More Needed than HEALS Act to Support Small Businesses

With the majority of small businesses out of PPP dollars and unemployment benefits ending this week, the piecemeal bills that make up the Senate Republicans’ HEALS Act are simply not enough.

More is needed to strengthen support for both working families and small businesses, who will need each other to survive the crisis. Emergency unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of the month threatening tens of millions of Americans with a dramatic loss of income that will result in a sharp constriction in consumer spending, further damaging already struggling small businesses. The HEALS Act does too little to stem this drastic tightening of incomes. 

There are pieces of the HEALS Act that can be strengthened. The ERTC and employee tax credit are good starting points, but there are major gaps for minority-owned businesses and those left out and denied from previous programs.

Doubling down on the 7(a) lending system that produced so much discrimation on capital access in the last round, the GOP answer to racial inequity is more loans. Instead, an expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), and easing ERTC access is a better, more equitable route to achieve the dual goals of maintaining employment and sustaining small businesses. But while additional and flexible funding is needed for small businesses to cover fixed costs and accessing PPE items, which is included in the set of provisions, the hidden loopholes around liability, and contractors betray the true priority of Senate Republicans - corporations, not Main Street.

Since the beginning of this crisis, Main Street small business owners have demanded a comprehensive, long term strategy to maintain our public health and economy that is designed to respond to the severity and potential duration of this crisis.  There is still time to set our country on a path to recovery.  As layoffs begin to rise again and consumer confidence continues to nosedive in the uncertainty of increasing COVID cases and the threat of unemployment benefits expiring and dramatically shrinking, small businesses need a comprehensive set of programs that support them for the long term.