Families First Bill good first step, but there are still major gaps for small businesses

Small businesses still need urgent cash interventions 

Washington, DC- On the passage of HR 6021 the ‘Families First Coronavirus Response Act’’ in the House last night, Executive Director of the Main Street Alliance Amanda Ballantyne had this to say:

“To maintain our economy and small businesses through this public health and economic crisis we will need a combination of paid sick leave, longer term paid leave and significantly expanded unemployment insurance to provide workers the income they need in this unprecedented emergency. Immediate action is required. We are glad to see the federal government taking action on these issues, with the passage of HR 6021 the ‘Families First Coronavirus Response Act’’ in the House last night.

Among other provisions, the bill guarantees 10 paid sick days and 12 weeks paid leave for many of the workers who are and will be impacted by coronavirus and boosts state unemployment insurance and SNAP funding. These programs will keep many families afloat, allow many more workers to stay home, reduce exposure to the virus, and ultimately save lives.  

But there are major problems that this bill doesn’t solve. The employer threshold leaves out at least 6.5 million workers in the country's largest companies who might still not be covered. Safety standards for health care workers need to be ensured.  

And small businesses do not have the cash flow to front this emergency government policy. Small businesses in industries  particularly susceptible to decreases in consumer demand are reporting potentially catastrophic decreases in sales revenue (between 15-80% in some cases and cities) and can already barely pay their bills. Partial paid leave reimbursement in quarterly tax credits will not work for small businesses. They need FULL reimbursement for paid leave WEEKLY. This is especially true for businesses of 150 employees and below; more analysis needs to be done for larger businesses. 

In order to keep their doors open, and avoid layoffs, small businesses need to keep money flowing through our local economies — that requires full wage replacement for all workers, whether they are on sick leave, paid leave or caring for a sick family member.

The policies presented betray a true understanding of how small businesses operate on the ground, and the GOP and White House clearly do not understand the magnitude of the crisis small businesses and their employees are facing. The federal government must do more to immediately address this public health crisis and prevent a large scale economic recession.

We look forward to working with the Senate and Administration to strengthen this bill to meet the crisis our small businesses, employees and country face.”