel to provide aid and it would be logical for the world to continue using it,” said Rubio. “And for those who would already be receiving PPP loans, it should be fairly simple to provide further assistance since we have all our documents and information.”
Specific attention was paid to improving aid to minority communities – which were disproportionately excluded in the early stages of the program – as well as to the service and hospitality industries, which were the first affected by the pandemic and are likely to be the last to return to any semblance of normal.
In this sense, a proposal taken into consideration in bipartisan discussions is longer-term loans for the hardest-hit businesses, as well as those who make the most of their revenues in low-income communities, according to a project obtained by CNN.
“The pandemic went on longer than expected when we drafted the bill,” Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine who is a key negotiator on the program, told CNN. “Restaurants, for example, which are not yet allowed to dine within the Portland area, have been very grateful that PPP has taken them so far, but now they are running out of money.”
There are also broader proposals, one in particular that the Fierros have kept an eye on.
Sens. Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, and Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, have presented a far-reaching bill to extend access and flexibility to the hardest-hit businesses, which will offer loans covering up to six months of expenses. Part of that money would be forgiven based on the percentage of revenue lost in 2020. The rest would be repaid in seven years.
Although he has not yet fully entered the nascent negotiations for the next stimulus round, his initial introduction was designed to push him into the talks.
“We wanted to get into the conversation,” Young told CNN.
New arrests loom
The Fierros do it too. In fact, they played a role in creating the bill. Rich Fierro, an army veteran with multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan who has two jobs (he is a defense contractor, as well as his role in Atrevida), all while going to school, attended a Bennet town hall and started arguing with him about what was needed for his business to survive.
“It’s not in the next 30 to 60 days – it’s no longer the question for us,” said Rich Fierro. “It’s about six months or a year, as we maintain with 50% sponsorship.”
At present, Senate Republicans have made it clear that they will begin work on their next stimulus proposal – of which small business financing will be a central element – in July. Its final form, with competing proposals and ideas, is still an open question.
One thing that is not the case is the current environment, as states begin to close restaurants again and the virus returns to areas of the country.
“You know, we are both owners, I am the brewer, my husband is there 90% of the time, my daughter also works in front of the house,” said Jessica Fierro. “So it’s scary.”
As they look to Congress, however, for Atrevida Beer Co., the Fierros and so many small business owners like them, there is a clear agreement that something, anything, needs to be done – and soon.
“There’s a lot of hard work done by people who don’t ask for handouts, who don’t go around asking anyone to solve their problems,” said Rich Fierro. “What we are looking for is the opportunity to continue fighting to get where we want to be.”
This story has been updated with the Senate approving an extension of the salary protection program.