CENTRAL SQUARE, N.Y. – With assistance to small businesses set to expire later this month, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer visited Oswego County on Monday as part of a push to extend stimulus programs ahead of the U.S. Senate reconvening next week.
Schumer visited The Pier, an Oswego County wedding venue on the west shore of Oneida Lake, flanked by several small business owners who utilized the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to keep their businesses afloat. The lead Democrat in the U.S. Senate called for an extension of the PPP, which would push back the previous deadline and provide certain small businesses an opportunity for a second round of funding with no end to the coronavirus pandemic in sight.
“This coronavirus has devastated all of us, but it’s devastated no one more than small businesses throughout central New York, throughout our state and throughout our country,” Schumer said.
“I’m going to use all the effort in my body to extend the PPP.”
The PPP was initially approved in April and provided for eight weeks of funding. The initial program was extended through Aug. 8, and Schumer is calling for an extension through the end of the year to help businesses, many of which are still struggling with little to no revenue due to the global pandemic.
Hundreds of local businesses took advantage of the PPP loans, with more than 300 businesses within the 13126 ZIP code receiving funding, according to data from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). According to the SBA, more than 45 of the loans were for at least $150,000.
“We depend on small businesses,” Schumer said. “It’s a good program and our small businesses like it, but we need to renew it.”
Schumer said the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Program Act, the so-called P4 legislation, would “give small businesses a second chance as the COVID crisis continues.” Under the program, Schumer said loans would help pay salaries for impacted employees plus 40 percent to pay other expenses. If workers are kept on a company’s payroll and other conditions are met, the loan would become a forgivable grant.
The P4 legislation Schumer proposed would extend the PPP loan period to the end of the year and provide an option for a second loan for certain eligible small businesses. Small businesses would be eligible to funds up to 250 percent of monthly payroll costs up to $2 million.
Under Schumer’s proposal, small businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 100 employees, sole proprietors, independent contractors, self-employed borrowers and rural and historically underserved communities would be eligible for this second round of assistance. Aid would prioritize businesses that have lost 50 percent or more of revenues due to the pandemic, and 20 percent of funds reserved for businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
In an effort to ensure the funding is used properly, Schumer’s proposal would not make P4 loans available to publicly traded companies.
Congress is slated to return to Washington, D.C. next week, and Schumer expressed optimism lawmakers could negotiate another round of stimulus funding. Schumer vowed to push for a standalone vote on the PPP extension if a deal on a larger COVID-19 response package cannot be reached.
Cathy Comer, owner of the Syracuse catering business Cathy’s Corner Café, and representatives of The Pier expressed support for the PPP extension, noting the funds helped their businesses stay afloat as weddings and other events were largely cancelled due to the coronavirus. Comer said her PPP loan is nearly exhausted and in total her business has lost approximately $200,000 in sales since the start of the pandemic.
“Everything from the fall is cancelled already,” Comer said, noting typical revenues are not likely to be available any time soon and simply staying afloat as a business could be difficult. “PPP is one of the ways I’ve been able to survive.”
Schumer also lent support to funding for municipalities, noting the broader stimulus package under consideration would directly fund states, cities, towns and villages for lost revenues, such as sales tax shortfalls, and COVID-related expenses. Local governments are in dire need of an influx of funds, Schumer said, noting across the country more than 1.5 million state and local government workers have been laid off.
“If we don’t get this money that number will go way up and it hurts the whole economy,” the senator said. “It hurts everybody.”
Asked about concerns over the astronomical federal spending in response to the coronavirus, Schumer said the spending was alarming but if the government doesn’t step up the economy will continue to decline.
“COVID is the worst health crisis in 100 years, the economic recession is the worst economic crisis since the depression,” Schumer said. “So even though I am worried about the future, to do nothing would be worse than doing something.”
Congressmen Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, and John Katko, R-Camillus, recently lauded the success of the initial PPP, nothing more than 16,000 loans were approved in New York’s 22nd and 24th congressional districts. Katko said SBA data indicates more than 200,000 jobs were save in NY-24, with Brindisi noting nearly 100,000 jobs were saved in NY-22.
Both Katko and Brindisi supported previous extensions and alterations to the PPP, and vowed to continue their support for small businesses.