Editor’s note: This commentary first appeared in the Deseret News.
Utah consistently tops the lists of best places in the United States to start a business and to raise a family. That’s no coincidence: We are resilient, resourceful, philanthropic and deeply embedded in our communities. This helps fuel our vibrant economy, which is known for the thousands of small businesses across the state and account for over 90% of all Utah businesses.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah communities have risen to the occasion. Locally elected officials, community organizations and neighbors are stepping up by taking necessary actions to provide critical resources to maintain our vibrant business community. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’s (CARES Act) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) helped deliver important tools to temporarily support millions of struggling businesses across the country.
In fact, of the almost 5 million loans issued nationally, Utah businesses received almost 50,000 of these forgivable loans, resulting in more than $5.5 billion of needed relief for Utah’s economy. This saved over 800,000 Utahns their jobs, which played a major factor in why the state’s unemployment averages are significantly lower than the national averages. This is great news, but to get more Utahns back to work, our focus must remain on testing and responsibly adhering to local public health guidelines in order to limit the spread of virus. Government alone cannot solve this crisis, but individual responsibility and leadership can make all the difference.
As I continue my conversations with businesses across Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, particularly throughout parts of southeastern Utah, many of which are gateway communities — it is clear they still need help. Our tourism and hospitality industries remain effectively paralyzed, despite receiving PPP loans in early April due to limited domestic and international travel to Utah’s natural treasures.
These PPP loans are lifeboats to help these businesses survive until more long-term solutions become clear. I am working with my colleagues in Washington to advocate for the following changes to PPP to help them go even further:
1. Permit businesses with reductions in gross receipts year-over-year to apply for a second round of PPP funding.
2. Permit certain franchisers to apply for PPP loans regardless of whether the franchiser is assigned a franchise identifier code by the Small Business Administration and permitting nonprofits originally excluded from PPP to apply for these loans.
3. Permit eligible expenses to include purchasing necessary equipment or supplies to keep workers and customers safe from COVID-19.
4. Hold eligible lenders harmless for loans issued to these eligible businesses if certain conditions are met and ensuring these lenders are fairly compensated for issuing these loans.
This week, I sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy urging them to consider standalone legislation to amend the PPP loan program. It is crucial that we provide our small businesses with all the resources possible. The stability of the economy hinges upon their vitality.