On Thursday, U.S. Senators Todd Young and Michael Bennet announced that more than 8,700 small business owners and leaders across America have signed on to entrepreneur and philanthropist Howard Schultz’s letter supporting the RESTART Act.
Last month, Schultz and more than 100 current and former prominent CEOs created a letter for Congressional leadership expressing support for the type of low-interest, partially forgivable, long-term working capital loan proposed in the RESTART Act. Since then, the letter has gained the support of thousands of small businesses owners in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.
Of note, 400 of those who have signed the letter have “Travel” in the title of their company. Eben Peck, EVP, advocacy for the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), said in a statement provided to Travel Agent that the RESTART Act “is ASTA’s top legislative priority for the next coronavirus relief bill.” The "skinny" aid proposed by Republican Senators, which ASTA said was "clearly not enough," failed in the Senate, as reported by Reuters.
“While the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has provided short-term relief for many, that lifeline is coming to an end. Another round of PPP would certainly be helpful for many of these businesses, but the hardest-hit sectors will need much more significant and sustained support,” the letter reads. “Although our country is in the process of reopening, it is hardly a return to normal, and many businesses may be required to close again. Most small businesses don’t have enough cash in the bank to weather more months of reduced revenue and customer traffic. To survive until a vaccine is widely available, millions of small businesses will require longer-term support from the federal government.”
The letter says that relief should embrace the following principles:
- Federally guaranteed loans, at favorable terms, that will enable small businesses to transform and sustain themselves through 2020 and well into 2021. Support must last for longer than just the next two or three months.
- Businesses should have flexibility in how loan funds are used.
- The hardest-hit businesses should be eligible for at least partial loan forgiveness. Any forgiveness should be limited to small and mid-sized firms that have suffered significant revenue declines and are not publicly traded.
- Relief needs to be delivered expeditiously. Building on the existing PPP infrastructure would be one way to quickly stand up a new loan program.
- These funds must flow to all small businesses in need, particularly those run by people of color, who have traditionally had less access to capital. A portion of funds should also be directed toward strengthening community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs).
The bill currently has 56 Senators supporting it—over half of the chamber—as well as 140 House of Representatives members. With that said, Peck added that “the outlook for a broader bill is cloudy at the moment, but we are pushing for additional relief for our members, all day, every day.”
Senators Young and Bennet are pushing for the RESTART Act to be included in any final coronavirus relief package that passes the Senate. The RESTART Act has received the support of 55 bipartisan Senate cosponsors and is endorsed by nearly 100 trade associations and small businesses. Companion legislation was also introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Mike Kelly and Jared Golden.