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Wicker: Action needed for small businesses, military and more

When the pandemic began, few could have imagined how hard it would hit our communities. Yet over the past six months, Americans have done a remarkable job adapting to the challenges we have faced. Protective health measures have allowed more schools, businesses, and churches to reopen safely, and we are making steady progress toward recovery.

Congress acted swiftly this past spring to send relief to families and workers in need. Since then, Congress has replenished the Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses keep employees on the payroll. Now, this program needs additional funds, and Americans across all sectors urgently need a fresh round of support.

Congress has considered new relief measures, but bipartisan talks have broken down. I am pushing several proposals that I hope Congress will enact immediately.

 

Most vulnerable sectors include airlines, restaurants

Restaurants have been among the hardest-hit businesses during the pandemic. They have faced drastic revenue losses, and public health restrictions continue to limit seating capacity. Many restaurants could not take advantage of federal assistance. The Paycheck Protection Program required businesses to spend 60 percent of their loan money on labor costs for their loans to be forgiven. However, restaurants typically spend most of their budgets on fixed costs like food, rent, and utilities. I have introduced the RESTAURANTS Act to fill this critical gap in support and help restaurants survive. This aid would benefit restaurant employees as well as the many farmers, fishermen, and distributors who supply restaurants.

The air travel industry is also hurting given the significant drop in passengers. This year, I led the effort to provide a lifeline to aviation workers through direct payroll assistance, which saved over 700,000 jobs. Unfortunately, this relief has run out. Without new aid, airlines will begin mass layoffs in the next few days. I am pushing to extend airline payroll support through March of 2021. This would save thousands of jobs in a sector that helps connect our nationwide economy.

Our military supply chain also remains vulnerable. The U.S. military relies on thousands of businesses and manufacturers to remain well supplied and keep our nation safe. The pandemic has caused production delays and brought financial uncertainty, particularly in the shipbuilding and aircraft manufacturing sectors. I am urging Congress to provide relief to our defense industrial base, which is key to our economic recovery and national security.

 

Help for local governments

The economic slowdown has left local governments short on revenue. I have introduced legislation to help local tax dollars go farther. The LOCAL Infrastructure Act would allow state and local governments to take advantage of lower interest rates through advance refunding of bonds.

I have also introduced the American Infrastructure Bonds Act to create a new category of “direct-pay” taxable municipal bonds.

Both of these proposals would make it less expensive to invest in hospitals, roads, and schools and would help attract private investment for public projects.

In view of our nation’s increased humanitarian need, I have introduced the CORPS Act to expand national service positions in organizations like AmeriCorps and the Senior Corps. These organizations have a proven track record of partnering with communities to meet specific needs during times of crisis. The CORPS Act would multiply their efforts and complement the work of nonprofits and churches that are providing food, health services, and education support.

These are a few of the ways Congress can act on a bipartisan basis to help our nation continue to recover. But time is of the essence.

Leaders of both parties need to come together in the coming days to provide our economy with the support it still needs.